Change In Education, Dr. W.A. Kritsonis

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Dr. Kritsonis Recognized as Distinguished Alumnus …

Dr. Kritsonis Recognized as Distinguished Alumnus

In 2004, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis was recognized as the Central Washington University Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus for the College of Education and Professional Studies. Dr. Kritsonis was nominated by alumni, former students, friends, faculty, and staff. Final selection was made by the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Recipients are CWU graduates of 20 years or more and are recognized for achievement in their professional field and have made a positive contribution to society. For the second consecutive year, U.S. News and World Report placed Central Washington University among the top elite public institutions in the west. CWU was 12th on the list in the 2006 On-Line Education of “America’s Best Colleges.”

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  • 1. Change in Education William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Questions You are the principal of a medium-sized, south-Texas high school and have been asked by your superintendent to address the issue of discipline in your school. The number of student discipline referrals has soared and tend to be the result of confrontations between students and teachers and students with other students. After much research and community input, the Boystown Model of discipline is to be adopted by your school which has been proven to be highly successful in improving human interactions in the school setting. You have a veteran staff that has seen changes come and go over the years and is actively and passively resistant to change. Describe the steps that you would go through in order to implement this change and describe possible sources of conflict and how you would address those issues. You have just been elected to the local school board. The primary issue on your campaign platform was the promise to change the school calendar from traditional to year-round school. You have a majority of support among your fellow school board members and the community. The school board president
  • 2. has tasked you with spearheading the change by working closely with the superintendent. Describe the steps that you would take to implement this change and the potential problems, and solutions, which you would use to address the concerns of the dissenting members of the district and community. Topic discussion The issue of change has been at the forefront of the educational debate ever since the first schools were organized. Change is often feared, and those who advocate change are viewed with suspicion. Educational change is the source of much stress for administrators and teachers because of the lack of clear goals and objectives. Community members clamor for educational change when TAAS scores are low, but without giving much thought to what the actual changes should be. Many school board members are elected promising change and find themselves ill-prepared to brings those promises to fruition. Some prominent researchers have suggested that one major dilemma facing the movement toward educational change is that some solutions create even more problems than they solve. Perhaps the most extreme belief is that some educational problems are so complex and deeply ingrained in our society that they are beyond the reach of any change. In order to be an effective leader, one must be able to understand the steps involved in deciding when change is
  • 3. appropriate, and if so, what has to be done in order to insure successful implementation and follow-through. Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by those in favor of change in education is one of bridging the gap between theory and practice. There are many educational research experts who know what the problems are in schools today as well as those who know what should be done. The great difficulty lies in deciding exactly what to do and how to do it. As stated by Firestone and Corbett (1987); Fullan (1985); Clark, Lotto, and Astuto (1984); Huberman and Miles (1984) suggest that, “there are no hard and fast rules, rather a set of suggestions or implications given the contingencies specific to the local situations…the uniqueness of the individual setting is a critical factor-what works in one situation may or may not work in another.” The key consideration for those advocating change is that there are generally accepted guidelines that will assist with the process, but one should be careful to remain keenly aware of local conditions or situations that could have a significant impact upon the process of change. In his book, The New Meaning of Educational Change, Michael Fullan outlines three broad phases and describes each sub-step in detail. The process begins with initiation, which is the time leading up to and including the decision that a change is actually needed. Initiation is closely followed by
  • 4. implementation, which is the sometimes-lengthy phase where ideas are turned into action. The next step in the process is the continuation phase in which the change is incorporated into the structure of the school or institutionalized as a regular practice. Additionally, the change may disappear or be discarded for various reasons at this phase in the process. Once the three phases have been achieved, the resulting outcomes determine the effectiveness of the change and whether desired goals have been met, more problems created, or if more changes are required. There are many possible factors that can affect the initiation of educational change. These factors may combine to enhance or inhibit the start of any program whose goal it is to implement educational change. One of which is the existence and quality of innovations. Some educational issues have been researched for decades and therefore have much research to draw from. Other educational innovations may not be widely disseminated and therefore not readily available from schools to draw from to solve their problems. Additionally, some problems may be so unique to a situation that researchers have yet to conduct studies on them. Limited access to educational information in some communities puts the schools at a further disadvantage. Teachers and administrators may be unaware of the latest educational programs and the community members may lack the understanding of the educational
  • 5. process to encourage their representatives to pursue specific programs that will benefit their schools. Some of the biggest advocates of educational change are the central office administrators. Fullan identifies several studies that demonstrate that administrator driven programs tend to have the resource allocated to them that they need in addition to the proper level of encouragement for the staff. The opposite is also true that initiatives for change that are not favored by the administration tend to die before they are ever implemented. Teacher advocacy for educational change is unique in the sense that it rarely extends beyond the individual level. Teachers are often viewed as the least innovative on a global scale, but tend to innovate within their own classrooms at a much higher rate than anyone else within the educational system. Many teacher innovations are not spread to other classrooms unless an active and supportive environment is fostered for such a spread of ideas by the campus administration. The sources of change can be many and varied. Change may be directed as the result of the passage of new legislation or from other federal directives designed to promote the strategic interests of the national government. These mandates from outside of the community are referred to as external change agents. These changes may be accompanied with federal grant money in the
