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Approaches to Change

Early Models
Empirical-rational/technological/fix the parts

Power-coercive/political/fix the people and the parts

Normative-re-educative/cultural/fix the school

Reflecting about These Approaches to Change

Emerging Attention to Facilitation

Rand Change Agent Study
Dissemination Efforts Supporting School Improvement (DESSI)

Concluding This Section

In a sense, U.S. schools are currently locked in a war against ignorance and apathy. Whether we win or lose will depend, in large part, on leadership.
-- Deal, 1990, p. vii

Many writers have made contributions to the change literature. One still recognized is Lewin, who in 1936 conceptualized the stages of change as "unfreezing," "change" or intervention, and "refreezing." Cited also and still appreciated is Rodgers (1971), who reported five categories of change adopters, providing a series of descriptions of people who adopt change early, not so early, and late. Prominent also in the history of change process models are those categorized by Chin and Benne (1969) and Havelock (1971).

Chin and Benne (1969) and Havelock (1971) each articulated three types of models, and the two sets shared some overlapping conceptualizations. Some of the models had a primary focus on innovation and organization, while others centered on the individual, with more frequent attention to innovation and organization, as can be seen in Figure 1. Students of organizational change and the change process will almost always point to Getzels and Guba (1957) as the first to distinguish between nomothetic elements, or organizational expectations to reach goals, and idiographic elements, or needs of individuals who achieve the goals. Theirs was an early conceptualization that identified the individual as a factor to be considered (Hoy & Miskel, 1987). It was some decades after Getzels and Guba's specification that real attention was paid to the individual in organizational change, as we shall see.

Figure 1. Central Focus of the Models
Focus on
Innovation and
Focus on Individual
Chin & Benne (1969)

• Empirical-rational


• Normative-re-educative


• Power-coercive

Havelock (1971)

• Social interaction


• Research, development, diffusion


• Problem solver


Because there are similarities in the Havelock and Chin/Benne models, and to simplify the discussion that follows, only Chin and Benne's categories will be described. Further, because it is instructive in understanding the evolution of approaches to change, two subsequent generations of labels and applications for Chin and Benne's categories, by House and by Sashkin and Egermeier, will be included. The association between Chin and Benne's three categories and the three authors is portrayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Three Generations of Approaches to Change
Chin & Benne
Sashkin &
Egermeier (1992)
Empirical-rational Technological Fix the parts
Power-coercive Political Fix the people
Normative-re-educative Cultural Fix the school


Empirical-rational/technological/fix the parts.
The basic assumption underlying the empirical-rational model is that individuals are rational and will follow their rational self-interest. Thus, if a "good" change is suggested, people of good intention will adopt the change. This approach "posits that change is created by the dissemination of innovative techniques" (Sashkin & Egermeier, 1992, p. 1). A primary strategy of this model is the dissemination of knowledge gained from research. One example of agencies and systems used for the development and diffusion of such research results are agricultural extension systems and the county agents who disseminate the results of agricultural research. In education, these activities are the domain of educational research and development centers, regional educational laboratories, state departments of education, colleges and universities, national diffusion networks, intermediate service agencies, and staff development personnel within school districts. The rational view generally ignores the fact that school systems are already crowded with existing passive (though rational) recipients, who may not have the necessary time or expertise to adopt or apply (implement) the new knowledge or program.

House's technological perspective, the first of his three that address knowledge utilization and innovation processes, views change as a relatively mechanistic process and has an underlying image of products to be used and tasks to be done. Sashkin and Egermeier's fix-the-parts approach to change involves the adoption of proven innovations of various types to reach improvement. The empirical- rational, technological, and fix-the-parts depictions are parallel in their underlying philosophies and appear to assume that good innovations, without doubt, will be incorporated into practice. Sashkin and Egermeier note that adding political and cultural elements to the fix- the-parts approach enhances its success.

