Teaching Educators About Facilitating Change: Integrating the Personal and Professional Needs for Effective Educational Change

Walter S. Polka, Ed.D.*

P. Rudy Mattai, Ph.D.°

Robert L. Perry, Ph.D.»


As we rapidly approach the new millennium our educational experiences, at all levels, are enriched and accelerated by our technological advances. However, as technology progresses and our educational systems constantly change, it is imperative that a balanced relationship between high-tech and high-touch be maintained for academic productivity as well as personal and professional satisfaction.

Balancing Change

The stresses upon individuals caused by change, whether physical or emotional, have been comprehensively researched. Hans Selye's seminal work, The Stress of Life, established the significance of homeostasis in our personal lives and the imperativeness of developing coping skills to maintain the balance in the face of change (Selye, 1956).

Our real world technological changes must be balanced against the very personal human world of each individual to make our new technologies truly effective. John Naisbitt, in his classic work, Megatrends, comprehensively evaluated the significance of this equilibrant relationship (Naisbitt, 1982).

Research and Literature Regarding the High-Touch Personal Needs

A review of the contemporary research and literature on this human side of change reveals that five key attitudinal or personal "high-touch" needs must be carefully considered and integrated with technological advances to make change effective (Polka, 1997). These five "high-touch" personal needs are:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________*Superintendent of Schools, Lewiston-Porter Central School, Youngstown, NY; Adjunct Professor, SUNY College at Buffalo and Niagara University.

° State University of New York College at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

» Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Research Literature Regarding the High-Touch Professional Needs

Harnack, in his work, The Teacher: Decision Maker and Curriculum Planner identifies six significant teacher needs which are related to successful curriculum development and instructional improvement activities at all levels of the educational spectrum (Harnack, 1968). These six professional need areas were initially identified as:

The significance of these six high-touch professional needs of teachers were reconfirmed by subsequent regional (Yuhasz, 1974) and national (Polka, 1977 and Miller, 1981) studies conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and are integral components of contemporary professional literature and research on curriculum development and instructional improvement (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1988).

Twenty-First Century Education Success

Research on implementing educational innovations using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) identified that change in education is a process, not an event, and that it is accomplished first by individuals (Hord, et al., 1987). The most effective changes, or the ones that yield the most personal and organizational satisfaction and productivity, reflect attention given to the five personal high-touch needs of Challenge, Commitment, Control, Creativity, and Caring, as well as the six professional high-touch needs of Empowerment, Time, Commitment, Leadership, Assistance and Opportunity. Subsequently, any innovation introduced in education must be introduced to individuals with attention given to these high-touch needs.

The leaders introducing high-tech innovations must, themselves, model and promote the above high-touch needs for both personal and organizational satisfaction and productivity. Accordingly, Warren Bennis in his work, On Becoming a Leader, identifies that effective leaders rely on their high-touch skills as much as their high-tech talents in facilitating personal and organizational satisfaction and productivity (Bennis, 1989). Leaders must encourage others to maintain balance in the face of Twenty-first Century educational changes, and develop a "Twenty-first Century Mind" that uses both high-tech and high-touch approaches to problem-solving (Sinetar, 1991). They must advocate homeostasis in both personal and professional life in order to effectively cope in the face of continuous change (Selye, 1956).

Therefore, educational leaders at all levels need to be cognizant of the human side of change and must balance the high-tech needs of contemporary educators with their high-touch personal and professional needs for the effective implementation of educational changes.



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