  • 6. form of program grants that are to be implemented nationwide and cannot be ignored. The actual process of initiating change in education is one that has several important underlying components that are critical to its success. The three components are relevance, readiness, and resources. Relevance refers to the need of the change in concert with its practicality for those who will have to implement it, usually teachers, or those who it is supposed to help, the students. A perceived lack of relevance may undermine any desired change before it ever gets off the ground. Readiness refers to the capacity of the school for change. Not only does the school have the need, but do the teachers and staff have the desire and willingness to implement the change. Finally, the necessary resources must be in place, in part at least, to get the change started. Necessary funding for training, time, and additional support must be coordinated. Additional resources may be allocated once the process begins and starts to gather additional momentum. Factors Affecting Implementation Factors related to the characteristics of the change include need, clarity, complexity, quality and practicality of the program. Few changes survive the planning stage if the participants realize that a perceived need is not in alignment with school goals or objectives. Additionally, lack of a clear vision
  • 7. or a vision that is too complex may hinder its implementation. Furthermore, some programs may look good but have little significant impact on the quality of the school or prove to be impractical due to great cost in time or other resources. Each of these characteristics combines in unique combinations depending on the individual situation and may vary from issue to issue within the same district or school. Recent research on the role of organizations within the community has indicated that, “planned change has become a matter of both motivating from without and orchestrating from within” (Firestone & Corbett, 1987). Local factors often result in the failure of one innovation that was extremely successful in another. Some communities have a reputation for innovation and view change as a good thing that is good for the students, while other districts view change as a means of coercion in which change is used to keep people off balance and vulnerable. These factors include the school district, the school board and community characteristics, the principal, and the role of the teachers as viewed from the organizational theory standpoint.
  • 8. The Implementation Process Several key themes dominate the implementation process and must be considered carefully and adapted to fit local considerations for any change in education to be successful. Vision-building among and between key people involved in the change process is critical to the start of any change process. The clear establishment of the desired end result of the change must be effectively communicated so that the participants will focus their energy and effort toward a common goal. Once the move towards change has been implemented, evolutionary planning becomes critical to further success. The planning that is done by the leaders and the staff must begin to reflect on the immediate success and areas that need improvement. Actions develop and evolve to meet unforeseen problems and take advantage of unforeseen opportunities as well. Initiative-taking and empowerment is the next phase in the educational change process. Teachers must be actively encouraged to take responsibility for the success of the changes and use their own experiences and creativity to implement changes or make suggestions to help the process. The involvement of the teachers in the process will foster a healthy feeling of empowerment that will cause the teachers to feel that their input is important and wanted.
  • 9. Staff development is one of the most important aspects of change initiation, yet is usually misunderstood and, as a result, in-effective. Traditionally, educators have viewed staff development as a series of unrelated workshops that are attended, but never applied in the classroom. Staff development can be a powerful tool for implementing change because, well thought out and continuous training can have the effect of reinforcing previous goals and regaining a sense of purpose and focus when energy to continue may be waning. Many new programs that seemed like a good idea at the start of the school year fizzle out after the first 6 weeks of school when the stress builds and teachers lose their initial enthusiasm. Effective staff development at these critical low points can re-energize and rejuvenate the staff to continue the change process and see it through to a successful completion. Monitoring and problem-coping becomes the next important phase in the change process. Once the staff and teachers know what they are supposed to do and the goals of the change, the educational leader must be prepared to sustain the changes through maintaining awareness of problems or concerns that may arise. Whenever anything new is attempted, problems will naturally occur as a result. Effective agents of change faced problems as a challenge to be overcome, instead of being afraid and avoiding the issue. Leaders must be
  • 10. prepared to be supportive of their staffs and realize that they will be looked upon as a source of strength and understanding. We live in a society that is in a constant state of change. In order to give students the academic skills that they will need to take them into the next century, we as educators must be ready and willing to accept change as a natural part of the educational process. Change may be welcomed by some, yet feared by others. Educational leaders must be at the forefront of the efforts for change because the very reason for our existence is the preparation of our youth to function as productive members of our society and community. As these needs change, so too should the schools methods and curriculum change to meet these needs directly. We can no longer afford to view change with dread and fear. We must embrace change and take control of the process to insure success because our failure will only serve to harm our nations greatest resource, our children. Key Terms and Definitions Initiation- The process leading up to and including the decision to proceed with implementation. It may take many forms, ranging from a single decision by a single authority to a broad-based mandate. Also known as mobilization or adoption.
  • 11. Implementation- Involves the first experiences of attempting to put an idea or reform into practice, usually the first two or three years. Also known as initial use Continuation- Refers to whether the change gets built in as an ongoing part of the system or disappears by way of a decision to discard or through attrition. Also referred to as incorporation, routinization, or institutionalization. External change agents- Facilitators outside of the district, that is at the state, regional or national level. Many of these entities are formally charged with the responsibility of stimulating and supporting change. 3 Considerations in Planning for Adoption Relevance- Includes the interaction of need, clarity of the innovation (and the practitioner’s understanding of it), and the utility, or what it really has to offer the teachers and students Readiness- Involves the school’s practical and conceptual capacity to initiate, develop, or adopt a given innovation. May be approached in terms of individual and organizational factors.
  • 12. Resources- Concern the accumulation of and provision of support as a part of the change process. Web Links The following is a set of linked articles that will be useful for those seeking further information on school change. School Change Models and Processes: A Review of Research and Practice. http://www.goodschools.gwu.edu/cgi-bin/bibliography.cgi?sr=SR000156 School Change Models and Processes: A Review and Synthesis of Research and Practice. Draft. http://www.goodschools.gwu.edu/cgi-bin/bibliography.cgi?sr=SR000156 Parent Consultants for Whole-School Change http://www.goodschools.gwu.edu/cgi-bin/bibliography.cgi?sr=SR000156