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So, why do teachers seem to resist change so much? Let's use a popular topic to examine a possible answer - technology integration in the classroom.
In some ways, I think access to the volume of resources offered by technology integration prevents teachers from incorporating technology in the classroom. This follows the concept of decision paralysis. Decision paralysis is a concept that suggests that people who have too many options will delay or avoid making a choice. Eventually, these people are more likely to stick with what they are doing already than change.
For example, try telling a teacher to use a math help resource off the Internet. A Google search for "math help" produced about 183,000 results! It is certainly within the realm of possibility that the sheer number of options produces what is perceived as resistance, but is actually decision paralysis. What presents itself as fear of the Internet is actually fear of choosing the wrong resource (or the less effective resource).
Here is a non-school example. There are 31 flavors of ice cream available at a Baskin-Robbins store. No matter how many other flavors are available, there is always chocolate and vanilla. Why? Probably because after looking at the 29 other flavors for 20-30 minutes, many people simply give up trying to decide and pick an old favorite.
So, how do educational leaders help teachers get past decision paralysis?
One way to help defeat decision paralysis is to work towards being clearer in your guidance. Telling teachers that better technology integration is a good way to engage students is not clear enough for many teachers. Leaders need to use more specific language using concrete images. Replacing "We should be integrating technology more." is not the same as, "Students should be using Google Docs to collaborate on class projects." Specific direction eliminates options and helps get past decision paralysis.
Another remedy is to break down the change into smaller, manageable phases. "More technology" becomes "Let's start with becoming adequate with our email system first, then we will move on into presentation tools." Smaller chunks with faster feedback will help motivate people to continue with the change.
A final suggestion is to engage people in positive thinking. Almost all teachers have SOME technology training and can navigate some basic functions. A strategy to leading change is to have them visualize a time when they made a successful change. Once they have that image, ask them about the actions taken or the support needed to make the change work. Armed with that information, develop a plan to help lead the current change. For example, "How did you learn to use email so well? Use that same approach to learn how to incorporate video into your instruction."
Resistance to technology integration in classes may be the result of too many and not enough.
Too many choices, not enough direction.
This post was prompted by my reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.