This study investigated time-sensitive change in schools that had been successfully accomplished in shorter timeframes, namely, a period of three years or less, than those timeframes suggested by scholars in the field with the view to explore the conditions, processes, and leadership behaviors that promoted successful, time-sensitive, complex changes. The rationale for this study was underpinned by the fact that increasingly school leaders are being expected to bring about faster-paced change in order to meet the ever-changing demands of their educational system and the global needs of society.
The research was focused predominantly on leaders’ perspectives but also included other educational stakeholders, such as, teachers, students, and parents who were involved to varying degrees in the time-sensitive change in their school. The conceptual framework encompassed four related areas: leadership, organizational change, time, and stakeholders’ perceptions of change.
This study was oriented within the pragmatic paradigm with a constructivist orientation; that is, the researcher was “more interested in the views, values, beliefs, feelings, assumptions, and ideologies of individuals than in gathering facts and describing acts” (Creswell, 2012, p. 429), and utilized mixed method design including questionnaires and interviews. A total of 111 respondents (representing the perspectives of superintendents (n=4), principals (n=39), educators (n=25), students (n=21), and parents (n=22). There were 39 questionnaires returned by principals and of these 16 participated in in-depth interviews. There were four school districts representing urban, rural, and remote contexts encompassed in the data collection. There were eight schools included in the 360° stakeholder
perspective interviews. Focus group interviews were conducted with educators, students, and parent stakeholders to explore their perception of the change process.
There were four key findings which indicated:
Time-sensitive changes were necessary, successful, and effective even when these were complex and difficult;
Complex time-sensitive changes required essential elements, many of which were common to different change implementation processes, in order to be successful;
Time-sensitive change was perceived to be sustainable, transferable, and repeatable; and
Leaders of successful, complex, time-sensitive change exemplified strong intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and usually had substantial previous leadership or change experience.
Resulting from this research, this researcher conceptualized a model for rapid change processes for leaders. This model entitled “the rapid change model” emerged as a possible guide or framework to inform and guide leaders who are similarly faced with expectations to bring about rapid change within their school context. The components involved with the rapid change model include 1) knowledge surrounding the identification of needed change and demands; 2) leaders’ metacognition and self-evaluation for change; 3) change visioning; 4) the change process; 5) monitoring and evaluating the change process; and 6) ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainability considerations’ if deemed necessary.