Change management

Apology for change in Quebec education

In a society undergoing profound change, where nothing is to be taken for granted and above all, where changes follow one another at a lightning speed, it is essential to understand that the school environment must be, first and foremost, a microcosm. social. Thus, if society is undergoing profound changes, it goes without saying that the school environment will undoubtedly be. It remains to ensure that everyone is ready for this period of turbulence!

The nature of the change.

If the term change has been overused, the fact remains that it is a central term in the study of all the human sciences. We often speak of transformation , mutation , modification and sometimes even revolution . Humans are not what they were a few million years ago. From an anthropological point of view, it has evolved greatly. He changed. Change is therefore at the heart of the study of humans, regardless of the perspective of this study.

Change is therefore a central term and defined simply, in several works, as the simple passage from one state to another. Beyond its etymological simplicity, the fact remains that there is a complexity that resides within the dynamic allowing the passage from this original state to the newly reached one.

So, change implies a dynamic, a movement. It is impossible to change in passivity. The whole process is actualized in the action and the beauty of it all underlies the involvement of the individual at the heart of the change process, and this, we admit candidly, sometimes even against his will.

In an institutional setting, we can speak of an alteration of the status quo, initiated by a manager. This alteration obviously has a definite impact on the organization of the work of staff members or actors who revolve around the organization in question [1] . In this case, we will often talk about teachers, but it is clear that the impact of such an approach is also felt by the members of the support staff as well as by the students and their parents.

Socrates argued that the secret to change is to focus your energy on creating the new, not on fighting the old. So, in this context, there must be a logical analysis to realize an unpleasant and unsatisfying situation and a desire to transform it for the better. Once this observation has been established, comes the decystallization phase where the established order is voluntarily called into question to allow the exploration of alternatives geared towards better-doing.. The renunciation of familiar landmarks then leads to a certain insecurity, while other landmarks are established. And once the change process is completed, the new situation is thus integrated into a recrystallization… until the next need for change!

We could represent it all graphically:

The two spheres illustrated each represent a solitude in the process of change. The sphere associated with conservatism and tradition considers the other sphere too unstable. In education, this turmoil is often associated with insecurity and danger. In contrast, the innovative sphere considers itself to be in full effervescence and creation since it introduces something new into a known situation (…) at the risk of shocking and upsetting the established order [1] . The standstill associated with the opposite sphere is off-putting and, also, dangerous when one considers the limitation of the creative mind in favor of an established routine.

Also, these explanations demonstrate to what extent the fight between conservatism and innovation remains a question of perceptions. Because by speaking a common language and respecting a common label, namely that of the organizational culture and the educational mission, we reduce the risk of misunderstanding on both sides in order to focus on the same objectives.

As French anthropologist Edgar Morin would likely conclude, conservatism and innovation are not necessarily opposed or contradictory. In fact, they are rather complementary, because the real novelty is always born in the return to the sources [2] .

The permanence of change [3]

The term change is often associated with fear in humans. However, our own evolution bears witness to our ability to adapt to all kinds of changes. Whether in terms of climate change or those at a smaller scope, on a more personal level, we have always been marked and we define ourselves by our ability to adapt to the situations imposed on us. However, many of these changes do not go smoothly and we are able to note with a certain detachment that our apprehension about life changes is often due to our daily comfort which we value, probably a little too much.

This is the case in our professional environments and, in this case, in the professional school environment. An important paradox animates the school environment. On the one hand, education is, and always has been, a driving force, even a driving force behind social change or mutation, and nothing less. The teachers and members of the administration are its agents. However, we note that many teaching professionals tend to want to reproduce their intervention strategies with school clients without necessarily taking the necessary distance to question their intervention and validate its scope.

