Understanding and Leading Change Management in Schools. 2020 Guide | Everything You Need to Know

Educational institutions, just like all other organizations, undergo change regularly. But change doesn’t necessarily bring improvement. It all depends upon how well implementing change in schools is done.

Change in educational institutions may be due to new state educational requirements, introducing new technology into the classroom, or updates in textbooks and teaching methods.

One of the biggest impacts seen recently that calls for leading change in schools has been the coronavirus pandemic, which completely changed the educational process for students and teachers around the world.

Organizational change in education doesn’t just happen by giving a school the new process, tools, or methods they need to change to; it has to be guided with the best change management strategies.

change management in education

Change Management in Education

Change management in higher education, as well as primary grades, involves several steps to successfully guide an institution or school district through a change.

What You Will Learn

In this article, we’ll look at the importance of change management in the education sector, and answer several important questions, including:

  • Why is change important in education?
  • What changes should be made in schools?
  • What is the best process for implementing changes in education?
  • How do you implement change in schools? (The people)
  • What are some teacher tips? How do headteachers manage change in schools?
  • How do you promote change in education?

Anyone leading change in education knows that change only happens when people change their habits, and change management is focused on that fact.

Teachers, administrators and staff, students, and parents can all be impacted by a change, and need to be considered when leading and managing change in educational institutions. The process involves unmolding old behaviors, training new practices and behaviors, and then reinforcing the new way of doing things.

Successfully guiding people through that change process is the goal of change management in educational institutions.


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Why is Change Important in Education?

If you look at what schools go through at the beginning of any new school year, you can say that organizational change in education is happening continually.

Students are graduating and leaving, new students are enrolling, and everyone moving up is changing their classroom and teachers. But beyond the student and staff changes, there are also other types of change, the kind that requires change management in schools and change management in higher education.

Without upgrades to technology, curriculum, and other ways of doing things, schools become less effective, and educational outcomes can suffer.

Implementing change in schools is vital so that students and staff can benefit from new educational methods, new technologies, and can keep their students learning the things they need to in order to stay competitive in an ever-evolving world.


What Changes Should Be Made in Schools?

The factors leading change in schools can differ according to each educational institution. A university may need to rethink their tuition policies to compete with local colleges. Certain elementary schools may be leading change in education policies to ensure the curriculum is appropriately diverse.

It’s important to the success of a change project that leading and managing change in education is done with a mission to make things better. If change management in educational institutions is done only for monetary reasons (i.e., to cut costs), then there’s likely to be resentment and difficulty making the change stick.

Some of the common changes discussed in schools when it comes to change management in educational institutions include:

  • Improving student health (i.e., adding more physical activity)
  • Teaching more life skills
  • Improvements to curriculum based upon recent studies
  • Reimagining of how the school year is structured
  • Procedural changes to prevent shooting incidents
  • Incorporating online with offline instruction
  • Improving teacher working conditions
  • Adjusting physical environments for social distancing
  • Improving school communications through the use of technology


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What is Change Management in Education?

Change management in education is the process of adequately preparing an organization for the upcoming change, creating an implementation plan for leading change in schools, and implementing the change.

Change management in schools requires knowledge of the basics of change management, including change models that can provide a framework for change management in primary and change management in higher education.

Implementing change in schools can easily go “off the rails” and cause a change to fail or not produce the desired results. People can be confused about what to do, resist the change altogether, or have inadequate training on the new process.

Organizational change in education is easier when people leading and managing change are using change management best practices.

This includes an outline of procedures for leading change in education that takes the stakeholders (student, teachers, staff, parents) into consideration. Successful change management in educational institutions uses change tools and methodologies to implement and sustain a change.


How Do You Implement Change in Education? | The Processes

Anyone leading and managing change in education using a change management model will see that activities involve both people and processes. We’ll discuss the processes first, then move onto the “people” part of the change.

Whichever change management model you choose to use (ADKAR, Bridges, Lewin, etc.), there will be certain processes you need to go through that will be similar to a project planning process.