Power-coercive/political/fix the people and the parts.
The power-coercive approach relies on influencing individuals and systems to change through legislation and external leverage where power of various types is the dominant factor. Power-coercive strategies emphasize political, economic, and moral sanctions, with the focus on using power of some type to "force" individuals to adopt the change. One strategy is nonviolent protest and demonstrations. A second strategy is the use of political institutions to achieve change -- for example, changing educational policies through state-level legislation. Judicial decisions also impact educational policy. A third power-coercive strategy is recomposing or manipulating the power elite -- electing people to public office, for instance, to support an intended change. History is replete with mandates, and other power- coercive strategies, that resulted in little change. Charters and Jones (1973) waggishly label the attention to such lack of results as an appraisal of non-events.

House's political perspective is grounded in concepts of power, authority, and competing interests, with an image of negotiation. Sashkin and Egermeier's fix-the-people approach to change focuses on training and development of people, typically enacted as a top- down directive from the state or district level. Although Sashkin and Egermeier identify their fix-the-people approach primarily with Chin and Benne's empirical-rational and House's technological orientations, and secondarily on the normative-re-educative/cultural perspectives, it is easy to see how the political orientation has been applied historically to the fix-the-people (their attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviors) approach.

Normative-re-educative/cultural/fix the school.
In the normative-re-educative approach, the individual is seen as actively in search of satisfying needs and interests. The individual does not passively accept what comes, but takes action to advance his/her goals. Further, changes are not just rational responses to new information but occur at the more personal level of values and habits. Additionally, the individual is guided by social and institutional norms. The overarching principle of this model is that the individual must take part in his/her own (re-education) change if it is to occur. The model includes direct intervention by change agents, who focus on the client system and who work collaboratively with the clients to identify and solve their problems.

Two strategies are germane to the normative-re-educative model. First is to focus on improving the problem-solving capabilities of the system; a second is to release and foster growth in the persons who make up the system. There is no assumption that better technical information can resolve the clients' problems; rather, the problems are thought more likely to be within the attitudes, values, or norms of various client-system relationships. The assumption of this model is that people are capable and creative and, if obstructions are removed, will rise to their highest potential. The model's strategies are based on this potential that resides within people and their system for change; thus it is not necessary that change be leveraged from outside the system.

House's cultural perspective has an underlying image of community, with shared meanings resting on shared values and people working together. Sashkin and Egermeier's fix-the-school approach develops the capacity of school organizations to solve their own problems. The three descriptions resonate and are compatible.

Sashkin and Egermeier (1992) analyze the three approaches and note that successful change has not yet been wholly achieved by any of the first three methods. However, they state that examining the limited success of those methods can contribute to the effectiveness of the fourth and most recent approach, which they label "fix-the- system," or restructuring. A reading of the paper reveals a factor that consistently correlates with the limited successes in each of the first three methods. That factor is the utilization of "interpersonal contact between the [project] agent and the users" (p. 3). To examine Sashkin and Egermeier's evidence in the fix-the-parts approach that employs Chin and Benne's empirical-rational approach and House's technological perspective, see Figure 3.

Figure 3: Early Studies of Change
Pilot State Dissemination Project
Seiber et al. (1972) noted that "effective adoptions were quite clearly related to interpersonal contact... [including] needed information but [also] extensive technical assistance" (p. 3).

RAND Change Agent Study
McLaughlin (1989) cited strong leadership, high motivation and involvement of teachers, and long-term support as what worked in this study of four federally sponsored programs.

Project Innovation Packages
Horst et al. (1975) reported that teachers involved in the Project Innovation Packages received packages but no other information or assistance, resulting in generally negative outcomes.

National Diffusion Network
Emrick & Peterson (1978) reported favorable results when the new programs were accompanied by assistance and support, connecting users with specific innovations.

Research and Development Utilization Program
Louis, Rosenblum, & Molitor (1981) indicated that "provision of high quality information, technical assistance... can be effective in promoting improvements in schools" (p. 5).

Experimental Schools Program
Doyle (1978) assessed that problems were underestimated and "knowledge about facilitators of change is usually ignored in this not laudably successful effort" (p. 5).

Individually Guided Education Program
Klausmeier (1990) stated that the program was "widely acclaimed and used, until Federal support for professional development and technical support activities was withdrawn" (p. 6).

