Inviting innovation: leading meaningful change in schools

by Mark Osborne


As Mark Osborne points out in this highly readable 2014 article from set: research information for teachers, leading change in schools is challenging. He constructs three New Zealand-based scenarios to exemplify aspects of the change process in three different school situations. This is a useful reading for leadership teams, and for groups of schools considering working as a collaborative community.

The article opens with a short discussion about the notion of change, and points out that leading change is important and inevitable if schools are to remain relevant. It looks particularly at two broad categories of change: technical - problems that can be clearly defined and addressed with known solutions; and adaptive -  change that requires significant shifts in people’s habits, status, role, identity, and way of thinking.

The three school scenarios examine:

  • how to work with the different ways people experience change (technical or adaptive)
  • ways to combine management and leadership to support change
  • design principles which encourage broad based, incremental, and continuous change.

School leaders are reminded that, in relation to leading change, they need to take account of the way that change can affect different people, that leadership not management is important, and that change must have a purpose and be consistent.

Reflective questions

These questions are adapted from those in the article.

  • What changes does your school need to undertake in its current situation? Discuss these as a leadership team.
  • Think of a change that you want to undertake: write two lists one for the elements that can continue, and one that represents the change that must happen.
  • Consider how you will get people to believe in the purpose of the change, what new skills they require, what you will use as reinforcement, and what consistent role models you will use.  These will be necessary for you and your leadership team before you all embark on the change.


Osborne, Mark (2014). Inviting Innovation: Leading meaningful change in schools. In set: Research Information for Teachers, 2, NZCER PRESS, Wellington.

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