Monday, November 14, 2011

How to change the little things

I've just finished reading a fascinating new book about change, "sw!tch: when change is hard."  Rather than focusing on the difficulties of change, the book outlines strategies for small changes that can make a big difference.  The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, outline three main concepts to consider when working on change: The rider (the rational side of people); the elephant (the emotional side) and the path (the environment in which the change will take place).  The Heaths ask us to consider that the change has less to do with plans and more to do with people.  Like Bridges, "Transitions," "sw!tch" focuses on the behavior of the individuals who need to implement the change.  In "Transitions," Bridges talks about how you need to give people space to make sense of the change before they can embrace it.  The Heath brothers drill down a bit further, outlining strategies to use when considering big changes.

Several education examples are included and I will summarize them over the next few posts.  The first involves a third grade teacher whose first classroom is made up struggling first graders.  This teacher, Crystal Jones, wanted her students to see themselves as successes, so she announced that by the end of the year they would be third graders, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that their reading ability would improve such that they would possess third grade reading skills.  She started calling her students "scholars."  By the end of the school year, 90 percent of the students were reading at a third grade level.  Jones had used one of the strategies that addresses the rider:  she made the goal clear and humongous.  She created a giant destination postcard:  reading at a third grade level by the end of the year, a goal that was irresistible to her students.  By engaging their riders, Crystal was able to change the future of the students in her classroom.

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