Adapted from Sashkin & Egermeier, 1992

Sashkin and Egermeier conclude that, in a fix-the-parts approach, the "more personal assistance and continuing support from a skilled and knowledgeable local agent, the more likely that the innovation will be used [for a] long duration" (p. 7). They add that "personal support and expert assistance from a friendly outsider increases the effectiveness of knowledge dissemination" (p. 8).

In the fix-the-people approach that links to House's political perspective, the focus is on improving the knowledge and skills of school staffs, thus enabling them to perform their roles. To accomplish this goal, preservice training, inservice training, and other staff development opportunities are mandated to support teacher and administrator performance, and the adoption of innovations (Fullan, 1990). "Staff development can be seen as another way to provide intensive personal support in the process of implementing an innovation" (Sashkin & Egermeier, p. 8).

Approach 3, fix-the-school by increasing the school's problem- solving capacity, emphasizes House's cultural perspective. This approach typically uses "one or more highly skilled consultants who help the organization learn" (Sashkin & Egermeier, p. 10). In most school improvement models that exemplify this approach, school teams "become their own consultants"; however, they receive "more than the usual degree of personal attention from the trainer/change agents" (p. 10). The long-term effects derived from use of such school improvement models have resulted in some schools' achieving their school improvement goals and gaining positive impact on student outcomes.

Sashkin and Egermeier conclude that none of the three approaches has achieved long-term success. But, in the first three approaches (fix the parts, fix the people, fix the school), some success is reported and, where positive gains are noted, a change agent, assistor, or supporter is found. Sashkin and Egermeier's analysis allows the reader to identify the facilitator as a correlate of (at least partially) successful adoption, implementation, and/or change.

In recommending Approach 4, fix-the-system through comprehensive restructuring, Sashkin and Egermeier encourage incorporating all three of House's perspectives, with particular emphasis on cultural change. They note that the three approaches in isolation are not satisfactory, but they hypothesize, that in combination such an approach "holds real promise for successful change in schools" (p. 14). They articulate the components of "comprehensive" restructuring, none of which involves facilitation that will enable its implementation. It is not clear whether their attention to staff development for restructuring includes the personal interface dimension. No reference is made to the agent's or facilitator's role that attends to the individual's personal needs and that does appear in the discussions of success of the first three approaches.

Reflecting About These Approaches to Change

It is clear that several of the theoretical perspectives of Chin and Benne, House, and Sashkin and Egermeier are embraced by educators at all levels today. Decision makers at the state, district, and school levels readily accept the notion that "our people will adopt and implement the change because it is good" (empirical-rational approach). Highly placed policymakers mandate changes with the expectation that the force of their office will result in changes in practice (power-coercive approach). And yet reports of the conditions of schooling reflect that little change -- in curriculum, instruction, or structural arrangements, for example -- has occurred, despite the increasing need to serve all children more effectively.

The normative-re-educative approach employs the help of change agents to assist clients in the change process by identifying needs; suggesting solutions, examining alternatives, and planning actions; transforming intention into adoption; stabilizing the change. The use of an agent to support clients and facilitate change was present in the early models. The concept of change agent evolved further and has been reported in studies of educational and other organizational change.

Emerging Attention to Facilitation

In the seventies, Havelock (1971) introduced the idea of "linkers," or the human interface, to connect new information and practice with those who could use them. In this concept, "linkage is seen as a series of two-way interaction processes which connect user systems with various resource systems" (p. 11-4), and was studied to identify its characteristics and effectiveness. Other studies sought to understand better the linking and facilitating role of the change agent.

The linkage role is concerned with establishing "communication networks between sources of innovations and users via an intermediary facilitating role either in the form of a linking agent or a linkage agency" (emphasis added) (Paul, 1977, p. 26-27). Paul conceptualized five components of the linkage role, Culbertson and Nash (1977) distinguished linking agents from nonlinking agents, Lieberman (1977) identified nine roles of linking agents, and Crandall (1977) delineated ten functions for the linker. These writers, in their various ways, agreed with Hood's characterizations of linking agent programs and projects that resulted from his review of major linking agent studies (1982). According to Hood, the programs and projects

  • emphasized highly interpersonal forms of communication in order to connect school staff with knowledge sources
  • focused attention of educators on new practices, particularly those resulting from research and development and practitioner-developed and -validated practices, then assisted educators in the selection and implementation of new practices appropriate to their needs
  • provided technical assistance for defining problems, identifying needs, selecting solutions, and planning for implementation and evaluation of the solutions selected
  • provided educators with new competencies and improved problem-solving skills
  • provided feedback from educators to information resource producers, trainers, R&D staff, and policy-makers.

