Dr. W.A. Kritsonis, National FORUM Journals, www.nationalforum.com
Leadership for Effective Change: Creating Intentionality Using Staff
S. Michael Putman
Ball State University
The tenets set forth within the No Child Left Behind legislation have created a focus on
teacher practices and student achievement. Professional development has been shown to
be an effective vehicle to potentially impact both of these variables; however, effective
leadership is needed to ensure this potential is maximized. The Intentional Teaching Model
(INTENT) was created to provide a step-by-step method school leaders could use to
conduct professional development activities aimed at promoting change in the instructional
practices of teachers. This article outlines the phases of the model with attention directed
towards several factors that are particularly salient to success.
Key Words: professional development, reflective practice, teacher beliefs, leadership
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, principals and
administrators have been required to devote significant attention and resources towards methods
to improve student outcomes (Andrews & Rothman, 2002). Theoretically, the sought after
improvements in achievement can be accomplished in a variety of ways; however, it has been
written that many of the variables necessary for success are out of the control of school
leadership. Accordingly, attention needs to be directed towards controllable factors within the
school context, such as professional development (Reeves, 2006).
The inherent difficulty in this, however, is that professional development is a complex
process that is often complicated and non-linear. Allington (2002) reinforces this fact by writing,
“There can be few less organized aspects of education than professional development” (p. 112).
The impact of school leadership and organizational change on professional development has
been studied extensively; yet school leaders currently lack a step-by-step method for formulating
professional development activities to address the challenges presented by legislation, students,
and the lack of opportunities to coordinate activities (Dearman & Alber, 2005). As a result, it is
critical to look at the role of an educational change agent within the process of professional
development aimed at transforming teaching practices (Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, &
Supporting Teachers with INTENT
Change is difficult, especially when it is dictated by external forces, such as legislation.
This is especially true for teachers who are often forced to engage in professional development
activities targeted towards mandated changes in practices (see Guskey, 2002). This notion
underscores the necessity of effective leadership within the school context to guide and support
teachers in their efforts to alter practices while simultaneously maintaining a positive climate
focused upon student growth. Incorporating elements associated with stage-matched
interventions (Prochaska & Norcross, 2001), as well as theories of organizational change (Senge,
1990), the Intentional Teaching Model (INTENT) was created to provide school leaders with a
research-based method for attaining these objectives. INTENT is based upon the concept of
intentionality, which is characterized by the display of contextually specific behaviors to reach
personally relevant short and long-term goals. Specific to a school setting, intentionality would
be demonstrated by deliberate changes in teaching practices to reach a short-term goal, i.e.
improving students’ fluency rates, and subsequent long-term objective, such as improving
reading achievement scores by 3%.
The Change Agent
Leadership is a vital component within successful change and growth. INTENT
acknowledges and adheres to this principle as it is implemented under the guidance of an
individual, such as a building administrator or respected teacher, or small team of individuals
from within the school. As the instructional leader(s), the change agent is vital to maintaining the
ongoing practices of reflection and modeling, as well as mediating attempts by teachers to try
new practices within the context of professional development activities. The change agent must
be a multi-tasker who can simultaneously adopt the role of coach, cheerleader, or mentor. He/she
must also be an effective communicator who is able to engage faculty in candid conversations to
ensure that they are taking an active role in professional development activities. These
conversations facilitate the establishment of realistic goals and develop what Reeves (2006)
referred to as internal capacity, which is one factor necessary for successful school growth.
Additionally, the change agent must play an active role in helping individuals who are
reluctant to participate in the change process because they did not see the change as more
beneficial than maintaining current practices. There is no set formula for doing this, which is
why the change agent must have an established and open relationship with participants. The
change agent must know the teachers well enough to best identify the methods that will help
them begin to think about change. This could include actions such as providing relevant
literature, scheduling opportunities for modeling by peers or experts, or facilitating the
development of small, short-term goals. The change agent must realize that mandating
compliance will most likely cause resistance and decrease the likelihood that sought after
changes will occur. Not all teachers need to engage the planned changes initially, but
participation for all is an important goal to help maintain morale and to promote the effort as
collaborative. As a result, the change agent must remind some teachers of the school goals more
often than others. Weak leadership on the part of the change agent and failure to challenge
teachers to grow beyond their comfort zone represent primary causes in undermining the creation
of intentionality in teachers.
The Intentional Teaching Model
Prior research has documented the vital leadership role of the change agent within
successful applications of INTENT in schools (see Cassady, Putman, Smith, & Jameson, 2006;
Putman, Cassady, & Smith, 2009). It has also demonstrated a number of key factors directly
linked to the capacity of the change agent to affect teacher behavior within professional
development activities. Following a brief description of the phases of INTENT, these factors
will be addressed with particular attention to ongoing leadership efforts that maximize the
likelihood that the short and long-term goals and outcomes formulated by schools can be
Phase 1: Individual theory articulation. Beliefs drive practices; thus, efforts to change
behavior must begin with examinations of the theoretical orientations and beliefs of those who
will be directly affected by change efforts (Duffy, 2005; Turbill, 2002). For this reason, the first
phase of INTENT is focused upon information gathering and accessing teachers’ beliefs about
effective instruction through the administration of surveys or inventories of beliefs. The
information gathered by the change agent within this initial phase is utilized to establish a
starting point for the professional development activities and to assist teachers in individually
and collectively reflecting about how their beliefs influence their thoughts and actions.
