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Educational Leadership and Managing Change

The need to reexamine and redefine education is a familiar issue not only in the United States but everywhere in the world. Through educational reform, it is hoped that citizens can acquire new skills and enhance their productivity, which in turn, can help the overall state of the economy (Adamu, 1994). And yet, educational reform is no small matter. Just like any kind of organization, educational institutions experience the change cycle. No kind of change is too small, and as Salermo and Brock (2008) believes, any kind of change will have real impacts.

It can cause anger, blame, resistance and lethargy if not handled properly (Salermo, 2008, p. 6). Change leadership in any kind of organization requires the balancing of efforts across three dimensions – outcomes, interests and emotions (Cameron, 2004, p. 5). Leaders have to learn how they can properly mobilize their influence and authority in order to develop and deliver clear outcomes as well as enable people to adapt to the change. In terms of education, there is a need to define its purpose. There must be “a clear link between aims, strategy and operational management” (Bush, 2003, p.

2). Most primary and secondary schools might focus on the increase

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in the number of students. Others may seek to enhance literacy by improving the curriculum. Whatever the goals are, leaders must realize that ultimately, the issue of change in education is all about modifying policy and “creating alternative approaches based on the school-level values and vision” (Bush, 2003, p. 4). It requires feedback from all sides in order to ensure that the provisions made will address the various issues raised about education. Educational Change Theories

Unlike organizational change, educational reform is a convoluted process. In order for it to be successful, it requires concurrent changes in the economic, social and political situations in both developed and developing countries (Beyer, 2006). There are several theories which help explain educational and organizational change. Broadly, these theories can be categorized depending on the source of change (either an internal or external process) and the different structural mechanisms for the innovations to take place. (Adamu, 1994).

The first category is further subdivided into the following: “environmental (external), organizational (internal), authoritative/participative (both internal and external) and individually oriented (internal)” (Adamu, 1994). On the other hand, the basic structural components of any educational change are composed of the following – infrastructure, authority, consensus and resources (Adamu, 1994). At present, there is no consensus as to which theory explains change best. But since educational systems have a huge effect on society as a whole, it is important that change is scrutinized both internally and externally.

Also, the structural mechanisms for innovation must already be in place in order for the implementation to become effective. Change theories must consider the internal environment of an organization – what are the actual issues experienced with the current conduct of education? How will the change affect the students and teachers? What difficulties are they bound to experience once the reform takes place? Does the organization have the capabilities to overcome these difficulties?

These are just some of the questions which need to be considered by the educational institution before any reform can be implemented. On the other hand, educational reforms will also need to consider the implications to the society as a whole. How will the change help the government in achieving its economic goals? What policies enable the effective implementation of such a reform? What policies can possibly prevent it from achieving its purpose? By looking at both the internal and external factors, the educational institution and its leader will be able to customize their plans for change.

For example, teachers may have no say in the decision to setup a Science Schools Project, yet, their input is required as to which science textbooks can be used. Also, a project such as this will require money; hence, implementers will need to know: is the government willing to fund such proposal? Hence, no change is exclusively a decision for the higher ups. Instead, implementers and affected populations will have to interact to allow the reform plan to meet its goal for better education quality.

In this case, it is again necessary to ask, are there feedback mechanisms available for such an educational reform to take place? How will the implementers know that the project is succeeding? What kind of adjustments must be done in order to achieve the best results of the innovation? It is clear from the discussions above that change in educational institutions goes beyond the team-oriented or individual oriented model. Instead, the change needs to be encompassing especially since even a small change can have a huge impact in the conduct of education.

Managing Change Educational leadership cannot be authoritative. Instead, it is a social process which involves the teachers, their students, the parents, and the government. No educational reform can simply be dictated and followed to the letter. All change plans must be revised depending on the values and goals of the educational institution. Having said that, it is also important to recognize that no matter how valuable or well thought out the proposed change is issues on implementation and underlying dynamics will arise.

Rogers and Shoemaker (1971) shows that in the authoritative/participative model of educational change, decision-making has three stages. Adamu (1994) expounds: the three stages involve the understanding and “[k]nowledge of the need for change, persuasion regarding intended changes and decisions regarding acceptance or rejection of changes”. This means that while innovative decisions are made by the people in authority, adoption units have to be informed of the proposed changes and why it is necessary. In this context then, the adage “knowledge is power” proves to be true.

Adoption units must not only be informed of the rationale behind the proposed change, but also, the advantages and disadvantages of such an action. By educating affected populations of what they can expect from the proposed change, they can easily provide input on how the change can be effectively implemented with the least disruption. For example, improving the reading comprehension of students may not need a complete revamp of the curriculum. Instead, teachers can do an assessment first, and then they can determine that there are various teaching aids they can use.

For example, by using multimedia, students can better appreciate what they are reading; hence leading them to pay more attention to the details of the material they are required to read. Motivating members of the organization to continuously support change is a difficult task, especially when the organization has already experienced devastating effects from previous reforms. Hence, it is important that leaders get the input of implementers so as to better understand where the resistance is coming.

By showing affected sectors that the leaders consider their opinion, then they will be able to effectively address the issues. In this case, change and feedback becomes constructive and it helps educational institutions achieve their goals. By understanding the values around goals of the organization, addressing issues in implementation through an effective feedback mechanism and customizing innovations to fit future reforms, leaders can effectively manage change and make it an enriching experience to everyone involved. ?

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