Friday, August 20, 2010

Second-Order Change

Change: Based on your understanding of the Marzano reading, which of the 21 responsibilities and day-to-day management of a school are most necessary for second-order change?

Administrators must emphasize seven of the 21 responsibilities to lead and manage a second-order change initiative. Applying them to second-order change also differs slightly from first-order change and day-to-day management of a school in that they include how the larger change/innovation will affect these responsibilities. These are, in rank order of their relationship with second-order change:
  1. Knowledge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment- not just having knowledge of research and best practices, but also being knowledgeable about how the innovation will affect curricular, instructional and assessment practices
  2. Optimizer
  3. Intellectual Stimulation
  4. Change Agent
  5. Monitoring/Evaluating
  6. Flexibility
  7. Ideals/Beliefs 
Marzano’s analysis also shows that some of the above responsibilities are negatively affected by second-order change. These are culture, communication, order, and input. A principal (or district level leader) may find that the while leading and managing deep change and dramatic paradigm shifts, they have to endure the perceptions that team spirit and cooperation (culture), communication, order and routine, and the level of input from all members of the staff have deteriorated as a result of the innovation. Marzano quotes Fullan as stating…”creative breakthroughs are always preceded by periods of cloudy thinking, confusion, exploration, trial and stress; followed by periods of excitement, and growing confidence as one pursues purposeful change…”

How does the complexity of second order change demand a very thoughtful and flexible administrator?

Marzano (2005) states, “One of the difficult aspects of identifying the magnitude of change for a given initiative is that one person’s first-order change might be another’s second order change.” (p. 112). He gives an example of a school moving from a traditional report card to one that is standards-based. For a teacher that has already been moving towards recording grades on a more detailed standards-based model, changing the school report card is “an extension of her experiences – the next logical step.” For another teacher who has not been experimenting with new reporting systems, it is a bigger change and a dramatic departure from her existing paradigm. While first-order change is incremental, a series of small steps that fine-tunes the system, second-order change is deep change that “alters the system in fundamental ways, offering a dramatic shift in direction and requiring new ways of thinking and acting.’ (p. 66).
Administrators need to understand that the staff will vary on both the reality and their perceptions of the degree to which a change or innovation is different from their existing practices. Generally, the bigger/more significant the change, the more difficult it will be perceived to be and the more effort it will take.

When leading and managing second-order change, administrators may want to make use of the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM)
“…acknowledging these concerns and addressing them are critical to progress in a reform effort …. The strength of the concerns model is in its reminder to pay attention to individuals and their various needs for information, assistance, and moral support.”
Marzano, R. Waters, T., McNulty, B. (2005) School Leadership That Works. From Research to Results. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.
The National Academies (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved from:

The Impact of a Positive School Culture on School Reform

Culture: What impact does the creation of a positive school culture have on school reform?

School reform takes time, hard work and commitment. It is not something that can be done overnight and not something that will show positive results if only implemented by a small percentage of the teachers, staff, students and other stakeholders. If a school reform effort is to be successful, there must be buy-in by a critical mass and it must be implemented with fidelity to the core components, values and beliefs. This takes strong leadership, but it also takes all members of the team pulling together. If the school culture is negative – if there is no shared vision, little to no collaboration and communication, if disorder and unruliness are the norm, if there is a lack of respect between colleagues and between teachers, students and parents, and if there is an overall atmosphere of despair, apathy or hopelessness, the reform effort will fail. The most highly rated reform model will not make a significant difference if a pervasive negative school culture stands in the way of implementation.
Conversely, when the school community has developed a positive culture, they have the foundation upon which to build reform efforts, pull together, and get the hard work accomplished. If you want people to put in 110%, they have to believe in the cause, feel their contributions are acknowledged and that their collaborative efforts make a difference - this gives them ownership. The entire staff should feel that they are a part of the reform not that the reform is just something that has been externally imposed upon them.