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Principalship: Leading Change in Schools
The L.E.A.D.E.R. Way
In June 1997,the Prime Minister of Singapore unveiled the Government's vision of 'Thinking Schools, Learning Nation' (TSLN). This vision was forged to improve Singapore's education system in the light of the rapid changes around the world. The Government foresees that Singapore, with its limited natural resources, can only continue to progress by nurturing a knowledgeable workforce that is adaptable to the changes in the world economy. More importantly, the Government realized that it had to start preparing the nation for these inevitable changes by revamping the education system in accordance with the vision of TSLN.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore, the state agency responsible for the undertaking of this vision, states the goals of TSLN as follows:
Thinking Schools ensure that we equip students with skills and knowledge and values and instincts to face future challenges, while Learning Nation aims to promote a culture of continual learning beyond the school environment. (MOE, 1998,p.16)
In order to realize the vision, the MOE has introduced changes to the curriculum, the training of teachers, assessment modes and the development of resource packages. Furthermore, all schools will have students spending at least 30% of their curriculum time accessing electronic resources and working on computers. (MOE, 1998,p.17) The changes in the curriculum include the infusion of thinking skills and the reduction in the contents of the curriculum. Schools are strongly encouraged to set up their own thinking programs and teachers are to enroll in courses to learn how to infuse thinking skills in their teaching.
With the restructuring taking place to realize the vision, most teachers fear that the changes will burden them by increasing their already-heavy workload and tight time schedule due to increased training hours. The principal, being the main disseminator of the MOE's mission of TSLN in the school, has the unenviable task to articulate this vision to overcome the resistance to the changes especially from the school's teachers.
The main objective of the paper is to explore the perceptions of teachers as to the effectiveness of principals in leading a change programs (in this case, a Thinking Programs). Since teachers are directly responsible for the learning outcomes of the students, their perceptions of their principals' effectiveness and concomitant actions are vital to the success of the vision of TSLN. As part of the paper, a case study of a primary school, which has embarked on a Thinking Programs, has been carried out.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
In the hope of improving the existing system, schools face many problems when introducing well-meaning changes. Restructuring would, inevitably, involve people within the organisation to absorb new ideas and ideals that usually result in many uncertainties (Heckman, 1990). A school's principal, thus, has the uphill task to manage the level of resistance to change and align the staff to work towards a common vision, amidst the turbulence.
To reiterate, the author is focussing on teachers' perceptions of their principal in leading change, more specifically, the process of creating a Thinking Programme for the school. The importance of teachers' perception of their leaders in the success of a school has been documented in various researches. Researchers (such as Bhella, 1992) suggested that teachers' morale is related to student achievement. And, in turn, the principal has the strongest influence on teachers' satisfaction in the workplace. (Vanderstoepe et al, 1994) From that perspective, the teachers' satisfaction and perceptions of the principal in leading the change process would directly have an impact on the success rate of the new programme of boosting students' achievement.
In the process of writing, the author discussed with many teachers on what they expect their leaders to do when introducing a new programs to their schools. The author has summarized the teachers' opinions for inclusion in this paper. Previous research and literature would be used to illuminate the factors that are critical to the success of a principal in leading a change programs. To further enhance clarity of exposition, I have presented systematically the ideas encapsulated in previous research by using the acronym of L.E.A.D.E.R as a model to elucidate the steps in leading a successful change programs in a school. The acronym of L.E.A.D.E.R stands for:
Leading by example
Evaluating the system
The above model does not try to be prescriptive or attempt to imply that it will cover all the salient factors of an effective change programme. Due to the prescribed length of the paper, the author hopes that the model will shed more light in the topic of research in a more methodical manner.
Leading by Example
In most organisations that have embarked on a change programme, one of the more common complaints by the employees is that the leader does not 'walk the talk'. In a school, if a principal is not willing to learn and adapt to changes, there are no compelling reasons for the staff to do so. The Scout's motto, ' Lead by Example', is a major criteria of what a principal must do to succeed in leading change.
In order to create a thinking and learning organisation, principal will become researchers and designers rather than controllers and overseers. They should also be a model of learning to the rest of the organisation and encourage the staff to be life-long learners. (Senge, 1990) More importantly, a principal must not merely communicate in words, but by deeds to convince the staff that the change is happening at all levels. These build a sense of esprit de corp in the school that will help in lessening the pressures that change brings to organisations.
