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How To Increase Your Team’s Change Resilience | ELT Together

Colleagues laughing in a team meetingSupporting a team effectively through a change is an invaluable skill for any manager. And, with the Covid19 pandemic affecting all of us in some way, it has never been more relevant. Some changes can have huge impacts on people’s mental well-being and their ability to perform in their role. Therefore, supporting people to develop greater resilience to change is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it also helps to protect your team’s productivity.  

To effectively support people through a change, it’s important to understand why change can be so difficult. All change is emotive – it doesn’t matter if a change is regarded as positive or negative, it will still create an emotional reaction in the people affected by itModels such as the Kubler-Ross Change Curve attempt to illustrate the psychological journey a person has to go on when faced with a change. Opinion is divided as to how accurate the particulars of such models are, but the truth is that everyone has to process their emotional reaction to a change before they can accept it and move forward. 

So why is change so emotive?

One reason is that change brings with it something humans find particularly difficult – uncertainty. Neuroscientific research has proven that the state of uncertainty is the most stressful state for humans to be in. Apparently, uncertainty registers as an error in the human brain and we feel compelled to resolve it. Some changes can result in people experiencing uncertainty for an extended period of time which can be very draining. Another reason change is so emotive is that a common reaction to it is a fear of loss. In a work environment, this could be a fear of a loss of job security, job satisfaction or simply the ability to perform activities to the same high standard.   

The good news is that an effective and supportive line manager can make a hugely positive difference to a person going through a change. Below are some strategies you can put into practice: 

1) Encourage people to talk 

Humans fare much better when they articulate and process their emotions, and so give your team members lots of opportunities to share how they’re feeling about the change. Don’t assume that they have someone they can talk about their feelings with outside of work. Vary the forum to give everyone the chance to open up – some people flourish in a group setting, others prefer one on one. 

2) Talk openly about resilience 

Talk with your team about the importance of protecting and building personal resilience, and be clear about what you believe resilience is and importantly isn’t. Remind people that resilience isn’t about being strong and pretending everything is fine when it isn’t. Resilience is about practising healthy habits – both physical and mental, recognising how a situation is affecting you and asking for help when you need it. 

3) Be open about your own challenges

Sharing your own struggles with your team members will encourage them to open up about their own. This is not only a bonding experience for a team, but will give you insight into what support people need. One idea is to invite everyone to share a highlight and lowlight from their past week. If people are nervous to share, start with your own. What you’re doing is acknowledging that it’s OK not to feel OK all of the time. 

4) Model healthy habits 

Encourage your team to reflect on what healthy habits – mental and physical – will give their resilience a boost. What helps them feel stronger and more able to face challenges? You could run a team session where everyone shares and discusses the habits that are important to them. Again, be open about your own healthy habits – whether they’re eating well, getting more exercise, meditating and/or keeping in touch with friends.  

5) Keep people informed 

Feeling like they’re being kept well informed about a change will help people to cope with it better. Make sure you communicate regularly with your team and pass on any relevant company updates. Give team members a chance to ask questions and discuss any updates. Remember, if no information is available, people are more likely to speculate a worst-case scenario than a best-case, so use regular updates to keep rumours to a minimum. Where relevant, remind your team of the company strategy that’s driving change and the benefits you’re working towards. 

6) Remember we’re all different 

Remember that everyone’s experience of change is personal, and so will need different support. Your team members’ situations will vary and so will their emotional reactions. The best way to find out how someone is really feeling is to be a great listener – ask open questions, don’t interrupt or change the subject and show a genuine interest in what a person is saying. Make use of open questions, such asHow are you feeling/did you feel about that? Can you tell me more? What was it that you found challenging? What was your experience? 

7) Remember you’re a person, too! 

And lastly, don’t forget that you’re a person as well as a manager and you need to build and protect your own resilience. Be sure you practise your own personal healthy habits, and to reach out to your own manager if you need support. 

 

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Kirstin McCreadie is a change consultant at Oxford University Press based in Oxford. As well as being involved in overseeing the implementation of changes across the organisation, she also develops and delivers training in change and resilience. Kirstin also has experience of line management and leading teams through changes.


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References 

https://www.ekrfoundation.org/5-stages-of-grief/change-curve/ 


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The Digital Learning Curve: 3 ways school leaders can help teachers stay ahead

Meghan Beler is a full-time teacher trainer for Oxford University Press in Istanbul, Turkey. Here she talks about three ways school leaders can help teachers stay ahead of technology trends.

Regardless of whether we are thrilled with or terrified of the digital revolution that is sweeping our classrooms, the reality is that the decision to use technology in the classroom is not always left up to the teacher. In order to stay up-to-date (and in some cases, competitive), schools are investing more in interactive white boards, computer labs and laptops for students. Teachers across the world may walk into classrooms this year that seem foreign, filled with technological tools and applications that they may not even know how to use, let alone know why they should be using them.

Technology has the potential to revolutionise the way teaching and learning occurs, however this will not be possible without confident, knowledgeable and prepared teachers. What can school leaders do to ensure that their teachers do not fall behind the digital learning curve?

Training

Both teachers and school leaders need training in order to ensure that digital tools are directing learning towards educational goals rather than away from them. Firstly, teachers need training in the basic functionality of digital tools. Not knowing how to turn the page of an on-screen course book or embed a video into a presentation can seriously limit the potential impact of digital tools. Perhaps even more importantly, a lack of basic technological knowledge can be disempowering for a teacher and can lead to further fear and avoidance of educational technology.

Teachers need to be confident and knowledgeable not only about how to use digital tools, but how to use them in ways that lead to a better educational experience. Having learners watch a YouTube video without giving them any sort of task to do along with it will do little more than keep learners briefly entertained. And just because we have thousands of tools, apps, and resources at our fingertips doesn’t mean we should walk into class without an idea of what we want learners to achieve. If we do not think carefully about how to actively involve learners through technology, our lessons are at risk of becoming technology-centred rather than learner-centred.

Time

Even confident, tech-savvy teachers need time to understand how digital tools will best suit the needs of their learners, and this can only happen by using technology in practice. Of course, it is not only the teachers who need time to adjust; the same is true for learners. Learners may not understand what is expected of them and may simply be excited by the arrival of new technology. At first, this may be frustrating for teachers as activities may seem chaotic and unfocused. Both teachers and learners need time to adjust to new routines and ways of learning.

School leaders also need time to consider how (and if) new digital policies and programmes are helping teachers and learners reach curricular goals more effectively. This requires a great deal of patience and faith on everyone’s part; we may discover that what was a great idea in theory doesn’t work well in practice. We may also find out that a programme which seemed destined to fail in the beginning turns out to be a phenomenal success!

Support

Teachers need to know that they have the support and understanding of their superiors.  One way to do this is through departmental forums where teachers can have open dialogues about their digital experiences with learners. This not only fosters a better understanding of what is actually happening both in and out of teachers’ classrooms, but provides the opportunity for teachers to share diverse solutions to complex problems. The reality is that every teacher experiences both successes and failures in implementing new digital tools and programmes, and being able to discuss it openly is an important part of the digital learning curve.

Indeed, technology will allow us to provide a better education for learners, and school leaders play an important role in helping their teachers stay ahead of the curve through the right balance of training, time and support.

What do you do to help your teachers (or yourself) stay ahead of the digital learning curve?

[Photo by Brad Flickinger via Flickr/Creative Commons]

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