Michael Fullan writes about some of the problems of schools in his chapter “Understanding Change” of the Jossey-Bass reader. First there is the problem of managing change because “many of us have concluded that change cannot be managed.” (p. 173) Then after change is first implemented there is usually an “implementation dip” (p. 175). In his book School Leadership that Works Marzano explains that type II problems are those “for which no clear-cut solution is available.” … while type III problems are those “for which current ways of thinking do not provide a solution.”(p. 66) A school with positive culture is ready to face the inevitable problems that come with reform.
Part of what makes positive school culture is a sense of empowerment. Teachers and staff feel empowered to make decisions and take actions based on the shared vision. Therefore they don’t wait for instruction from the principal. What works is shared and what doesn’t work is dropped.
When teachers begin to feel empowered they stop blaming schools or making excuses for how bad our school is and start taking action to make it better. As the blog I found yesterday so eloquently puts it “I feel we need to get beyond the system is broken kind of thinking and focus on what is working. We see what we look for and if we keep focusing on a broken system we will only succeed in creating more broken system.”
First order change, which includes type I problems that have standard solutions, and type II problems “for which no clear-cut solution is available” require a leader who is competent but emphasizes incremental change while staying focused on keeping the current culture and focus. Second order change then would be type III problems requiring completely changing current ways of thinking.
According to Marzano the three responsibilities most important in first order and second order change are Monitoring/Evaluating, Ideals/Beliefs, and Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. (p. 72)
Monitoring/Evaluating is logical, as we have learned before that the most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback. (Marzano, 2005, p. 55). It isn’t much of a jump to learn that during time of great change it is important to continually give your staff feedback on what they are doing and how well they are doing it.
It is important to keep consistent with ideals/beliefs. There is a big change going on and it will be worse before it gets better. The staff needs to know that what they are doing may seem to be making stuff worse, but the ultimate goal will be better. All they are experiencing at the moment is the implementation dip.
Most reforms are concentrated on improving academics. What worked 50 years ago may not be what works today, it may not have actually worked for all students then either but because it was easier to hide failure or poor performing students. There are many teachers who are going to resist change because they feel that they have been successful in the past. A through knowledge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment will give a leader many options for bringing those teachers onto the reform bandwagon in ways that they can accept.