In short, a principal has to be perceived to be capable in leading school educational development by his or her own example. (Dunning, 1993; McHugh & McMullan, 1995) Unless the staffs are convinced, they will not work co-operatively towards the success of the change programme.
A change programme requires a change of vision. According to Kotter (1995, p.10),
" A vision says something that clarifies the direction in which an organisation needs to move."
The Ministry of Education developed the vision of TSLN in the middle of 1997. In the schools, banners are put up to herald the vision of TSLN and school principals were expected to align the teachers towards this shared vision for the betterment of the schools. The principals are expected to modify culture through skill in communication of the necessary shared values for a changed vision. (Campbell-Evans, 1993).
In most organisations' change programme, the appropriate pace of change is often ignored. Most leaders are impatient to see results and thus apply unwarranted pressures on those involved in the process .In Singapore schools; such a situation is a commonplace. With the MOE's intention of creating a world-class educational system in Singapore, many new initiatives are introduced within a short period of time. Most of the initiatives will require much time and effort of the teachers, on top of their already-heavy load. Such a situation often causes distress and the principal has to address the issues.
A good leader, therefore, must be capable of regulating the distress by sequencing and pacing the work required of the change process. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most change programme. Most leaders start new initiatives without stopping other activities or they start too many initiatives at the same time. They overwhelm and disorient the very people who need to take responsibility for the work. (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997,p.180)
The people who are directly involved in a change programme have to be suitably trained to meet the challenges. A good principal would ensure that the staff's potential is developed for many reasons. Firstly, if the staffs are not trained well to undertake the new responsibilities of the initiative, the programme will not be a success. Secondly, a principal who develops and empowers the staff in the concerned change programme will be more able to convince them to commit to it. By doing so, a principal can demonstrate leadership by sharing leadership with the staff in the school. Through empowering others, the principal can also elevate his/her status and power. (Blasť, 1987)
A principal can also develop the staff potential by opening up channels of communication within the school. Setting up committees and encouraging peer learning could do this. External agencies with expertise in the areas of change can also be consulted to help smoothen the process of change.
A principal who is a people developer would benefit as " solutions to adaptive challenges reside not in the executive suite but in the collective intelligence of employees at all levels."(Heifetz & Laurie, 1997,p.173) Thus, by doing so, the principal would have increased the level of success of the new initiative and also the hearts of his/her followers.
Evaluating the System
The principal must constantly monitor the process of a new school initiative. The initial enthusiasm that has been built up the principal may wane due to the lack of a good evaluation system .An effective evaluation system would allow the principal to see the flaws and to refine the programme due to changing circumstances. A good evaluation system for a thinking programme would consist of classroom observations on the teaching of the thinking tools and feedback from those who are involved in the change process. This includes the teachers, pupils and their parents. This is important as constant feedback allows the principal to refine the programme due to changing circumstances. (Hargreaves, 1995)
To further enhance the evaluative aspect of the programme, the principal could brainstorm with the staff on the criteria of what are considered to be desired outcomes of the new initiatives. To be more specific, an effective change leader would spell out what are the short and long-term desired results of the programme and base the evaluations on such targets. The evaluative process must be realistic and fair by including appropriate time frames for achieving them. This would calm down the fears of the teachers and to ensure that they would not resort to cosmetic measures in the process of change.
A principal must also be self-reflective and be able to take criticism if the programme is not moving according to plan. He or she must rely on the teachers who are directly involved with the pupils to give honest feedback. Though, this may raise questions of the credibility of the principal's initial plans, a good head would allow the subordinates to point them for further improvements to a new initiative. This is especially so if the head is seeking to create a thinking and learning organisation.
An effective evaluation system would also be used to ensure the continuing momentum of a change programme. Most change programmes may start out enthusiastically but they usually lose steam at the end. The ability to maintain the initial enthusiasm and commitment to the vision is, thus, an important criterion of an effective principal. He or she must be able to recharge the interest of the teachers by constantly reminding them and encouraging them to achieve desired outcomes. In a thinking programme, a principal could hold monthly meetings to talk about the progress and to share success stories of the programme to maintain the interest of the teachers. If the interest and enthusiasm of the staff to the initiatives can be maintained throughout, more change programmes will be successful in schools.