Here is an overview of the types of processes you’ll need to go through when planning change management in schools.

Information Gathering & Prep

Before you can implement change management in higher education or elementary school levels, you should understand how the change will impact the stakeholders. This allows you to head off any potential resistance and ensure your training process will be adequate.

When implementing change in schools, some of the processes in this information gathering & prep stage include:

Execution of Change in Education

Executing change management in schools is the “doing” part of your change management process. This is when you’ll be implementing change in schools’ procedures or processes according to your roadmap.

This requires excellent communication, awareness of how the change is being received, and the ability to adjust your organizational change in education according to the circumstances.

Some of the processes you’ll go through while leading change in schools during this stage include:

Reinforcing the Change in Education

When you’re leading a change in education, it’s easy for people to fall back into old habits and not sustain the new procedures if you haven’t gone through the reinforcement stage of leading and managing change in education.

Too often, people think that after the “go-live” date, their job is done as far as change management in educational institutions goes. But people that have gone through the change need to have continued support to help “freeze” those new behaviors.

Some of the ways you can help reinforce change management in higher education, high schools, and primary schools are:

  • Continue to check in regularly with teachers to see how things are going.
  • Create a change management in education FAQ page as a helpful resource.
  • Request stakeholder feedback to assess change management in schools.
  • Offer support for stakeholders with questions about the organization change in education they’ve just gone through.


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How Do You Implement Change in Schools? | The People

The “people” part of change is perhaps the biggest job when dealing with change management in education. People are naturally resistant to change, so managing their experience and feelings about the change is important.

People are going through their own individual process while you are implementing change in schools, so their resistance, fears, anxiety, and other change-related feelings need to be addressed.

One of the models that helps visualize the journey you need to take stakeholders through when implementing change management in schools is called the Prosci ADKAR® Model.

Each letter provides a phase that people need to be guided through to achieve organizational change in education:

  • Awareness of the change
  • Desire to change and adopt the new process
  • Knowledge of how they will go through that change
  • Ability and skills for the new process
  • Reinforcement and support to sustain the change

Teacher Tips: How Do Headteachers Manage Change in School?

In reviewing change management in higher education and primary education, we found some tips from a headteacher on how to handle change management in schools.

Dr. Richard Steward, a headteacher at The Woodroffe School, offered the following tips to educators for change management in education:

  • Remember that change is constant
  • Develop coping strategies to manage rapid organizational change in education
  • Delegate duties involved in change management in schools
  • Don’t panic! A change project can be adjusted if things aren’t going as planned
  • Use school-to-school collaboration for ideas from others on change management in education

How Do You Promote Change in Education?

Once a change has been implemented that impacts students, how can teachers help promote that change in education processes?

Change management in schools requires an “all hands on deck” approach. While those managers implementing change in schools can help drive the change and make it happen, teachers are often needed to promote the change daily until it sticks with students.

Here are some tips for teachers for promoting, sustaining, and leading a change in schools in their classrooms.

  • Set a Good Example: If students see a teacher doing something the “old way,” they’ll think it’s okay to do that too. It’s essential to model a positive change example.
  • Set Clear Rules & Guidelines: If rules need to be updated due to organizational change in education, make sure they’re changed accordingly, so there are no conflicting instructions.
  • Communicate & Be Mindful: Use every opportunity to communicate about the change, why it was done, and the benefits to everyone. Mindfully mention the benefits of the change when they’re being experienced in the classroom.
  • Use Positive Reinforcement: Change management in education requires positive reinforcement to motivate students to sustain newly changed behaviors.


►► Change Impacts Assessment Toolkit ◄◄


Conclusion: Best Guide for Change Management in Education

No matter how often someone is leading change in educational institutions, it can cause resentment, anxiety, and feelings of resistance.

That’s why it’s important to follow proper change management in education models. Change management models and methodologies offer a roadmap to navigating both the process and people side of change.

Going through change management processes when implementing change in schools can help ensure a change project is successful and produces the desired results. It can also help those impacted by the change get through it feeling excited about the change rather than resisting it.


Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Lead Writer)
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