In fact, the worst change is the one you don’t make. The worst innovation is the one which sends us back to routine and which entangles us in an inertia or inaction which unfortunately wants to be contagious, for students who copy our every move. The problem when dealing with change in the school environment is fed up with the omnipresence of change linked to the Pedagogical Renewal which has finally extended from primary to secondary: new programs, prototype tests, report card. unique, etc. All of the changes that were perceived negatively by many teachers, unions, school executives, etc., and whose appearance of improvisation and trial and error had the effect of exasperating a good number of school interveners, thus making them more sensitive and apprehensive to change.

And there are the reforms… In Quebec, three major reforms marked elementary and secondary education: the framework programs, in the 1960s; pedagogy by objectives, in the 1980s; then the educational renewal, in the 2000s. Each has known its detractors and its followers. The last reform, the one that imposed on us transversal skills, bulletins with emoticons, end-of-year reports with variable data, has caused much ink to flow.

Spelling correction and simplified grammar (it is said) have also been the subject of harsh criticism or enthusiastic rave reviews. MELS experts, pedagogical advisers and school directors tried to convince teachers and parents that they had found a panacea for dropping out and demotivating our students. Nonsense! [4]

They try to assimilate their new points of reference and already, another need is felt, this one very acute and at the base of all the others. It is now a question of modifying and updating teaching practices and integrating information and communication technologies (ICT). It is therefore no longer really a question of changes to the structure of the educational system but rather of a questioning of the way of teaching and of setting up new differentiated winning strategies allowing all the students in the class to be reached. , however different they may be from each other.

Thus, change in education has become a major irritant when it should be an accepted norm. These repeated situations in a short period of time will eventually weaken the adaptability of teachers. They will also eventually create a feeling of persistent insecurity in the latter. The world is uncertain only for those who need certainty; for the others, it is only the world of always with the risks and the chances of its chances [5] . It therefore remains important, and more than ever, to call upon a range of strategies in order to be able to lead any process of change in an organizational environment, in particular in the world of education.

Change must be seen as advancement, an opportunity for renewal and professional and personal achievement. Al Gore [6] , taken up by Michel Maletto [7] , states that the term change in Mandarin is a word made up of two other words: danger and opportunity . This shows that the change, a priori, is perceived negatively by the upheavals it implies, while in the long term we see possible gains. To change is to seize an opportunity and not to succumb to a danger because, in the process of change, it is necessary to adapt the process along the way in order to appropriate it, to better adapt it to one’s personality and to his professional skills.

Changing allows you to adapt [8] . In any business of an economic system, the need to evolve, to adapt to its customers is the basis of prosperity and survival. It seems that now and more than ever, change is permanent and if there is one thing that remains constant in education, it is precisely change!

However, at present, we cannot affirm that the needs of our clientele, namely our students, are the basis of the educational concerns of all our teachers. Some, regrettably, are rather inclined to assess what these modifications to their practice imply in terms of workload… The cliché comment from several teachers:  I always did it like that and it always worked well. Why wouldn’t it work anymore? is at the base of an anti-change reasoning and illustrates well a certain disengagement of certain teachers in their own professional practice. As if, what we learned in college upon graduation and our patent had been cast in stone for the next 35 years to come!

No need to look in this perspective, the reason why Quebec has an alarming rate of school dropout!

Science to the rescue

In the difficult times when we are at the helm of reorienting a business, it is reassuring to find that this resistance to change is quite normal and rooted in the force of nature. It is interesting to note that purely scientific theories can be of great comfort when leading a change process.

Hervé Sérieyx eloquently cited that any new idea immersed in a society receives from it an inverse vertical thrust equal to the mass of its conservatism [9] . This is what he calls the Archimedes principle. Basically, the Thrust of Archimedes, which dates from ancient Greece and bears the name of this great scholar, states that a body immersed in a fluid will displace the volume equivalent to its own volume. Sérieyx therefore borrows this theory which dates back to the early beginnings of modern science to simply demonstrate that the more important the change to be made, the more the resistance field will be. Besides, if there is no resistance, there is simply no change.