During the process of writing this paper, the author felt that certain issues should be addressed. One of the main problems seems to lie in the pacing of new initiatives introduced by the Ministry of Education. Due to this, a principal is stretched for time and effort in juggling with the new initiatives. This, as shown in the case study, usually leads to other good school programmes going through a roller-coaster ride of enthusiasm. The principal would then resort to cosmetic efforts to convince the parents, visitors and the Ministry that a programme is in place as in this case study. The author hopes that this is just an isolated case but feels the Ministry should really look into the issue of whether principals are overloaded with the projects in progress before launching into another initiative.
Another issue connected to the above is the need to improve the evaluation and appraisal methods of the principals by the Ministry. At present, the evaluation tends to be inaccurate, as the Ministry does not really know the inner workings of the school. There should be a 360 degrees Feedback Survey whereby the staff (especially the teachers); pupils and parents are to evaluate the effectiveness of the principal in leading a programme. It may be considered time-consuming but it will ensure that principals do not adopt cosmetic measures to hide weaknesses of any new programmes. This also allows schools to be opened to ideas and suggestions for further refinements of the programme. In this way, the Ministry will have a more accurate picture whether the initiatives that had been introduced are articulated in a proper manner.
The author reiterates that the success of leading a change programme in schools is largely dependent on the principal's ability to influence the perceptions of the teachers. Trust, thus, is an important ingredient that has to be built up by the principal, as the principal-teachers relationship will have an impact on other future initiatives. The paper has also included a self-evaluation questionnaire (Appendix 3) for principals who are in the process of leading a change programme in their schools. In closing, the author wants to emphasise that in order to reap the full benefits, a change programme should be nurtured and not enforced.
About The Author
Dr.Alvin Chan is an Innovation Research Specialist in Asia. He has consulted for and aid in the development of managerial innovations and effective learning methodologies in several organizations.
Please email to Dr. Chan at email@example.com as a courtesy if you are reprinting the article online or in print.
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The previously unreported connections are the latest in a longstanding series of ties between the president and the Christian university in Virginia.
Michigan football plans to hire Arizona State DL coach Shaun Nua Detroit Free Press
37-year-old Shaun Nua is set to take over for Greg Mattison as Michigan football's new defensive line coach.
How One Instructor Stopped Himself From Lecturing Too Much The Chronicle of Higher Education
By splitting each class into four chunks, a Harvard postdoc makes sure he dedicates a half-hour to active-learning strategies.
Michigan football's Chase Winovich to miss Senior Bowl with injury Detroit Free Press
Michigan football star Chase Winovich had to pull out of the Senior Bowl this week due to an injury.
UC football coach Luke Fickell doesn't appear to be on move anywhere Cincinnati.com
While the Twitterverse is full of several reports listing University of Cincinnati head football coach Luke Fickell as a candidate at West Virginia, there are still a few ...
Michigan football players sitting out Peach Bowl; Ask Nick has thoughts Detroit Free Press
Welcome back to another edition of the Michigan mailbag.
UC Bearcats receive votes in AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll; UK, OSU climb in rankings Cincinnati.com
The 11-2 Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball team is among others receiving votes in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll as well as the Coaches Poll after ...
The top 100 colleges, universities where student applications are on the rise in the US USA TODAY
Changes in the number of applications submitted to various institutions were reviewed to identify 100 colleges where applications climbed the most.
How many colleges and universities have closed since 2016? Education Dive
Increased regulation and falling enrollment were among several factors contributing to the closure or consolidation of hundreds of colleges and campuses ...
First graduating class of Tusculum University, not Tusculum College, included around 300 students - Knoxville News Sentinel
First graduating class of Tusculum University, not Tusculum College, included around 300 students Knoxville News Sentinel
Tusculum awarded around 300 students their degrees for the first time after converting from a college to a university.
Local college, university hold fall commencement ceremonies KWTX
More than 850 Central Texas graduates received their degrees, certificates Friday during two graduation ceremonies.
Mind-Body Secrets for College Success - Six Key Secrets
Embrace the secrets of the body-mind connection and tap into an inexhaustible supply of power and energy leading to your college success. College is a demanding challenge.
Online Degree Education - Advantages
Distance education has been getting a lot of attention lately, but it isn't new. Correspondence courses have been around for over a century, allowing students to complete assignments and mail them to an instructor for feedback.
Creating the Acceptable College Applicant
America's colleges and universities no longer have enough room to accommodate all the qualified students who apply. As a result, schools are forced to reject far more applicants than they accept.
