The New Science of Leading Change
Since I began my Digital Learning & Leading graduate degree with Lamar University, I have been given the opportunity to develop, refine, and implement my innovation proposal at my organization. Recently, I have taken on a new position at a project-based learning campus in which my proposal to implement PBL within every classroom and subject will be welcomed. The twist on my proposal for PBL is to incorporate it within a blended learning environment in which students are given opportunities to engage in learning meaningfully through online content delivery and face-to-face with their peers. This creates a significant learning environment that provides our learners with opportunities that enhance 21st century skills and access to limitless information around the globe. I believe that we can change the world one learner at a time, and in order to do so we must equip them with the passion and skills needed to navigate in a future society we haven’t experienced yet. Project-based learning allows learners to approach real-world problems creatively and showcase their learning in a meaningful way. This grants them the ability to discover new interests, learn from peers, and seek creative solutions that only they would be able to predict based on their own personal experience. When coupling PBL within blended learning, learners are able to reflect on their experiences and build a personal ePortfolio to share with the world. This promotes learner agency, efficacy, voice and motivation in learning how to learn.
In our latest course Leading Organizational Change, we read the life-changing book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change (Grenny et al., 2013) which encourages leaders to lead change by influencing vital human behaviors. The authors discuss the importance of “picking our battles” so to speak in order to truly find the top 2-3 vital behaviors that have the power to shift an organization without getting overwhelmed in the daily “whirlwind” of our daily routines. It has been enlightening and validating to know there are other leaders that desire to make a positive impact on their organizations, have successfully implemented strategies from this book, and have experienced lasting change because of it. I have created my own Influencer Strategy below starting with the main goal, the vital behaviors that influence that goal, how these vital behaviors will be measured, key influencers in my organization, and the six sources of influence that will transfer this goal from being an idea to reality.
I desire to guide my charter school team in developing a blended learning environment through project-based learning (PBL) utilizing student ePortfolios.
- Teachers will design at least one PBL unit per quarter that incorporates online content delivery in connection to students’ ePortfolios.
- Teachers seasoned in PBL will mentor 2-3 other teachers bi-weekly as they adopt PBL practices and provide implementation feedback.
- Informal observations of blended PBL units in action by mentor teachers and administration to assess progress in student-centered learning and engagement.
- Teachers and mentor teachers will assess student progress via a PBL rubric and invite students to provide feedback of their experience with the project via their ePortfolios.
What influences vital behaviors?
Notice the obvious
Often times when attempting to execute positive change, we overlook key behaviors that are obvious yet underused that can make all the difference. Some of the most important questions to ask when initiating change is, “what am I missing? Am I so comfortable in this environment that I am overlooking the obvious? How can we focus our efforts in noticing the behaviors that are right in front of us?” I believe that clear communication is key when it comes to leading a team of professionals to be on board. We appeal to the heart as well as clearly communicate the goal or result, and then work together as a collective to achieve that goal. We must model our collaboration with one another as a professional team if we wish our students to collaborate with one another to maximize their learning. When we support one another’s ideas and allow room for growth of these ideas, we set an authentic learning environment that we can encourage not only within our organization but our community.
Look for crucial moments
In our weekly staff meetings, we will discuss successes and failures of the week and how to learn from both. We open opportunities for staff members to speak up and refine goals to move forward. There are moments when we discuss difficulties with some students, and look for feedback from experienced teachers who may be helpful in the process. It is vital that we each self-reflect and assess the positive and negative influences that are affecting our focus, and be willing to ask for help when needed. I believe if there is consistent communication among team members, it will be much more effective in encouraging those to ask for help who may be inhibited to do so otherwise.
Learn from positive deviants
I believe one of the most influential aspects in moving forward with positive change is learning from others who seem to do it immaculately. Although they are in the same environment, have the same amount of hours in the day, and under similar pressure, they manage to seamlessly execute innovative ideas into action. These positive deviants are not limited to staff members or leaders, but could be our learners within our classroom. They have the ability to lead one another and be a positive impact on their environment both at home and at school. An approach to learning from positive deviants is through observation and self-reflection. When we allow ourselves to learn from these positive deviants, we are able to reflect on their vital behaviors that set them apart from the rest. Identifying these behaviors allows us to consider our own behaviors that are moving us closer or further away from our goals. My personal goal this year is to be open to new ideas derived from collaboration, uncomfortable yet crucial conversations, and self-reflection.
Spot culture busters
According to experience and observation, I have not only felt this type of pressure to stay silent, but have witnessed others who have felt similarly. I believe one of the most unfortunate aspects of many work environments is believing the work culture is open to feedback and new ideas, but in reality it is not. In my last position, it was evident that in most cases we were not able to really speak up in a team meeting if an administrator were present. We all had a multitude of concerns both on a personal level and an organizational level, but the moment we attempted to discuss these openly (sometimes even with invitation to do so) we paid for it later. It may take the form of more walk-thru observations, hurt feelings, sensitivity, or avoidance all together. The teachers, instructional-aid, and behavior specialist were all very close and could be candid with one another respectfully because we all knew we each had the best intention for our organization, our students, and each other. It just didn’t always transfer over well with administration. With this said, I hope to be a leader that invites open communication among all team members regardless of title, be willing to admit when I need help and guidance, and create a culture that is unafraid to speak up. I believe it naturally reflects off of those team members who truly have a heart and passion for what they do. If we can all agree on the goal of positively impacting the world one learner at a time, then we need one another to get there. The only way to achieve that is to remove the stigma that only certain people are allowed to speak up or be validated.
With the help of my new organization’s key influencers (listed below), I believe we will see positive changes not only within our students, but within the school staff and surrounding community.
My Organization’s Influencers
- Head of charter school
- Assistant principal
- Mentor teachers
- SPED director
- Social-emotional team
I believe when we implement the six sources of influence within our organization, we will see a new culture of learning that values students’ time and futures. It will create new positive deviants that will further influence innovation and help us discover the potential of what is to come. I am excited and eager to see what our future holds.
Grenny, J, Patterson, K, Maxfield, D, McMillan, R, & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.