It has been an awfully long time since I put anything on this blog. But I have been drawn back to WordPress by thinking about the current situation as all of our worlds and our work has been changed beyond recognition. This will be the first of a series of posts about change,crisis, and managing the way forward …
For obvious reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about crisis management in these last few weeks. In particular I’ve been comparing it with change management and seeing how and where they differ. But I’m also interested in wondering whether we in our current situation can learn anything from change management theory.
Firstly, the obvious differences between what schools all over the world have put in place over the last few weeks and “change” as it is described in change management literature. The first of these is planning – or in the case of the reality we all faced, a lack of planning. A last minute decision seemingly brought on by circumstance – “If the education we are providing is to continue as analogously as possible, it will have to go online”. Obviously there are a number of flaws with this, because what we end up offering has not really been thought through or worked out very thoroughly (and that’s before we get onto the huge issue of access). As some articles have convincingly argued, what we ended up with was not “online learning” but “emergency remote teaching”. It may have some positive elements and it may end up forming part of a more well thought out approach to online education, but it is not (yet) anything like the best or most effective form of online learning.
The second big difference in the “emergency change” is the broad lack of resistance. Pick up any change management book and much of what is discussed are ways of dealing with resistance. Resistance to change has many root causes, and needs to be responded to successfully. However, in this instance (as far as anecdotal evidence I’ve encountered suggests) resistance has been minimal or even non-existent. Teachers and students and parents and other stakeholders have accepted the need for this move online and got on with trying to make it work. That doesn’t mean that it is easy or that they haven’t needed support (all groups impacted still need and will continue to need a lot of support for a long time to come). But imagine how things would have been if a language school or a university language centre had announced their intention to put all classes online within a year. The online learning developed in such a case may have been much more founded on good practice and online learning theory, but would everyone have unquestioningly got behind it?
The upshot of this is that a huge and radical change has been implemented across the world in language schools far and wide. It’s not been well planned, it will almost certainly need to undergo much adjustment and modification, and there will be many bumps along the way. But, it’s a huge change and has been carried out with a great amount of goodwill and effort from all parties involved, and initially at least, anecdotal evidence suggests that in a number of cases, the emergency response to this point has done what was necessary, and kept schools, teachers and students afloat. This achievement may well be superficial and a sticking plaster, but that should not diminish the hard work and compassion that has gone into it.
Having said all that, as time goes on (and signs of stress in the new way are already appearing) we need to take a step back and reflect on where we are right now and where we want to be. That is the function of this planned series of blog posts in which I intend to look at various change management ideas to see how and if we can convert what we have created so far into something more sustainable and viable – and which works for teachers, students and schools.