Don Downer
 Sir Wilfred Grenfell College
 Fall 1991


 Change does not deal with direction and it only implies movement; it is a neutral term.  There is no indication of the nature of change.  Planned change is the process of improvement; described in this way it implies at least a preferred direction if not a valued outcome (Leithwood, 1986, p. 2).

 Change may also be confused with progress.  Resisting change in some instances may be more progressive than adopting it (Fullan, 1982).  A few years ago a new junior high mathematics program was brought into Newfoundland schools by the Department of Education to replace the existing mathematics program.  The old program was no longer considered suitable because it did not contain much in the way of problem solving and an applications emphasis was believed to be the way around the problem of students not doing well in mathematics.  The assumption was that there would be a concurrent decrease in time spent on computations as more instructional time was spent by students in solving problems and that mathematical thinking skills would be enhanced.  In my view the program did not work.  A minimum amount of inservice took place in districts to implement the new program (in some cases limited to one day or to none at all) and there was a corresponding decrease in overall instructional time available to teach mathematics.  Teachers were also not convinced that decreasing emphasis on computational skills would solve the problem.  They consequently did not abandon the methodology used in the old program.  Cooperation of the materials of the new program (Berman and McLoughlan, 1976) to serve what was essentially the old course of instruction often occurred and nothing changed in the classroom.

 Principals and vice-principals have not generally been involved in most of the curriculum implementation efforts in this province; instead, they have left this to board office program coordinators and to provincial curriculum consultants.  Principals have been active to a greater degree in the current school improvement efforts but in many cases they will readily admit they feel a lack of knowledge and expertise to bring about change in the most effective way possible.  Since the power to mobilize and confidence about the expertise to effect change are frequently absent in Principals, they are at a distinct disadvantage.  There is a need for practical ideas for principals as to how they can reap the maximum benefits for their students from any innovation introduced in the district or at their school; there is also a need to provide principals with the tools and the power to discriminate between change which will be good and change which will be bad for their school and for their students.

Adoption, Implementation and Institutionalization

 To understand more fully what is involved in the change process we consider as an example the logic of curriculum implementation: adoption -> implementation -> institutionalization (Fullan, 1985).  To illustrate this, it is useful to look at the 'open space' concept for school configuration of the 1960's.  Many schools in North America, including Newfoundland, adopted this concept, i.e., they agreed to formally 'go with it'; but implementation was characterised by 'turn's' teaching not team teaching (Goodlad and Klein, 1970).  Large open spaces were very quickly carved up by use of bookshelves and room dividers; open space teaching rapidly became conventional space teaching.  The concept was not implemented.  Several schools which were built in Newfoundland using the open space concept have long since converted to more traditional space arrangements for instruction.  The open space concept failed to be implemented.  It is because of catchy fads such as this (or, depending upon your viewpoint, legitimate but poorly implemented innovations) that legitimate and needed change has found poor soil in the province and has often failed.

 Even after successful implementation has taken place, i.e., when we can see some changes in the way things get done in the school, it is necessary to go beyond to institutionalization.  This means that the innovation gets incorporated into the fabric of the district; the board office recognizes it and the innovation is sustained over time.  Institutionalization really means that change gets built into the life of the schools (Huberman and Crandell, 1983); it is the process of making change routine.  It requires time and there must be components of school and district budgets relative to the change which will sustain it.  There must be financial support and resources forthcoming from the board office and/or the Department of Education to ensure that institutionalization occurs.  It is most frustrating that it often takes so long for institutionalization to occur that the innovation has become obsolete before this happens.

 Computers are now being brought into Newfoundland schools in a big way.  Computers in the schools have not received much support from either board offices or the Department of Education until quite recently.  Computerization of classrooms must continue to be a viable and valued part of the curriculum year after year and it must be recognized as an important and valued component of instruction in the district if it is to become institutionalized; if not, it will not last.

Types of Change

 Practically any innovation may be considered a change.  Included might be: a new curriculum; a new text; a new course guide; a new method of instruction; a new set of guidelines; a new principal; introduction of a new library; or, a district or school staff development effort.  For our purposes change in schools in Newfoundland means two fundamental things: curriculum implementation and school improvement.

