Highlighting Attitudes: Handling resistance to change

I’ve been thinking about issues of change management in HE-TEL since starting the Lego Serious Play in Higher Education project. The following objections are some I’m sure we’ve all experienced:

“The Open University researched staff attitudes to adopting new tools to support curriculum design and identified and analysed five common objections that arise equally often when changing assessment practice:

  1. “I haven’t enough time.”
    There may be a number of reasons that staff members perceive they lack time. The focus on the external factor “time” deflects attention from the individual’s skill set and their own responsibility for appraising current activities to decide what could be done differently.
  2. “It doesn’t help me”
    It is quite hard to argue against an individual who believes a change is of little personal value. However, such arguments are often ill thought through or focus on relatively superficial issues. In contrast, it is possible to demonstrate the value of changing assessment practice and the benefit to students through the extended and applied use of a tool or approach.
  3. “Prove to me this works.” or “Where is the evidence?”
    Ostensibly these are fair and reasonable requests but the link between demonstrable evidence of impact and convincing someone to use a tool or approach is not straightforward. Some academics are happy to pilot a new teaching idea with limited evidence beyond a “hunch” whereas others continue to argue against practices (especially with regard to assessment and feedback) that are recognised sector-wide as good practice. This issue may be compounded by the fear that a new approach will reveal deficiencies in existing practice or result in loss of autonomy.
  4. ‘I don’t really need to use it.’
    Demonstrating need can often be difficult due to the fact that many current measures of quality have emerged to measure current practices not new ones. Our detailed guide to managing course information has some interesting examples of where analysing data about the curriculum and about assessment practice has led to large-scale change.
  5. “Not another new initiative!”
    The broader organisational and further and higher education context is important. Many change projects describe staff within their organisation as suffering from ‘initiative fatigue’. The technology you are trying to implement may be just one of many changes taking place internally and externally.”

From JISC’s Changing assessment and feedback practice: How to approach large-scale change in assessment and feedback practice with the help of technology.


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