What does Readiness have to do with school-based change?

Most of my work over the past decade have been around readiness for change. This involves considering the conditions that are needed to put a specific policy, program, or practice into place. Exeter Township is faced with many changes over the coming years. We need to both get ready and then stay ready to implement these changes well. But what does it mean to be ready?

Readiness isn’t one thing. There are actually many different elements that contribute to how successful a new change will be.

General Capacities: These are the conditions that are relevant, no matter what the change is. This includes things like leadership (Dr. Minor, the School Board, the principals), the culture of the school, the flexibility and adaptability to change, how the school finds and uses resources, and many more.

Innovation-Specific Capacities: These are the conditions that are needed for a specific change. Putting into place virtual learning is very different then developing a testing program, or implementing a new math curriculum.

Motivation. Readiness is more than skills; it also involves the psychological commitment and motivation of those putting the change into place. This involves whether the change seems beneficial, whether the change fits, how much of a priority the change is, and many more.

I’ve used this model of readiness in dozens of studies and settings, including a study of school safety in California, and with Haitian immigrants in Atlanta-base churches. What we have learned is that change requires that both the tangible and psychological factors be addressed when implementing a change. That makes it more likely the change will succeed.

There are going to be many changes as Exeter emerges from COVID. The reality is that we’re never going back to the way things were in February 2020. Therefore, we need to ensure that our stakeholders have both the motivation and skills to put and maintain changes that will benefit our students and our community.

The good news! Readiness can built. There is ample research in schools that demonstrate effective ways to support change. My colleague and friend, Gene Hall, an expert on educational leadership, always likes to say, “Change is a process, not an event.” Let’s start the process right and make sure our changes are successful.

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