With school staff facing a raft of new iniatives, CPD coordinators must focus on developing skills to handle change
CPD Week Info Sheet - International GCSE.pdf
‘Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.’
King Whitney Jr
What’s the single biggest feature of life in the teaching profession that we can all identify with ease? My guess is that it’s change. With a new government settling in and no end in sight to the new initiatives and subtle tweaks to old initiatives that are heading this way, CPD Update takes a look at how best to incorporate the skills to handle change into all professional learning at your school.
Coping with change
Building the capacity to handle change within the school environment is always going to be an incredibly important goal of any professional learning that takes place in schools. Announcements on change are coming thick and fast from many government departments, not least the Department for Education. For example, at the time of writing the government has dropped plans for diplomas in humanities, science and languages and introduced the International GCSE. While these changes seem to have been fairly heavily criticised generally, schools must still deal with the fall-out and adapt as the changes demand.
Learning about handling change can be organised into two main areas: education and empowerment.
While schools have a good deal of flexibility about the way in which they operate, there remain restrictions, boundaries, guidance and legislation which can feel binding, sometimes negatively so. It’s essential that staff are given the opportunity to learn about the details of the change in hand, why it is deemed necessary and how it might impact their work. This kind of information helps to reduce any spontaneous suspicion about the new expectations. It equips staff to handle the change with confidence and to place it in the context of their current work.
Interestingly, where change management is not handled effectively, this important stage of education about the change, and about the way in which staff react to change, tends to be overlooked, and yet this is how foundations can be built.
If we take the view that change is done to us, imposed by others from on high, we miss a trick. It’s far healthier to accept the change (if accept it we must) and then set about exploring the ways in which we can make it work best for the children and young people we are serving. This isn’t a ‘resistance is futile’ approach. Rather, it’s about taking a practical approach to seeking the best aspect of the change and broadening its influence so that life in school is as improved as possible. When empowerment builds on education, the sense of loss, anger or frustration that can sometimes accompany change is minimised.
Regardless of how significant the change, or of the extent to which it permeates the life of your school, you will almost certainly be able to build your staff’s capacity for handling it with ease by focusing on these two dimensions of change management in any professional learning undertaken. Developing this skill, even when the need does not seem apparent, seems the wisest move in this particular economic and political climate!
Find out more…
This info sheet carries further details on the International GCSE
This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010
About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.