 Curriculum implementation rather than development applies in the school districts in Newfoundland because the Department of Education in most cases assumes responsibility for the latter.  The model for implementation of new curricula has been the same for almost two decades.  Provincial curriculum consultants (often with help from working group members who have been involved in development) do a one or two-day introduction and over-view of the new program with district program coordinators.  Teacher representatives have sometimes attended these sessions.  The program coordinators are then charged with the mandate to return to their respective districts to deliver the new program often also by means of one- or two-day inservice sessions.  Our current knowledge about change and implementation would indicate that oneshot efforts such as these, without any other form of inservice or followup, do not work.  It is a rare occurrence in which full implementation of any program has occurred by this means.  It can be said with some degree of certainty in Newfoundland that "the days of the one-shot workshop at the local level are numbered" (Fullan, Anderson and Newton, 1986, p. 321).

 School improvement efforts in Newfoundland and elsewhere have grown out of the school effectiveness movement.  During the past ten to fifteen years there has been a great rush to utilize the findings from research about effective schools in school improvement projects.  Newfoundland has been no exception: the Department of Education has had an ongoing school improvement effort for the past three years.  School improvement programs began in the United States around 1978.  Edmonds (1979 and 1982) has been one of the earliest proponents and activists in the school improvement effort as well as one of the earliest people in the school effectiveness movement.  Four of the best known representative school improvement programs in the United States include: (1) The New York City School Improvement Project (SIP) (Edmonds, 1982); (2) The Connecticut School Effectiveness Program (Pechcone and Shoemaker, 1986); (3) The Effective Schools Project (ESP) (Purkey, 1984); and (4) Milwaukee's Project Rise (Rising to Individual Excellence) (McCormack-Larkin and Kritek, 1982; McCormack-Larkin, 1985).  A variety of school improvement programs have also been ongoing in Canada during the past decade.  Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have led the way; boards, mostly in the larger cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary, have been involved with school improvement programs since 1984.  Other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, began school improvement efforts in the latter half of the 1980's.  School boards have also become involved here in Newfoundland; the St. John's Roman Catholic School Board's Project 2000 had begun before the Department of Education's school improvement program, Challenge for Excellence.

 Curriculum implementation is seen as only one aspect of a school improvement effort but a crucial one; a knowledge about change and changing is critical to both.  To be effective, principals, since they are key agents in their schools, must know about these and must develop skills to bring them about.

Principals and Change

 Sergiovanni (1987) states clearly that principals would do well to engage in conscious and continual reflection on their practice.  Continuous critical reflection or reflection-in-action by professionals in all areas including education was first presented by Schon (1983).  Cubberly said in 1929 that there is a technique of organization, administration, and supervision based on a definite body of concrete experience and scientific information; since then, things have changed greatly.  Value conflict and uniqueness are now accepted aspects of educational settings; these are perceived as central to the world of practice for all major professions today.  Sergiovanni considered that a more accurate view, and a direct contrast to the view presented by Cubberly of the principalship, might be to consider what principals do as a process of "managing messes'.  In reflective practice, knowledge is created in use as professionals explore and experiment relying less on standard treatments and more on informed intuition to create tailored treatments.  Schon (1983) believes that the reflective practitioner should be Credentialed and technically competent, his claim to authority is substantially based on his ability to manifest his special knowledge in interactions with his clients.  He does not ask the client to have blind faith in a "black box" but to remain open to the evidence of the practitioner's competence as it emerges.  (p. 296)

 The principal, therefore, must be competently trained and capable of leadership within the school; but, having acquired this expertise, the principal must also be capable of accepting and utilizing criticisms.  S/he must permit dissent and indeed must encourage it so that a healthy atmosphere develops where teachers and students are not afraid to speak up and make constructive criticisms.  For principals who have been trained using a technical-relational model and who have worked in a top-down situation for all of their professional lives, this adjustment is somewhat difficult to make.  To be successful at this kind of personal/professional development and change, a principal needs intestinal fortitude, a willingness to change and some help from those who understand the process.