Business Plan Competitions
The idea of a business plan competition first started in the 1980's at the initiative of some MBA students from Texas and has increasingly gained popularity. Such events happen yearly and rejoice a great affluence of contestants, which highly increases their competitiveness.
Tips On College Selection
It is highly recommended that early in the college selection process, parents and student(s) visit some schools to determine if they'll be suitable. The criteria that must be considered before any college is applied to include:? Average GPA, SAT I, class rank for acceptance ? The school should offer enough choices in the event the student changes their major ? Size, location, Greeks, religious affiliation ? Percentage of freshmen that return for year two ? Percentage of freshmen that graduate in four years ? Percentage of financial need met ? Percentage of gift aid/self-help awarded ? On or off campus job opportunities ? Meal plans and dietary situations met ? Name recognition ? Student/teacher ratio ? Average class size, semester or trimester ? Percentage of professors who teach and percentage of teaching assistants ? 2 or 4-year college or university ? Co-ed dorms ? Freshman cars permitted ? Handicap accessibility ? Cost of the sheepskinIt is also recommended that you determine if the school uses a need-blind or need-sensitive admissions policy.
The Distance Learning Explosion!
A generation ago few would have given much thought to educating themselves apart from a 'brick and mortar' educational institution. Certainly, for several generations, correspondence courses allowed people to gain knowledge while studying in the comfort of their homes, but these schools pale in comparison to entire universities dedicated to instructing students remotely.
Graduation Quotations - Top 35
"Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors! "-- Louisa May Alcott"Your schooling may be over, but remember that your education still continues.
Thinking of Dropping Out of College?
If rising tuition costs or personal concerns have made you consider dropping out of college or "taking a break" I'd like to encourage you to reconsider.Don't Let Cost Stand in Your WayIf cost is your primary reason for reducing your college hours or dropping out completely first pay a visit to your school's financial aid office.
College Study Tips: Work Smarter, Not Harder
Here are some benefits to studying for your college classes the right way: more leisure time, less stress, less pressure from your parents, less debt, better grades, and better career opportunities. Sound worthwhile? That doesn't mean there isn't work involved, but it's how you accomplish the work that matters.
Get Your College Degree Online
Have you long wanted or needed to increase your level of education with a college degree? Perhaps, you have desired a degree for your own personal satisfaction or because you have found it difficult to advance in your work field without one.One of the best blessings to come from the Internet is the ability to now obtain a college education online.
CRI Releases Its 2003-2004 College Graduate Survey
Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Study More Effectively
If you are studying for an exam or if you need to learn some material for a presentation, you may be wondering how early you should start to study, and how often you should review the material in order to remember it.Is it best to study large chunks of the information at a time, or should you try to master small bits of it? Should you review the material again the next day? Or is it best to let a few days go by?Learning experts have proposed several different schedules for reviewing study materials, but the following is one that works well for most people.
Why You Should Choose an Accredited Online Degree
An accredited online degree is a college degree that is received through Internet studies offered by an accredited college. This means that the school or university that is offering the degree has been approved by a national or state board of education.
Distance Learning Degree Program - How to Study
The format of distance learning courses is different than what most students have experienced. The teaching style is more student directed and you will have to become accustomed to these differences.
Online Education and Digital Divide
Digital Education is really coming along thanks to the US Military and their expenditures in the IT Framework to make training available. The IT companies doing this training are in fact able to pass on this technology to the private sector immediately and it is helping us with the digital divide.
Student Removals - How to Get the Lowest Quote
The problem with student and any small move comes when a small load has to be transported a long way:- For the moving company, the mileage and road time costs are not much less than for moving a whole house..
Packing for College
Sending a child away for college and helping them pack brings up so many emotions and memories. As you remember back to your days in college or anticipate their days, don't forget some of the most simple things that may be needed and should be packed.
Reducing the Administrative Burden for Further Education Colleges
The introduction of the Government's Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in September 2004 meant that more young people from poorer backgrounds could afford to stay on in further education instead of being forced to find work.But the scheme brought with it an extra administrative burden for further education (FE) colleges.
Acing the SAT Exam
Don't cheat. This goes without saying for 999 out of 1000 students (hopefully even more!) but cheating is not the way to score high on the SAT exam.
How to Choose the Right School For You
Now that the admission committees have handed you their decisions, it is time for you to choose which college to attend. For some, this choice is easy.
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