Change Theory for Educators

As with any kind of decentralization, additional tasks being transferred from the center to the periphery means an increase in the local responsibility to intended beneficiaries (Elmore, 1993; 34). This critical area of additional responsibility will be closely tied into the necessity, argued later, for individualized incentives to augment the change process that will be highlighted in the next section. As stated by UNESCO, “What triggers resistance from teachers is, the feeling that they will have to do more work, under the same conditions...” (2002; 35). This critical resistance from teachers also includes, “...the fear of the unknown...” (UNESCO, 2002; 35), which entails teachers being “...afraid of drastic innovations, partly because they prefer the familiar, and partly because the vested interests of most people are normally bound up with the existing set- up” (UNESCO, 2002; 35). Thus, we need to investigate the change that is being asked of teachers in implementing local curricula, and how this change can be brought about.

Thus, we must analyze the change through the viewpoint of the teachers intended to carry out policy implementation to understand its feasibility and what factors are critically lacking for effective change to take place. As Hargreaves notes:

Changes can look impressive when represented in the boxes and arrows of administrators’ overheads...they are superficial. They achieve little more than trivial changes in practice...unless profound attention is paid to processes of teacher development that accompany these innovations. The involvement of teachers in educational change is vital to its success, especially if they change is complex...(1994; 11).

Yet, in most cases, policy design is not carried out with the involvement of teachers, which presents a critical misstep. And when teachers are involved in the process of change, their own motivations and desires for change are often ignored, and the policy planners’ desires are superimposed upon these unwilling actors (Hargreaves, 13). As a result of marginalization in the reform process, teachers “...often resist ill designed and poorly implemented change projects” (UNESCO, 2002; 36-37). In this resistance, Fullan notes, we must understand a crucial point: “ cannot make people change. You cannot force them to think differently or compel them to develop new skills” (1993; 3).

Thus, in approaching teachers in the change process as the individuals responsible for the implementation of localization through increased individual responsibility, we must understand resistance to change, tendency for increasing maintenance of the status quo over the teaching career of individuals, characterized by a largely autonomous position in which lesson plans can be reused year after year and there is little inherent incentive for change or innovation. Additionally, teachers are certainly rational actors, and thus, faced with classrooms full of children on a daily basis, are critically concerned with the practicality of change (Hargreaves, 12). This resistance to change, a lack of incentives to innovate, and thus, the natural tendency for individuals to “retain the status quo” (Fullan, 3) leads us to search for a missing factor in the implementation of localization, one that has been largely ignored in the literature, yet is incredibly vital for achieving any level of successful policy reform: incentives. 


Fullan, Michael.  The new meaning of educational change.Teachers College Pr, 2001.

Hargreaves, Andy. “Changing Teachers, Changing Times.” London: Cassell, 1994.

UNESCO Asia/Pacific. “Building the Capacities of Curriculum Specialists for Educational Reform.” (Final Report of the Regional Seminar: Vientiane, Laos 2002). Bangkok: UNESCO, 2002.