It was assumed that users of new knowledge live in a system different from those who create that knowledge and that the systems are incompatible. Therefore, interaction must be achieved through sensitive linkage, with the linking agent spanning the boundaries of the two systems to bring about closer collaboration. Lipham (1977) suggested that the school administrator could serve as linking agent, spanning the boundaries and bringing resources from the larger environment to the local school. In order to be prepared to exercise this role, administrators would need competence in "educational change, program knowledge, decision involvement, instructional leadership, and facilitative environments" (p. 144) -- an early hint about the principal's role as change facilitator.

Rand Change Agent Study.
The Rand Change Agent Study (Berman & McLaughlin, 1978) focused its research on three stages of the change process: initiation, or securing support; implementation, in which the proposed change and the school are both changed in a process of "mutual adaptation"; and incorporation, the stage at which changes become a permanent part of the system.

Successful implementation of projects in the Rand Study was characterized by planning for adapting a change to the local setting. Teacher participation in adapting materials to the needs of the local school was a process characteristic. In addition, staff training was provided to meet the needs of local school personnel. Finally, a critical mass of innovators to provide support to one another and a receptive institutional setting for the innovation were required for success.

Implementation outcomes depended on internal factors: organizational climate, motivation of participants, the implementation strategy used by the local leaders, and the scope of the change. The active support of the principal was very important. When teachers perceived that the principal liked a project and actively supported it, the project fared well. "In general, the more supportive the principal was perceived to be, the higher was the percentage of project goals achieved, the greater the improvement in student performance, and the more extensive the continuation of project methods and materials." While the role of project directors in providing training for teachers to acquire new behaviors was important, the involvement of the principal in project training activities was a powerful element in the implementation strategy.

The elements of the implementation strategy that positively related to institutionalization were teacher training that was specific, concrete, and ongoing; and classroom consultation and advice from resource personnel. Observing more-experienced teacher peers in other classrooms provided opportunities for problem solving and reinforcing new users. Project meetings that attended to practical problems of project use, and sharing of suggestions had positive effects. Teacher participation in decision making positively related to effective implementation and continuation -- in this activity, they "bought into" the project.

The Rand Study significantly expanded knowledge about factors necessary for implementing and institutionalizing change, a part of the process that had not been given much attention. These factors included:

  • teacher participation in decision making and adaptation of change to the local setting
  • teacher and staff training
  • a critical mass of teachers to support and motivate each other
  • a receptive institutional setting/organizational climate
  • the implementation strategy of local leaders, including consultation from resource personnel
  • scope of the change
  • shared experiences of teachers with peers and attendance to practical project problems
  • the active support of the principal.

Dissemination Efforts Supporting School Improvement (DESSI).
This study examined the role of external agents and assistance in implementing federal- and state-supported programs. The study explored program implementation in terms of the fidelity perspective or mutual adaptation perspective -- that is, was the program implemented as originally intended or had it evolved into new and different forms? The study, reported by Crandall et al. (1982), confirmed teachers' need for facilitation during change. Factors that contributed to successful implementation were:

  • carefully developed and well-defined curricular and instructional practices
  • credible training
  • teacher commitment
  • ongoing assistance and support for teachers provided by district staff, external trainers and linkers, and other teachers
  • assistance and firm direction from administrators.

Concluding This Section

A number of studies in the seventies, as indicated, began to take note of facilitation and implementation of change and clarified the need for a person(s) to assume the facilitating leader role. Studies in the eighties began to reveal more clearly the actions supplied by change facilitators in a variety of positions -- for example, external consultants, principals, teacher teams, and superintendents. The next section explores and describes strategies of these facilitative leaders.

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