A simple explanation of the two components:
When someone is asked how he would behave under certain circumstances, the answer he usually gives is his espoused theory of action for that situation. This is the theory of action to which he gives allegiance, and which, upon request, he communicates to others. However, the theory that actually governs his actions is this theory-in-use. (Argyris and Schön 1974: 6-7)
At the time, I was studying how school leaders conceptualize teaching and learning in the 21st century and how they act upon that in their schools. In addition to several other interesting findings, there was one related to theories of action:
Data analysis revealed a preponderance of espoused beliefs and theories of teaching, learning and leadership as opposed to in-use examples of the teaching and learning the participants were attempting to define. (p. 137)
Essentially, the participants in the study were able to articulate conceptually a vision for teaching, learning and leadership in the 21st century that closely mirrored the literature. The challenge was actually implementing that vision in their schools – turning that theory into action.
Fast forward five years…. our educational partners from Apple, Inc. sat down with the administrative team as we were trying to answer the question, “What next?” with our 1:1 laptop program. During the time we spent together, they brought us back to thinking about three questions:
- What does the LEARNING look like?
- What does the TEACHING look like?
- What does the LEADERSHIP look like?
Here is a condensed version from our notes of what our team discussed. At this moment in time, this is how we conceptualize teaching, learning and leading in our schools. It’s what we believe. But is it what we are doing? How do we bridge the gulf between the espoused and the in-use? How do I as a central office administrator support our principals and teachers?
Here are some ideas I have been thinking about to help bridge the gap:
- Map out the change – What are the benchmarks for curriculum, instruction, assessment, digital leadership and professional learning in the next three to five years? Collectively, as teachers and leaders, we need to come to consensus, plant a stake in the ground and document benchmarks.
- Define the actions necessary to meet the benchmarks – What steps will students, teachers and leaders actually need to take to meet the benchmarks and achieve the change? How do we move forward incrementally?
- Provide the supports – What professional development or new learning is necessary for everyone to meet the benchmarks? What do we need to do differently to support the change?
- Build in accountability mechanisms – Along with support comes some pressure to follow through. Accountability isn’t a bad thing, but what should it look like? Organizational and individual goals?
- Share the progress – Model digital leadership using the tools we have in place to celebrate the accomplishments of students, teachers and administrators. Tools might include blogs and social media, used to engage the community through transparency. Also, share progress through regular updates to the school board.
How change management strategies have you used successfully? How do you bridge the gulf between espoused theory and theory in action? What would you suggest changing or adding to the ideas above?