How to change

A teacher wrote to me: “We are teachers working for a private school. Several of us want to improve our teaching and change the program to help our students but we do not know how to begin. What would you suggest to implement changes in a private school? Please advise.”

Answer: Even if the school administrators and several teachers have agreed that some changes are necessary, they need to get beyond that agreement by clearly describe what needs to be changed and how things will be when the change is implemented. To change something is a journey that takes time and efforts, not something can happen immediately. To effectively make change happen, they need to write down clearly where the school situation is now and where the school could be in the future. (i.e., what curriculum the school is teaching now and what the new curriculum will be, what method the teachers are teaching now and what the new method will be etc.) Just like having a map for your travel, you need to know where you are and where you want to go then ask how do I get from the starting place to the destination.

Before implementing any change, you need to know what obstacles that you may encounter. Every administrator and teacher must collaborate and identify any issue that may prevent the change from happening. They need to discuss these issues up front to understand them and design a plan to solve them when implementing the change. They need to know what are the factors that make them work together and why the change is necessary. If you start to implement something that is contrary to the view of others, it can create conflicts and makes the implementation more difficult. You need to understand how far and how fast you can change. Sometimes, people get impatient and want to see changes happen in a few months. Of course, there are things that can happen fast but in reality, most changes take more time than you thought. Time is important to get more people to involve and understand the impact and to make the change last instead of hurrying and get people to confuse.

For any change, there will be some resistance depends on the change. Sometimes the resistance comes from people who do not understand what needs to change and what the impact could be. There is a tendency for some people to maintain their position as they always teaching in a certain way for many years. Asking them to change is not easy. They may think “Why change? We have always taught it this way. And there is nothing wrong with it.” They need to understand the reason for the change and move beyond that. They need to understand the urgency to change because the world is changing and the school cannot remain idle in the middle of these changes. What worked well in the past may not work today and tomorrow.

In this technology-driven world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many things will change, including the way we teach. Our main goal is to develop strong talents to support the viability of our economy. We need to have a better curriculum, better teaching methods, better training for all teachers to prepare for many changes to come. However, for the changes to happen effectively, we need to explain clearly how changes can benefit those directly affected (i.e. the students and their family, etc.) and others to be accountable, (The school, the administrators, the teachers etc.) and develop clear criteria for measuring the change progress.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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