Concurrently, this also helps the change agent to guide teachers in considering their current
instructional beliefs in relation to the anticipated outcomes. Through these activities and the
efforts of the change agent, participants become mentally ready to move to phase 2 of INTENT.
Phase 2: Preparation. Once the underlying belief structures of the participants have
been determined through the efforts of the change agent in phase 1, phase 2 of INTENT is
marked by active efforts of the change agent to help teachers to identify and establish goals that
will guide later efforts and engage them in the sought after changes in instructional practices.
This is facilitated through the establishment of committees and teams that develop a common
purpose to guide practices in an effort to achieve the intended outcome, something Senge (1990)
referred to as a shared vision. In creating the shared vision, the change agent must adopt various
roles based upon the readiness for change exhibited by teachers. For example, when working
with individuals who are not yet ready or willing to change practices, the change agent should
seek to aid teachers in recognizing the need for change in a specific area and how the end result
(goal) of this planned change will impact their environment. Teachers must be convinced of the
importance of developing their teaching repertoire to effectively plan and implement instruction
that seeks to develop students’ skills and knowledge as described by curricular goals or student
needs. The key to doing this is to provide information as to why change is necessary and how
the change benefits their students before telling them they must change. On the other hand, the
change agent should engage teachers who have already noted the need to change practices in
small and large group discussions focused upon jointly planning specific activities and strategies
directed towards the goals established by the group. Once the goals and subsequent strategies
are selected, the change agent finalizes plans with the committed teachers and prepares them for
Phase 3: Active change. Phase 3 marks an action phase where teachers are making
deliberate attempts to modify instructional practices based on the goals and plans established in
phase 2. It encompasses three major sub-steps that are iterative in nature: action, evaluation of
success, and reformulation of goals. Change agents must demonstrate flexibility in phase 3 as
they will likely need to provide encouragement or expert advice depending on the outcomes of
teachers’ attempts to implement the principles agreed upon in phase 2 (Levesque, et al., 2001).
The change agent must also continually support faculty in ongoing discussions as this phase
progresses in a cyclical fashion as individuals and groups come successively closer to the stated
goal(s) within iterations of the action-evaluation-reformulation cycle. Even during cycles where
the attempted implementations fall short of intended outcomes, the change agent must guide the
process of evaluating and reformulating actions on a regular basis to help the teaching team stay
Within phase 3, examinations of data should occur under the guidance of the change
agent to ensure successful movement within the three sub-steps. The teachers involved in the
professional development must be active participants in this process to ensure any modified
goals match targeted outcomes and preserve faculty support. Killon (2002) recommended that
both student achievement and teacher behavior should be considered as part of this process as
both are relevant to continued progress toward the intended outcomes. Student data is likely to
be readily accessible; however, the change agent may need to administer brief surveys and/or
informal observations to note teacher’s individual needs within the process. Success should be
utilized as a tool to help build confidence in participating teachers and could help overcome the
reluctance of the teachers who elected not to initially engage in the proposed activities.
Phase 4: Sustainability. Phase 4 is marked by the consistent demonstration of behaviors
aligned with the goals established in prior phases of the professional development process.
Intentional teachers feel confident and are able to consistently use the techniques and strategies
that were observed to be effective and maintain the positive change. The change agent should
engage the faculty in periodic revisits to the phases of the intentional teaching model when
problems are faced; to identify an addition or modification to the current practice will likely lead
to additional success. Overall, the momentum that began with successes in phase 3 is maintained
and linked to improved student outcomes throughout the period of sustainability.
Essential Factors Within the Creation of Intentionality
INTENT includes a variety of components from the literature on effective organizational
leadership and professional development, yet there are several factors that would be considered
essential variables that are directly associated with the change agent. Change agents who
demonstrated a thoughtful consideration and significant focus on these repeatedly observed
positive results. These change agents helped to develop intentional teachers who recognized the
need for the implementation of effective instructional strategies based upon student needs and
readiness levels (see Cassady, et al., 2006). The result was improved student achievement that
was sustained over a three-year period (Putman, et al., 2009). On the other hand, schools whose
leadership devoted limited attention to these critical areas did not see the anticipated results.
Teachers in these schools remained in phase 2 and continued to use instructional strategies
marked by a determination that a single practice, such as using the adopted textbook, served the
greatest number of students and, therefore, marked the most appropriate instructional option
(Putman et al.).
Personal beliefs of teachers. Research has consistently demonstrated the impact of
teachers’ personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning on their actual classroom teaching
practices (DeFord, 1985; Guskey, 2002). Turbill (2002) reinforced this as she concluded before
teachers can integrate new knowledge with their existing beliefs, they need to examine and
specifically articulate their beliefs. Professional development that begins with the change agent
focusing on this form of reflection within attempts to change practices has been shown to help
teachers in “reconstructing their existing knowledge and beliefs” (Spillane, 2000, p. 17).
