Instructional Leadership in a
Culture of Change
Dr. Jim Nolan
Penn State University
Why Change Efforts Fail?
• “ Failure to understand how people
experience change in contrast to how it was
intended lies at the very heart of the
spectacular lack of success of most social
reforms.” ( Fullan)
• Most people who try to change education,
whether it be a classroom or the system, do
not understand how people involved in the
changes think.” (Bogdan and Biklen)
The Experience of Change
• Teachers play a central role in the change
process because they are both the objects
and the subjects of change.
• Change adds to the uncertainty of teaching.
• The added uncertainty increases teacher
• Change results in a greater workload for
Imposed Change and Veteran
• “When change is
imposed on veteran
teachers, the implicit
message is often not
just that the new idea
will be better, but also
that what the teacher
has been doing for
years is ineffective or
even harmful.” (Sikes)
Why are veteran teachers often
cynical about change initiatives?
• As we age, we begin to realize that our
power to change the world is limited.
• They have seen innovations come and go each one being touted as “the best
approach”- even if it contradicts the last
• Sometimes it seems all that people in
power really care about is the appearance of
• Redefining and
rethinking resistance
to change
Change Implementation
• Implemented
• Good Idea Bad Idea
• Success
• Not Implemented
The Zone of Wishful Thinking
• Many change agents
refuse to acknowledge
that their ideas have
any flaws or
weaknesses. They
foresee only smooth
sailing ahead. They are
in the “zone of wishful
thinking.” (Hill &
Typical Approach to Resistance
• One approach sees
resistance to change as
something that must
be overcome at all
• This approach results
in ignoring the
objections and putting
down the resisters.
Alternative Approach to
• Resistance is seen
as something that
should be attended
to and honored.
• Absence of early
conflict is seen as a
bad sign.
Honoring Resistance
• Identify the motive and act accordingly, e.g.
admire, empathize, dismiss.
• Think through the substance of the
resistance - never dismiss it.
• Resisters are our friends. They spend energy
where you and I will not - finding the flaws
in our own plans.
Leading for Change
• Designing
Development to
Promote Reculturing
and ChangeSustaining Learning
Embrace the Tensions; Think
Inside the Paradox
• Stop pretending you
have the answers!
• You only have to
know what the right
questions are.
• Never a checklist,
always complexity.
Embrace the Tensions; Think
Inside the Paradox
• “Cultural change (leaders) value the
tensions inherent in addressing hard-tosolve problems because that is where the
greatest accomplishments lie” (Fullan,
2002, p.19).
The Tensions We Live
• Difference
• High Stakes
• Standards
• Design down
• Student needs
• Student needs
• Reduce taxes
• Commonality
• Developmentally
appropriate practice
• Individuality
• Teach up
• Parent desires
• Teacher needs
• Improve quality
Confronting the Contradictions:
Internal Languages
• I am committed to the
value or importance
• What I do or don’t do
that prevents my
commitment from
being realized
• Open and direct
• I don’t talk to people
whom I am really
upset with.
Confronting the Contradictions:
Internal Languages
• Competing
commitments: I may
also be committed
• What assumptions and
BTB conclusions do I
hold that underlie my
• Avoiding conflict
whenever possible
• I assume that if we
have conflict we will
not be able to work
Aim at both individual and
organizational development
• norms of collaboration
• norms of inquiry, experimentation and risktaking
• norms of continuous improvement
• It must be OK to say I don’t know or I am
• It must not be OK to choose to stay in that
state of mind.
Make Connections
• Every initiative should
be connected to a
larger vision and
integrated with other
• Choose to do a few
things well- “Just say
• Selective innovation
Think big; Start small
• Large enough to
require noticeable,
sustained effort.
• Not so overwhelming
as to induce watering
down as a coping
• Not “Very much like
we have been doing.”
Focus on What Really Matters
• Focus on commitment
to students and student
needs rather than to
the specific innovation
• Squaring this stone vs.
building a cathedral
Emphasize Learning, not
Receiving Knowledge
• Asking questions is often more powerful
than giving answers.
• “ It is the walking that beats the path, not
the path that makes the walk” ( DeGues,
• Involve teachers in creating solutions not
just implementing them.
Provide for Multiple Forms of
Job-Embedded Learning
Study groups
Action research
Peer observation
Individual goal setting and self-directed
• Critical friends groups
Incorporate key elements of
Practice and Feedback
Collegial follow-up
Expect the implementation dip- make sure
support is available at that time.
Balance Team and Whole School
• Teams are a powerful
force for
• Beware of
balkanization and in
group/out group
• Create a whole school
Provide Time
• Rethink structures,
routines, schedules
• Change as a process
not an event
• The parking garage
Promote Diffused Leadership
• Unwarranted optimism
• Sustained leadership
over time
• Top down and bottom
• Supportive cohort
Find Ways to Institutionalize the
Communication to non-participants
Second, third, and fourth wave training
Staff turnover
Evaluate on an Ongoing Basis
• The professional development process itself
- satisfaction; changes in knowledge, skills,
and dispositions
• The expected products- implementation and
impact on students
• Unexpected outcomes
• DeGues, A. (1997) The living company. Boston: Harvard
School Business Program.
• Evans, R. (1996) The human side of school change. New
York: Teachers College Press.
• Fullan, M (2002) The change leader. Educational
Leadership 59 (8), 16-20.
• Guskey, T.R. & Huberman, M. (Eds...) (1996) Professional
development in education. New York: Teachers College
• Hill, P.T., & Cielo, M.B. (1998) Fixing urban school.
Washington D.C.: Brookings Press
• Hargreaves, A, (1994) Changing teachers, changing times:
Teachers’ work and culture in a postmodern age. New
York: Teachers College Press.
• Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2001) How the way we talk can
change the way we work: Seven languages for
transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• National Staff Development Council (1995 & 2001)
Standards for staff development (Elementary School
Edition. Oxford, OH.: NSDC.
• Nolan, J. & Meister, D. (2001) Teachers and educational
change: The lived experience of secondary school
restructuring Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
• Renyi, J. (1996) Teachers taking charge of their own
learning. Washington, D.C.: National Foundation for the
Improvement of Teaching
• Sikes, P. (1992) Imposed change and the veteran teacher.
In M. Fullan and A. Hargreaves (Eds.) Teacher
development and educational change. London: Falmer
• Sparks, D. (1995) A paradigm shift in staff development.
ERIC Review 3 (3), 2-5.

Initiating and Institutionalizing Change Through