First-order versus second-order change
Can you identify an instance where a change that was āfirst-orderā for one person was āsecond-orderā for another?
How did your understanding of this difference affect the leadership practices you chose to use with each person?
Waters, Marzano, and McNulty (2003) developed a leadership framework that describes the knowledge, skills, strategies, and tools leaders need to positively impact on student achievement. They based the framework on a meta-analysis of the literature that revealed a substantial relationship between leadership and student achievement (a correlation of 0.25).
An important aspect of the researchersā model is the concept of the āorderā or magnitude of change. āFirst-orderā change is change that is consistent with prevailing values and norms, meets with general agreement, and can be implemented using peopleās existing knowledge and skills. A change becomes āsecond-orderā when it is not obvious how it will make things better, it requires people to learn new approaches, or it conflicts with prevailing values and norms. Second-order changes require leaders to work far more deeply with staff and the community. They can disrupt peopleās sense of well-being and the co-operation and cohesion of the school community. They may confront and challenge expertise and competencies and throw people into states of āconscious incompetenceā.
Different perceptions about the implications of change mean that a change that appears to be a solution to one person can appear to be a problem for another.
Waters, Marzano, and McNulty, 2003, page 7
To the degree that individuals and/or stakeholder groups in the school or school system hold conflicting values, seek different norms, have different knowledge, or operate with varying mental models of schooling, a proposed change might represent a first-order change for some and a second-order change for others.