Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Systemic Change

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it has never happened any other way.” Margaret Mead

How is systemic change defined? Systemic change is defined by the Education Systemic Change Tools site http://www.nsba.org/sbot/toolkit/edsctls.html as an approach which involves players from throughout the system in considering all parts of an organization or group, how change in one area affects another, and how to coordinate change in a system so that it furthers the shared goals and visions. We often feel that we are limited in our contributions toward system change and view this as something that can only be accomplished by those with more authority or higher level ranking in a hierarchal system. Everyone plays a critical role in systemic change. Leaders need to ensure that everyone contribute to systemic change.
Systemic change at the school or district level requires ALL stakeholders to:
-Create a vision of what you want the system to look like and accomplish.
-Take stock of the current situation.
-Identify strengths and weaknesses of the current system in light of the vision.
-Target several priority items for improvement.
-Establish a plan for addressing these priority items and for measuring success.
-Assess progress regularly and revise actions as needed.

Beverly Anderson (1993) describes a continuum of systemic change in a matrix with six developmental stages and six key elements of change. “Six stages of change characterize the shift from a traditional educational system to one that emphasizes interconnectedness, active learning, shared decision making, and higher levels of achievement for all students.” The matrix can be used to develop a common language when communicating about change; to develop a strategic plan for moving forward with change; and to develop ongoing assessment to further the change process. I recommend viewing the matrix to identify the entry points for change and to develop ideas for future direction. (Educational Leadership, 1993 Vol.51, No.1)

Thoughtful Discussion Questions
How do we create conditions that will promote informed, thoughtful discussion about purposes among teachers, students, parents, and community members? I thought it might be helpful to provide a series of questions that could be used by a school leader in facilitating discussion with stakeholders to support the implementation of a systemic change. The following questions were compiled from various articles in Educational Leadership (1993) and The steps of systemic change is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. View the site for more questions to guide the process of revising or developing a new action plan.
For school leaders:
Which basic values guide my work?
What motivates teacher performance? How do I define my role as leader?
What are my goals for this school?
How do my actions demonstrate my values and my goals?
For school leadership teams or steering committee:
What are our schools' strengths and weaknesses?
What is our vision and what are our core values for a better school?
What are our priorities and strategies for change?
What structures do we need to reach our goals?
What new skills and resources will we need?
For building a vision:
What will the ideal look like when it’s complete?
What are you looking forward to most in completing that task?
What specifically will be most pleasing?
What has worked most effectively in similar situations in the past?
For assessing progress of the plan:
What was particularly effective about the way that worked?
What would you do differently another time?
What would be the benefit of doing it differently?

More Helpful Links:
http://www.michaelfullan.ca/Articles_02/03_02.pdf - Select educators, researchers and policy makers are addressing a vital issue: the impact of digital technology on learning - will it merely produce incremental improvement or could it lead to fundamental change?

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/multimedia/6768232.html - The growth in technology and global demands on education

http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/profdevl/pd2syst.htm - Systemic Change Activity -

http://www.nsdc.org/library/publications/jsd/guskey194.cfm - The Age of our Accountability by Thomas Guskey, 1998