In the same vein, Newton’s first law would also be interesting to discuss. Any body tends to maintain its current state of movement as long as an outside force does not modify its trajectory. The teaching staff is naturally conservative and sometimes we would be tempted to describe it as inert. Although this body is not an immutable entity in itself and that there are clearly mobile and moving forces within this whole, the fact remains that there is an inert core which revel in this conservatism. who animates it. This well-known law of inertia could therefore also be transposed in education. Several teachers are engaged in a vehicle following a uniform rectilinear path, engaged in a constant speed. Now, the school world being what it is, more like a bumpy, winding country road. These more or less accentuated curves are dictated by social changes that are difficult to predict and anticipate. As a result, the teacher often struggles to maintain his inertia and that he bumps according to the state of the road. And, if we compare the teacher to a rectilinear object subjected to external forces modifying the course of a trajectory, this undoubtedly implies that the object is projected in the opposite direction of the force exerted on it. It therefore performs a movement contrary to what is exerted by said force. We can therefore deduce that it is quite normal for a teacher to take a step back characterized by increased resistance when he first comes into contact with the inevitable reality of the change to be undertaken. But,

It is somewhat the essence of change in a school setting that these two scientific laws allow us to fully understand. Science studies nature, in the broad sense of the term. It is therefore interesting to use it when it comes to understanding the aberrations of human nature!

However, what we are allowed to understand is this:

  • Inertia should never be seen in the world of education. Unfortunately, we notice that in many cases it dictates the educational and pedagogical relationships that too many teachers engage with their students.
  • Often, this inertia acts as augmented reality, influencing the perception that a teacher may have of the content of a change, as he feels projected in a direction contrary to what he anticipated. He therefore feels that this change is sudden, unplanned and particularly grueling.
  • A particularly paradoxical point: teachers are agents of change for their students. Teaching and instructing is forcing change and modification of different perceptions. However, they themselves are reluctant to change. They should teach the students that the earth is round and that the sun does not revolve around the earth. This is obvious to us, but when we scan the sky or the horizon, the earth seems flattened and the sun seems to revolve around our planet. But if we tell some teachers that the formal teaching method does not work as well as he thinks and that the students learn more by problematic or with technological devices, these teachers are unfortunately reluctant to change their strategies.
  • Considering the fact that change must be an integral part of school daily life, we believe that all actors working in the world of education should be in a state of permanent vigilance and refuse any relaxation. The stakes are too great: a school dropout rate hovering around 20% in Quebec allows us to believe, moreover, that students no longer recognize themselves in their school environment and that they are, in turn, inert. However, another paradox, the teachers themselves denounce this relaxation or this situation of nonchalance or laziness which, according to their statements, is generalized.
  • Too few teachers have the capacity to question themselves.

[1] Gauthier, P., ICT in education: innovation or standardization? Site available online at the address <http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/386193/les-tic-en-education-innovation-ou-normalisation>. Accessed August 31, 2013.

[2] Morin, E., Love, poetry, wisdom, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1997, p. 49.

[3] Caillé, S., From change to change , Eyrolles, Paris, 2011, p. 1.

[4] Boudreau, D., Yes, I know Justin Bieber and I have an iPod , Site remotely accessible at <http://www.lactualite.com/societe/oui-je-connais-justin-bieber- and-I-have-an-ipod />. Accessed August 11, 2013.

[5] Sérieyx, H., Boussoles pour temps de mist , Pearson Éducation, Paris, 2003, p. 5.

[6] Gore, A., The moment of truth. Site available for download at <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/05/gore200605>. Accessed July 25, 2013.

[7] Maletto, M., Change management , Éditions Saint-Martin, Anjou, 2009, p. 27.

[8] Caillé, S., op. cit., p. 2.

[9] Sérieyx, H., Boussoles pour temps de fog . Site available online at http://www.forum-events.com/amphi/synthese-herve-serieyx-76-33.html. Accessed June 25, 2013.


[1] Striganuk, S., The dynamics of change , Collection of course notes and texts, University of Sherbrooke, Faculty of Education, 2005, p. 12.