 It is important also for principals to distinguish between management and leadership as it relates to change.  Management involves marshalling resources, planning and implementing structures and providing actions and arrangements.  Leadership, on the other hand, involves asking questions such as what goals are worth pursuing?  And, what levels of motivation and commitment are needed?  Leadership deals with how we can provide the necessary purposing and inspiration.

 Sergiovanni (1987) presents a model for change, called the interacting units view of change, which includes four considerations: the individual, the school, the work flow and the political system.  Principals should consider all four in coping with change in their schools.  Each of these four considerations of Sergiovanni will now be used, but the view of each will be broadened considerably to include other aspects of change from recent research.

The Individual

 Work at the University of Texas (Hall and Loucks, 1978) has shown that everyone involved with change will experience at least initial anxiety.  The most conscientious will often have some real concern, perhaps throughout.

 Teachers need time and opportunities to work out personal beliefs; they must also be given opportunities in non-threatening environments with peers and leaders to voice concerns about needs.  Ownership can only come if teachers have some say in and control over the change process and the product.

 Teachers must be given tangible reason to believe they will not be hurt either professionally or personally and they must be assured they will not be hurt by engaging in the change effort and failing.  There must not be the sense that individuals are mere pawns in accomplishing the objectives of change.  The principal's vision of the process and product of change is important but it must be transferred to and endorsed by the teachers.  All players involved in the change effort must realize that teachers are busy, over-loaded people; there is a limit to what they can take.

The School

 Goodlad (1984), following a massive study of schools in the United States, said that the central message of his report was that improvement is essentially a school-by-school process.  Principals must realize that reform efforts will be most successful if they are planned and carded out by practitioners, classroom teachers, who work every day with the real challenges of real children in real schools.

 Most decisions affecting the change should be made at the school level.  Inservice sessions dealing with the change effort should focus on the perceived needs of teachers; teachers should be involved in the planning and execution of such inservice.  Change objectives should be perceived at the school level to be realistic and attainable.  Communication within the school must always remain open to ensure that everyone understands the objectives and the status of the change effort at any given time.  Effective principals appear to spend time as they intend in their schools, i.e., in dealing with certain critical areas related to the change effort, perhaps to the neglect of other less important areas.

 Periodic review at the school level is essential for full implementation to occur.  If and when the change effort becomes institutionalized, it may then be time to make decisions as to continuation or not of the innovation.  Certain significant others external to the school should be present on a regular basis.  Full implementation is difficult to achieve without sustained external input and support.  One or two major change efforts being implemented simultaneously is all that any school can take.

The Workflow

 By concentrating only on the individual and the school, one can get adoption but not implementation, i.e., there may be 'up-front' commitment but no expansion into the everyday work flow of the school.  There should be tangible evidence of implementation in classrooms and around the school.  There should be daily formal and informal dialogue.  Teachers should be observed in the corridors and in the staff room talking about the change.  Formal meetings within the school should periodically focus on the change effort.

 Principals should not only keep the pressure on for change to occur but there should also be support for the change (Fullan, 1987) - one cannot exist without the other.  Teachers need real and practical help and suggestions as to how to incorporate the change into what they are presently doing.  If this cannot be provided, it is unlikely that change will occur and it is doubtful if the effort should begin at all.  Something should officially come I off the books' to accommodate change and to permit it to become part of the workflow of the school.  The perception otherwise is that the innovation being proposed is just another addition to an already overcrowded agenda.

The Political System

 Institutionalization takes place when change is no longer considered to be an innovation.  The principal is the key to adoption and implementation of a change effort but s/he has little power in institutionalization.  Institutionalization cannot be accomplished without the actual and perceived support and commitment of the superintendent and board office personnel.  Meetings must, therefore, take place between the school and board office to accomplish this; there must be a recognized forum.  Meetings permit the superintendent and others to 'buy in' to school initiatives.  The meetings must take place primarily for communication and assistance not evaluation and review, although the latter two processes are necessary at some point.  Built-in mechanisms for review, assessment and re-vitalization must exist; it is time to proceed to these once it is realized that institutionalization has taken place.  Open lines of communication must exist not only with board office personnel but between the school and the parents as well as the school and the community.  Accountability must not only obtain for existing established programs but must also apply to proposed innovations.  The school is not an isolated entity with total autonomy; rather, it is a political entity which is part of the greater political reality of the society in which it exists.


