Change leadership and the transition to innovative learning environments

Year: 2018

Author: Osborne, Mark

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While considerable effort goes into getting the design elements right in an innovative learning environment (ILE), ultimately the successful implementation of these new teaching and learning spaces hinge on the teaching staff’s ability to use them to their full potential. Despite this, what school leaders can do to support teachers to transition their practice when moving into an ILE remains under-researched, with little guidance available for school leadership. This project seeks to answer the question: “What leadership practices are most likely to lead to the successful implementation of an innovative learning environment?”
As a consultant working in the field of change leadership and transitions into innovative learning environments, my work provides me with the unique opportunity to record and analyse the experiences of a community going through such change while also being a member of that community. Taking an analytic autoethnographic approach, I am analysing my own experiences (and those of co-participants) against a theoretical framework comprising principles of effective, sustainable change.
Analytic autoethnography is an approach designed to address two of the criticisms commonly levelled at more evocative forms of autoethnography: excessive focus on the self, and a lack of analysis and interpretation (Chang, 2008). Data is being gathered from both internal and external sources:

Internal include a timeline of events from my appointment calendar; personal memories supported by my field notes.

External sources will include items such as artefacts that arise out of professional development activities inside co-participants’ schools, as well as transcripts of interactive interviews with co-participants. I will also engage the expertise of what is known as a “key informant”, or someone within the field who “plays the role of confidante and trusted advisor to the researcher” (Carrico, 2009, p. 3).

Emergent results point to the importance of school leaders ensuring change processes are participatory, values-based, incremental and inclusive. A second crucial factor for ensuring successful change is supporting participants through the three key phases of a change process: (1) preparing for change; (2) implementing change; and sustaining change. These key phases ensure that teachers are ready for and supported during change processes and that new practices are embedded into organisational culture.
This research will help to ensure school leaders support the transition in teacher practice required when moving into an ILE. Without this knowledge, many ILE implementations may be well-designed but poorly-implemented meaning opportunities will be missed; investments under-utilised; and students and teachers frustrated.