Facilitators' perspectives of a planned change process

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph Shedd


site-based, shared decision-making, School administration

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision


The purpose of this study is to understand how facilitators make sense of an organizational change process as well as their roles, functions and decisions within this process. As changes introduced to schools have increased in complexity, schools increasingly turn to external facilitators to assist with the change process. A facilitator is a person who works directly with people who are expected to change. The literature on planned organizational change is very conflicted about the function, role and change strategies of outsiders; yet, little empirical data is presented to explain these differences.

The author of this study is convinced that this conceptual confusion reflects a set of tensions inherent in the change process and facilitation. One way to clarify (if not resolve) this confusion is to examine facilitators' own ideas about tension and its sources in their work. Surprisingly few researchers have explored how facilitators conceptualize their roles and decisions in specific situations. Although Killion and Simmons (1992) assert that facilitators' decisions are spontaneously driven by the nature of interactions, very little research has focused on this element of facilitation, much less facilitators' perceptions or responses to them.

The author interviewed fifteen informants for this study. All were teachers assigned to New York City public schools participating in a change process called Chapter I School Wide Projects: A School Based Management/Shared Decision Making Initiative. By asking informants to relate critical incidents of tension using a storytelling technique, the author sought facilitators' subjective experience and interpretation of their encounters in School Wide Project schools.

The author used a qualitative methodology and phenomenological perspective to collect and analyze data because both focus on the meaning people construe from daily events (Bogdan and Biklen 1982). Informants' own words from open-ended interviews further enabled her to understand how they interpreted some piece of the world (Bogdan and Biklen 1982) since others' perspectives are meaningful, knowable and explicable (Patton 1990).

The author used "tension" as the frame to highlight informants' important dilemmas and how they made sense of them. However, she did not use this context to explore informants' psychologies or judge their approaches to those dilemmas.

This study indicates that people experienced a series of tensions as they began to initiate and own the changes they made. Facilitators played an integral part in this process by finding the leverage that helped school members examine and question their underlying beliefs about power, collaboration and student achievement. Facilitators' work and the change process were also affected by the school context, the leadership of collaborative principals, shared vision, the development of teachers' and parents' leadership capacity, and staff development models that nurtured the visions of individuals and groups.


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