Supporting Instructors through Change

Supporting Instructors Dealing with Change

4371882781_a26b66b576_zTo remain relevant to society, post-secondary education has to be flexible, nimble, and responsive, which requires instructors to keep changing many aspects of their work, including the curriculum, delivery modes (online or f2f), and teaching strategies. During a NAIT PD Day last Tuesday, we learned that it’s important to take personal feelings into account in times of change.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Denise Forwick-Whalley, Associate Chair in the Medical Laboratory Technology program. I asked her why a program chair should care about supporting instructors dealing with change. She told me:

“Change can be worrisome and uncomfortable for many instructors.  It can create concerns of job security, increasing workloads, or learning new skills.  For any change to be positive, instructors must play a key role in making the change successful.  To do this, they must have a solid understanding of the change process and their role in it.  One of the major issues about change is that it’s often driven by external drivers, and by the time program leaders and instructors find out about the requirements, they need to act immediately, which can be difficult for both the instructor and the leaders in a program.”  

So I asked Denise, “How do you deal with this as a program leader?” Her reply:

“In my experience supporting change in organizations, I’ve found the ADKAR model from PROSCI very helpful. The ADKAR model is a framework for understanding change at the individual level.  The model has five objectives, and each step must be completed for the change to be realized.  The idea is that instructors need each of the following in order to support the change:
A – Awareness of the need for change
D – Desire to support and participate in the change
K – Knowledge of how to change
A – Ability to implement required skills and behaviours
R – Reinforcement to sustain the change”

I was intrigued. I can see how I might help instructors gain knowledge about the change, but what about creating a desire to participate? My next question was, “But as a chair, how would I apply this model in my practice?” And this is where I was met with a wealth of profound knowledge and understanding of change. I’ll share the tip of the iceberg with you.

STEP 1: As a Chair or Associate Chair, you must first understand the reason for the change.  You can gain this understanding by asking questions such as:

  • What are the benefits and business reasons for the change?
  • What is happening inside the business or external to the business that is creating the need for change?
  • How do these external or internal drivers impact the business, our organization, our department, and me as an employee?
  • What do our customers want or expect that is creating a need for change?

STEP 2: Once you have an understanding of this change, you can start building awareness within your programs. Building awareness requires effective communication: face-to-face in groups and one-on-one. It also requires a strong message from senior management in the organization along with coaching of individuals and the provision of relevant resources and documents that support the need for change.

STEP 3: A common mistake is that building awareness automatically creates desire. But this is often not the case. Building desire requires that leaders help instructors understand what’s in it for them. In addition, it helps to describe the risk to the organization and the program if the change is not made. This might create a natural desire to implement the change. In this stage, it’s important that instructors voice concerns and objections that may need to be addressed before people are ready to move forward with the change. Finally, keep in mind that if the direction and values of an individual do not match those of an organization, there is not much leadership can do to gain support for the change.

STEP 4: Develop opportunities for staff to gain knowledge about the change, which may include education and training and the development of clear performance measures. I want to talk about the development of new performance measures because unless leaders set clear expectations for how staff need to perform, they will often fall short.  When a change is occurring, the expected behaviour from an instructor would be to 1) show willingness to learn, 2) be prepared to help, 3) seek information about how to prepare for the change, 4) display a positive outlook, 5) encourage constructive conversation, and 6) be open and honest with feedback about the change.

STEP 5: Instructors might need to develop the skills to adjust to their new reality. For instance, they might need to teach new courses, start teaching online, or engage in new types of work, such as applied research. At this stage, program leaders will need to identify gaps in the capacity of their team and provide support, training, and education so that instructors can perform adequately in the new reality.

STEP 6: Reinforcement is required to sustain the change as it’s very easy to revert to the old way of doing work.  Ensure instructors and program leaders have support when the change is not working as planned and be open to solving problems and coming up with solutions throughout the entire process.

 * picture courtesy of Juan Martinez

** picture courtesy of Live Life Happy

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