Activity 8: Skills for Change

Discussion Guide

Developing Leadership Skills for Change

This reading and accompanying activities address the need for principals, leadership teams, and faculty members to be intentional in identifying improvement priorities and creating and following a process that increases the likelihood of achieving successful outcomes. Participants will review the six-step process circle, first focusing on the process components, then reviewing a case study from a school that is working to improve literacy outcomes, and finally by extending and applying what they learned to a specific school initiative.


Reading: Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide for Leading Change. “The Promise of Success: The Process Defined,” pp. 17–25. After participants have completed the reading, debrief the reading in two parts:

  1. Lead a discussion of why process matters. Questions might include, What pitfalls are likely to occur if a process or protocol is not articulated and followed? Predict what might occur if any step in the process is omitted or incompletely or ineffectively implemented.
  2. Guide teachers in an oral review of fig. 2.2 (p. 24), which maps the process in the Talent Middle School Case Study to the process circle. Ask participants to predict the outcomes if any component of the process circle is omitted? What happens, for example, if data is not examined and used to set priorities? Ask participants to predict outcomes if any component of the plan is implemented incompletely or ineffectively.

Reading: Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide for Leading Change. “In Their Own Words: Transforming a High School,” pp. 27–34. This chapter excerpt follows a principal as she engages in the work of leading her faculty in a school change initiative. Her insights, thinking, and strategies for addressing barriers should help principals and teams who are embarking on similar journeys.

  1. Suggest that participants highlight or underline all the evidence they find of the importance of process and planning. Call their attention to the fact that the components of the process circle are identified in the margins of the text.
    • Allow readers to share several observations from the text about the importance of process.
    • Follow the directions for leading a text-based discussion using the four questions provided on p. 35.

Extend and Apply

  • Have teams review “The Six Steps: Example–Schoolwide Literacy Initiative” from Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide for Leading Change, pp. 128–129.
  • Ask teams of teachers to select from a list of previously identified improvement priorities for your school.
  • Ask teams to use The Six Steps: Template—Planning Your Schoolwide Intiative that follows to map an improvement protocol for addressing the selected priority. Provide teams with chart paper to display the completed wheels.
  • After planning maps are posted, allow time for teams to review the work of each team using a carousel walk review process. Participants may use sticky notes to ask questions for clarity, suggest additions or omissions to a protocol, or challenge the accuracy, validity, or practicality of an item in a protocol.
  • Teams should review responses to their work to clarify, enhance, and provide a rationale for questioned items.
  • The contents of the completed table can provide the blueprints for next steps in school improvement efforts.