Eric Digest: A Survey of Educational Change Models

Article excerpt

CHANGE ISN'T NEW, AND NEITHER IS ITS STUDY. We have a rich set of frameworks, solidly grounded in empirical studies and practical applications. Most contributions may be classified under a set of major perspectives, or "models" of change. These perspectives are prevalent in the research, and combine to yield a 360 degree view of the change process.

In each case, one author or group of authors is selected as the epitome of that perspective (Ellsworth, 2000). A small group of studies from disciplines outside educational change (in some cases outside education) also contribute to key concepts not found elsewhere in the literature.

Everett Rogers, one of the "elder statesmen" of change research, notes that change is a specialized instance of the general communication model (Rogers, 1995, pp. 5-6). Ellsworth expands on this notion to create a framework that organizes these perspectives to make the literature more accessible to the practitioner (Ellsworth, 2000).

Ellsworth's framework might be summarized as follows: a change agent wishes to communicate an innovation to an intended adopter. This is accomplished using a change process, which establishes a channel through the change environment. However, this environment also contains resistance that can disrupt the change process or distort how the innovation appears to the intended adopter (Ellsworth, p. 26). By uniting these tactics in service to a systemic strategy, we improve our chances of effective, lasting change.

Putting It All Together

We must strive to guide all our change efforts with a systemic understanding of the context in which we undertake them. Nevertheless, depending on the circumstance, or as the implementation effort progresses, it may be most effective to focus interventions on a particular component of the framework at a time.

Anyone trying to improve schools, for example teachers, principals, students, district administrators, consultants, parents, community leaders, or government representatives may look to The new meaning of educational change (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991) to decide where to start (or to stop an inappropriate change).

From there, read Systemic change in education (Reigeluth & Garfinkle, 1994), to consider the system being changed. Consider all assumptions about the nature of that system (its purpose, members, how it works, its governing constraints and so forth). Question those assumptions, to see whether they still hold true. Look inside the system to understand its subsystems or stakeholders and how they relate to one another and to the system as a whole. Look outside the system too, to know how other systems (like business or higher education) are interrelated with it, and how it (and these other systems) in turn relate to the larger systems of community, nation, or human society. The new understanding may illuminate current goals for the proposed innovation, (or concerns for the change you are resisting) and may indicate some specific issues that may emerge.

This understanding is crucial for diagnosing the system's needs, and how an innovation serves or impedes them. Now, clearly embarked upon the change process, read a discussion of that change process in The change agent's guide (Havelock & Zlotolow, 1995) to guide and plan future efforts. The Guide serves as the outline for a checklist, to ensure that the right resources are acquired at the proper time. The Guide will also help you conduct and assess a trial of the innovation in a way that is relevant and understandable to stakeholders. It will help extend implementation both in and around the system ... and it will help to prepare others within the system to recognize when it is time to change again.

At some point one must commit to a plan, and act. The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Hall & Hord, 1987) provides tools to "keep a finger on the pulse" of change and to collect the information needed. …