 Principals can cope with change in the nineties.  They must, however, be prepared to utilize the research knowledge which is accumulating as to why change efforts have failed in the past to ensure that change is successful in their schools.  They must also be prepared to engage in continuous critical reflection on their practices; they must explore and experiment using available knowledge when they have it but relying also on informed intuition to create tailored treatments in their particular circumstances.  As effective principals and true leaders in their schools they must decide what goals are worth pursuing, what levels of motivation and commitment are needed, and how to provide the necessary drive and inspiration to achieve these goals.

 Principals in change efforts must give teachers time and opportunities to voice and work out concerns without fear of reprisals.  To take ownership teachers must know they are having significant, not token, input into the processes and products of the change effort.  Practitioners, the classroom teachers, must plan and execute the change and the objectives must be realistic and attainable.  Principals must place top priority on aspects of the change particularly as identified by teachers.

 Successful change must be incorporated into everyday happenings in the school.  There should be tangible evidence of the change in the conversations around the school.

 Principals need to push yet support the change effort, and they should take steps to secure the support and endorsement of the change by top decision makers in the school district.  Institutionalization means that everyone in the system has heard of the change effort and that most support it.  There must be a place for the change effort in both school and district budgets.  Principals do not have full control of such matters but they must ensure that efforts are made to create the conditions for successful change.


 Berman, P. and McLoughlan, M.W. (1976).  Implementation of Educational Innovation.  Educational Forum, 40(3), 345-360.

 Cubberly, E.P. (1929).  Public School Administration.  New York: Houghton Mifflin.

 Edmunds, R.R. (1979).  A Discussion of the Literature and Issues Related to Effective Schooling.  Paper presented for the national conference on urban education, St. Louis, MO, July, 1978.

 Edmunds, R.R. (1982).  Programs of School Improvement: An Overview.  Educational Leadership, 40(3), 4-1 1.

 Fullan, M. (1982).  The Meaning of Educational Change.  Toronto, ON:  OISE Press.

 Fullan, M. (1985).  Change Processes and Strategies at the Local Level.  The Elementary School Journal, 85(3), 391-421.

 Fullan, M., Anderson, S.E. and Newton, E.E. (1986).  Support Systems Implementing Curriculum in School Boards.  Toronto, ON:  Queen's Printer for Ontario.

 Goodlad, J.1. and Klein, F.M. (1970).  Behind The Classroom Door.  Worthington, OH:  Charles A. Jones.

 Goodlad, J.I. (1984).  A Place Called School.  New York:  McGraw Hill.

 Hall, G. and Loucks, S. (1978).  Teacher Concerns as a basis for facilitating and Personalizing staff development.  Teachers College Record, 80(l), 36-55.

 Huberman, A.M. and Grandell, D.P. (1983).  People, Policies and Practices: Examining The Chain of School Improvement.  Vol.  IX:  Implications for Action.  Andover, MA:  The Network, Inc.

 Leithwood, K. (Ed.) (1986).  Planned Educational Change.  A Manual of Curriculum Review Development, and Implementation (CRDI) Concepts and Procedures.  Toronto, ON:  OISE Press.

 McCormack-Larkin, M. and Kritek, W.J. (1982).  Milwaukee's Project Rise.  Educational Leadership, 40(3), 6-22.

 McCormack-Larkin, M. (1985).  Ingredients of a Successful School Effectiveness Project.  Educational Leadership, 42(6), 31-37.

 Pechcone, R. and Shoemaker, J. (1986).  An Evaluation of School Effectiveness Programs in Connecticut.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin.

 Schon, D. (1983).  The Reflective Practitioner.  New York:  Basic Books.

 Sergiovanni, T.J. (1987).  The Principalship.  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon.