Common Misconceptions About Change Management

Thomas Arnett, senior research fellow at the Christensen Institute, recently summarized his new research paper for The 74. Excerpts appear below:

Recently, my colleagues and I released a research paper that unveils common misconceptions about change management in schools. Given that many school initiatives falter for lack of teacher buy-in, we set out to uncover what actually causes teachers to change their practices. Using research methods based on the Jobs to Be Done Theory – an approach for identifying the causes driving demand for new products, services, and solutions – we asked teachers about the specific circumstances and events that led them to adopt new instructional practices.

Our findings shed light on a number of widely accepted, yet inaccurate, change management ideas that often lead well-intended initiatives awry.

Misconception 1: Student-centered practices appeal intrinsically to most teachers.

Misconception 2: Early adopters are the key to building buy-in.

Misconception 3: Beginning-of-year professional development ensures an initiative’s success.


These misconceptions point to a general principle that explains why so many change management efforts miss their mark. When leading change, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the merits of a particular solution and lose sight of the people expected to adopt it. No new instructional program can impact student learning unless teachers decide to pull it into their classrooms. Thus, if school leaders hope to see teachers adopt new practices, they need to understand the circumstances their educators wrestle with on a day-to-day basis.

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