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Aurora Institute

Leadership Capacity for Second-Order Change

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Dan Joseph

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Lead Change and Innovation

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This article was first published in the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition October newsletter.

Dr. Robert Marzano identifies 7 out of 21 leadership responsibilities that are integral to bring about second order change in schools. They are as follows: Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Optimizer, Intellectual Stimulation, Change Agent, Monitoring/Evaluating, Flexibility Ideals and Beliefs.

All of these principles must be viewed in the light of an organization that is looking to innovate and transform themselves into systems that meet the needs of all children. This assumes that it is not enough to have a vision, it is necessary to move the organization through a change or innovative process. As the organization moves, it must be sustained. The traits that Marzano identifies are in constant demand of a leader’s attention. This is a very daunting task, the idea of building a school leadership plan for success is pivotal in creating the reality of your school vision. Keeping in mind the above traits… think about these five steps to build the leadership capacity within your school.

Develop a Strong School Leadership Plan. This plan must identify the key components above and their relationship to the shared vision. As the leader identifies the “what” and the “why” of their plan, they must now build the capacity to do the work. Each item must have a clear expectation, measurement and timeline.

Distribute responsibilities throughout your team. For a team to work together they will need clarity around the roles and responsibilities of the team members as well as the leadership team’s focus in the organization.

Select the right work. A new leadership mantra, “working smarter not harder.” What decisions do we make and how do they impact student learning? Do we measure the impact of a change on student learning? The idea of DRIP– “Data Rich (but) Information Poor” is a perfect example of working hard, but not necessarily smart. What information do we need to collect to impact our practice and therefore improve student achievement? Working on the right things can create a sense of finding more time!

Identify the order of magnitude implied by the selected work. This is an essential step in determining whether the new initiative is the magnitude of a second order change. A question to consider: Is this change an extension and does it fit within the current paradigms within the current system? Next, determine if the change is consistent with organizational norms and values. Finally, the innovation and implementation of this change will call in significant support and leadership direction. As you answer these questions the magnitude of the change should be evident as second order.

Match the management style to the order of the magnitude of the change initiative. This is essential to reflect on the core responsibilities of effective leadership. These 7 elements will require the leader to be proactive and to charge the leadership team with enacting and monitoring the learning organization. Some indicators to monitor throughout the change are as follows; culture, communication, order, and input.

This article attempts to give you an overview of the leadership elements and styles required for promoting second-order change. To gain more information, refer to School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results.

Daniel Joseph is an Education Specialist with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) and an educational leader in the State of Maine. He has worked with his local school district, the State Department of Education, and a variety of other partnerships to transform the educational system. You can read a full biography here.