Creating Buy-In for PLCs
It is not unusual to have persons excited about the professional learning community concept but express concern that others will not “buy-in.” Educators not buying into research-based strategies are pervasive, according to Dr. John Hattie (2009). He says, “We have a rich research base . . . but rarely is it used.” Ronald Ferguson (2010) calls it an “Implementation problem.” When buy-in does not occur, many make the mistake of waiting for it to arrive before taking action. Many express concern that a lack of participation by all staff members will result in an even more toxic culture than the existing one. Principals sometimes say, “My staff is not ready for this yet.” The research shows that some may never be ready.
Dr. Rick DuFour recognized the challenge of creating a change culture as early as 1998. He reminded us of the need to embrace the “soft” and “touchy” side of leadership if we were serious about sustainability of high performance. He and other researchers warned us of the mistake we make when we “overlook the importance of appealing to basic needs of achievement, belonging, and significance.”
These observations were confirmed in my school’s PLC journey. For me there was always an unwritten "P" in PLC. That "P" represented “People.” Presenters of new ideas have to be able to change the hearts and minds of people. One slide presentation to a staff will not suffice. I define leadership as, “The ability to get people to do what they would not normally do.” This requires an enormous amount of self-reflection and analysis of how other people think and “feel.” I am astonished at both the large size and emotional responses of audiences to my celebration of learning sessions. Both confirmed the need for my personal, daily mantra, which continues to be, People are not moved by facts; they are moved by emotions!
The “Why” of Lack of Buy-in
- Lack of collective self-efficacy: Lack of belief that the students can achieve any higher than they have already demonstrated; therefore, there is no need to change current practices (Howard, 2007). Some honestly think they and the students are doing the “best that they of capable of doing.” This is another paper in itself.
- Lack of visionary, mission-based leadership: Lack of urgency occurs when teachers believe that the principal tepidly supports the initiative and will not follow up.
- Lack of recognition for short-term wins, replaced with annual public humiliation (We’ve gotta do better or else!) when standards are not met.
- Lack of a visionary guiding coalition
- Too many conflicting initiatives
Research-Based Solutions That Worked for Me
- Develop an efficacious culture: Let your staff see successful achievements of students and teachers similar to their demographics (site visits, PLC institutes, videos, book sharing or outside presenters).
- Develop and “market” a personal vision that is outrageously contagious! Buyers have to be sold on an idea, so sell it!
- Connect short-term wins to your mission and vision. Nothing happens until people are having fun! Celebrate students and staff publicly and frequently (Jessie, 2011).
- Select and give authorship to a coalition that shares the vision. Too many “Fundamentalists” (Muhammad, 2009) or “No-No Birds” (Kotter, 2008) will drive your coalition bus into a ditch. Doug Reeves’ admonition “Action precedes belief,” works! If the destination is fun few will want to be left at the station.
My suggested annual monitoring framework
- Keep what works
- Tweak what needs modification
- Seek new strategies when something does not work
- Delete what is not working (Reeves, 2009)
DuFour, R. (1998). You won’t find this on any checklist. Journal of Staff Development , 19 (2), 1-2.
Ferguson, R. F. (2010). Toward excellence with equity: An emerging vision for closing the achievement gap. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York, England & NY: Routeledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Howard, J. (2007, November). Whose children are these? Retrieved October 9, 2011, from http://www.efficacy.org/Resources/TheEIPointofView/tabid/233/ctl/ArticleView/mid/678/articleId/82/Whose-Children-Are-These.aspx
Jessie, L. G. (2011). A celebration of learning: Nothing happens until people are having fun. Bloomington, IN.
Kotter, J. (2008). A sense of urgency. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Muhammad, A. (2009). Transforming school culture: How to overcome staff division. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Reeves, D. B. (2009). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.