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5 Ways to Improve How Change Happens in Your District in 2017

Preparing districts now to prepare kids for the future
Anthony Kim,  CEO and founder,  Education Elements
Anthony Kim, CEO and founder, Education Elements

The amount of access to information we have today is at times wonderful, empowering and overwhelming. In these conditions, it’s upon leaders to help teams organize and synthesize information so that they can move together toward the same goals. And it is crucial for teachers to do the same for their students.

Why is change at the organizational level so critical? For districts to be relevant, they need to evolve for the digital world we live in today. It cannot happen just classroom by classroom; this needs to happen district by district. It is time for districts to make changes, and they need to be at scale.

With this in mind we have identified five ways to make those changes smoother, stickier and more successful:

1. Speak the same language: It is incredibly important to come up with common definitions and a common vocabulary. No matter what changes you are trying to make, make sure everyone understands what you are trying to do, and understands it well enough to explain it to someone else.

2. Listen to everyone but stop trying for consensus: At Education Elements we do not believe everyone has to like an idea for it to move forward. We believe instead that no one can be fundamentally against it. It is hard to innovate if you go for consensus; this will ensure many ideas die before they are tried. We use Holocracy protocols so that we hear everyone’s voice, but are careful not to let a nay-sayer stop us from trying something new.

3. Fail small, learn big: The idea of failing fast and forward is more popular in business than in education. But we are asking our teachers and leaders to make big changes and we need to support them in doing so. It is time to remind the adults in our system, just as we do our students, that change is hard and messy and that we learn from failure.

4. Get aligned: I was recently in a meeting with a district grappling with their vision for personalized learning. As the meeting came to an end and we reflected on it, one team member said, “It is great to know that even if we are not all on the same page, we are reading from the same book.” In many meetings, especially those around large-scale changes to something as fundamental as our approach to teaching and learning, reading from the same book is a big win. A key to success is the ability to get teams even more aligned, perhaps beyond the same page, and onto the same lines. Our product Touchpoint is designed to do just that.

5. Consider if buy-in is too low of a bar: We recently published a study of over 450 educators whose number one concern around personalized learning was how to generate buy-in. This is, in fact, something we coach districts on frequently. But a superintendent recently said that buy-in is not enough; instead he wants change to be the oxygen they can’t imagine living without. What can you do to get everyone not only to agree, but also to promote and be excited about change?

2017 will be a big year. It is important to note that no matter which changes we want to make in our districts, we need to think about what’s best for students, and then get all the adults working toward that common goal.

This piece was produced by District Administration for Education Elements. For more information, visit www.edelements.com