Would you like to change the culture of your school? Perhaps you would like to change the way things operate within your school system. Maybe you would like to develop a systems thinking mindset within your school unit.
What can a school leader do to raise the quality of the school? How can a school leader lead change in a school so that parents and students receive great value from the educational experience?
What can be done to bring about this type of change? Senge (1990), in his work The Fifth Discipline, presents four components of any changed system. In pursuit of the fifth component—systems thinking—he identifies four components necessary to achieve change or bring synergy.
Component #1 Personal Mastery
As implied in the term, personal mastery refers to the disciplined personal growth and learning of individuals with the learning community. The implication here is that the learning is a proactive process, not one of waiting to react to circumstances.
Two things are important to remember—1) Individuals need a continued clarifying as to what is important to the learning community, and 2) individuals need to be involved in continuous learning, not assuming that they have achieved mastery.
The drive to close the gap between what is known and what needs to be learned is creative tension. The essence of personal mastery is learning to generate and sustain creative tension.
Component #2 Mental Models
Mental models refer to the mindsets or mental pictures that one has about any situation. Often new ideas are shunned because they don’t pass the “that’s the way we’ve always done it test.” Mental models determine how we think, how we view the world, and how open we are to new ideas that can bring change and synergy an organization.
Mental models are often subconscious, unseen in the recesses of the mind. These tacit models cause one to react within a framework of previously understood protocols. Thus, mental models often resist change.
Component #3 Shared Vision
Shared vision will change relationships. It will change a ministry. It will promote harmony. It is the first step to rebuilding trust. It will create a common identity for a Christian school staff.
Shared vision and understanding is absolutely essential in successful institutions. Individuals within the ministry must be able to define and accept their role in accomplishing a shared vision for the school.
A shared vision is a common caring about the education of students. It implies a passionate pursuit to carry out the work of the Lord. Shared vision will unite people to achieve a goal not attainable when the vision is not unified.
Component #4 Team Learning
The task of rebuilding a school culture requires that the entire school team—school leader, faculty, pastor, school board, students, parents, etc.—learn new ideas that lead to change within the school.
Collective inquiry is the engine of improvement, growth, and renewal (change) in the Christian school. Continuous improvement of all stakeholders is a vital component of the change process. Each member or member group within the ministry must be on board for team learning to be effective.
It is important that stakeholders remember that team learning that leads to re-culturing a school is a process that is done by the members of the learning community, not done to them.
Effective change is not a natural phenomenon. It comes as a result of carefully designed and implemented strategies. The school leader must understand the need for change, develop strategies for bringing change, gain consensus among team members, and make adjustments during the unfolding change process.
Which component is most needed in your school? Where do you think you need to start?
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DuFour, R. & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional Learning Communities at Work. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.
Earwood, E. & Suiter, P. (2012). A Scent of Water: Bringing Life Back to the Christian School Movement. Ambassador International: Greenville, SC.
Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. Doubleday: New York, NY.