Secondary school department chairs often
play an important role in leading
instructional improvement. A
study published in Educational
& Leadership looks at
the change barriers that
face and the strategies they
use to overcome them.
interviews with six science
department chairs about
successful and unsuccessful
change efforts they had led—
for example, implementing
common assessments, creating
new course sequences, and
increasing the use of inquiry lessons.
Three common change barriers emerged:
n Teacher satisfaction with the status quo was the
most common barrier. To overcome it, department chairs
shared data that supported the need for change and tried to
develop a common vision and mission.
n Teachers’ lack of knowledge and skills to implement the
changes. Department chairs addressed this challenge by
providing professional development and by asking teachers
who were currently participating in the
change to share their successful lessons
n Teachers’ lack of participation
in decisions. Department chairs
overcame this barrier by
actively soliciting teacher
views and feedback. Even
when the change effort
was unsuccessful, such
involvement made the
decision to abandon the
effort more collaborative.
The study also unearthed
an unexpected and more
intractable barrier to change:
the presence of a contentious
resister, an influential veteran
teacher who worked against change
through subtle acts of resistance, open
displays of disrespect, and behind-the-scenes
conversations. Unfortunately, none of the department
chairs had found a successful way to neutralize this person’s
influence. Even when contentious resisters didn’t scuttle
the change effort completely, they caused great stress for
“Department Chairs as Change Agents: Leading Change
in Resistant Environments” is available for purchase.
Twitter Chat on Change
Join us at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 6,
for ASCD’s monthly Leader to Leader
Twitter chat. The topic of July’s chat will
be the theme of this Educational Leadership issue—Gearing Up for Change.
Our editors will moderate the chat
(@ELmagazine), along with special guests
David B. Cohen (@cohenD, see his
article on page 34) and Ariel Sacks
(@arielsacks, see her article on page 40).
Use #ASCDL2L to join the conversation
about how you can prepare for;and
Research Alert How Do Department Chairs Drive Change?