INTENT incorporates this important information within phase 1 as a baseline for beliefs is
established prior to full-scale implementation of the remaining phases of the model. Prior
research on INTENT accessed teachers’ theoretical orientations toward reading (see DeFord,
1985) and basic beliefs about reading instruction (see Cassady & Smith, 2005) to gain initial
information regarding teachers’ stance on reading instruction.
While explicit theory articulation is an important component within reflective
professional development, it is also necessary for school leaders and/or the change agent to
conduct observations of practice to accurately assess potential shortcomings associated with self-
report data obtained through surveys. By utilizing observations conducted by the change agent,
teachers’ preferred methodologies are identified and correlated with belief statements to better
align suggestions to the teaching staff. Ultimately, this adds relevancy to the reflections
facilitated by the change agent that occur as part of the process and to the professional
knowledge that is sought as it further relates the information to the elements a teacher faces
daily, an important component in successful growth (Anders, Hoffman, & Duffy, 2000; Elliott &
Teacher implementation. As teachers attempt to implement the principles or concepts
addressed by professional learning into practice, they need opportunities to apply new strategies
in an environment that is anxiety free (Cambourne, 1995). To ensure minimization of anxiety,
the change agent should focus initial efforts on small goals to enhance confidence and increase
the likelihood that teachers will continue to change their practices as student success is noted.
After these initial attempts using techniques or instructional methods in the classroom are made,
the change agent must lead the faculty in conversations and analyses that examine the successes
and disappointments associated with the efforts. These conversations will likely result in
modifications to the goals and the expected outcomes. Effective leadership from the change
agent will enhance the outcomes associated with iterative process of evaluating and
reformulating goals addressed in phase 3 and help the teaching team stay on target. These
constant conversations also help with future buy-in by those reluctant to change as they are able
to see and learn of team accomplishments in rapid succession.
Once again, the influence of the change agent is noted as necessary to ensure ongoing
support and follow-up to maintain momentum towards the long-term plan (Learning First
Alliance, 2000). Spillane (2000) lends credence to the importance of selecting who should fill
the role of the change agent as he noted that sometimes a lead teacher is uniquely situated to
fulfill these functions as they are imbedded within the experience and can provide
encouragement within the context of practice. Support can additionally be supplied in the form
of continued modeling and coaching for teachers in contexts of instruction (Cambourne, 1995).
Collaboration. The context created by INTENT also represents opportunities for
collaborative work among teachers. Within these collaborative contexts, participants, under the
guidance of the change agent, engage in socially constructed knowledge formation as they
attempt “to make sense of phenomena under consideration” (Hoban & Erickson, 2004, p. 304).
Short and long-term support and growth are enhanced through these discussions as the change
agent helps create a community of learners (Barth, 1990). Two strategies led by the change agent
are especially effective at creating these collaborative contexts and affecting positive change.
The first approach involves the change agent facilitating large-group meetings that include
breakout sessions for smaller teams. In this model, teachers and school leaders, including the
change agent, gather and discuss the organizational issues of program implementation. The
larger group then divides into small groups with the change agent facilitating discussions among
the groups to address the small groups’ specific needs and concerns. These conversations are
especially useful in identifying potential organizational difficulties and alleviated scheduling
conflicts for small group members to meet.
The second approach that has proven successful within the implementation of INTENT
involved a coaching or mentoring model. Within the model, the change agent works with
specific small groups over the course of time established for the professional development
activities. Participants meet and are encouraged to share and reflect upon their practices. As
relationships are established and comfort with practices increases, the change agent creates
opportunities for small group members to begin observing each other teaching with the change
agent present. Once all team members are observed, the team reconvenes to provide feedback to
each other based upon observations. Under the change agent’s guidance, the group then
identifies strategies and methods for maintaining momentum towards the goals established by the
group. As ongoing meetings occur, the relationships built enable conversations necessary to
promote the sought after behavioral change in teachers.
In 1998, Holland wrote, “change depends on a broad belief that doing something
differently will make it better” (p. 26). To truly make educators capable of the sweeping changes
sought after by NCLB and to ensure the amount of time and effort required to do this is fruitful,
we need school leaders who intentionally act as agents of change and who realize the necessity
of inviting teachers to take an active role in changing themselves. Leaders need to recognize and
use the principles associated with effective leadership and implement professional development
programs that help teacher quality improve, and, more importantly, to help children learn.
Research conducted on INTENT not only provides a step-by-step method for professional
development; it also reinforces that a successful change agent is instrumental in supporting and
nurturing teacher growth. School leaders need only to look towards the four phases of INTENT
and to adhere to the critical variables addressed above to help create teachers who are committed
to constant instructional improvements and who conscientiously use practices that are most
likely to achieve sought after student outcomes.
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S. Michael Putman is Associate Professor in the Department of Elementary Education at Ball
State University in Muncie, IN 47306. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in
curriculum and instruction. His research interests include technology integration, educational
policy, and literacy.