Lewin’s change model is a famous model that tries to describe the experience of change as it happens in an organization. This post will explain Lewin’s model of change in the context of educational institutions.
For Lewin’s model, there are three phases: unfreeze, move, and freeze. We will learn about each below.
Phase one of change, according to Lewin, is unfreezing. Unfreezing involves examining the current situation are state of the organization. This is often called a needs analysis in education. Once it is clear what problems the organization is facing, the next step is to identify what needs to change and create motivation for accepting change.
Accepting change can be challenging to do in large institutions such as schools. Therefore, leaders must look for ways to lower resistance to change. This is often done in the second step of Lewin’s model.
Educational institutions are frequently conducting needs analysis for accreditation and are thus often experienced with the unfreeze phase of Lewin’s model. For example, a school may make adjustments to its curriculum based on input from stakeholders. This is an example of change that requires unfreezing the courses offered at the institution.
Lewin’s second phase is called “move.” The move phase involves taking action or making the plan developed in the previous step a reality. If a school needs to make changes, it may support the transition through training, support, or information about the change. The goal is to empower people to adjust to the change that is necessary for whatever reason.
Another important aspect of this step, according to Lewin, is involving stakeholders. Letting people be a part of the solution often helps these same people accept change. This means having a dialog and considering the concerns and fears of the people who will be affected by the change.
It is common for organizations, not just schools, to miss the opportunity to include others in the change process. For example, administrators often will announce a change that is needed, such as changes to submitting grades, without talking to teachers about how this works. Sadly, many leaders will address complaints or concerns from their subordinates, but they never go to these same people when trying to solve the problem.
The final step of Lewin’s model of change is “refreeze.” Refreeze involves making whatever changes that were implemented permanent. Accomplishing this involves putting in place a system of accountability that is palatable to the stakeholders. The word that is commonly used today for refreeze is “the new normal.”
Refreezing may be the most challenging stage of the change process because it involves maintaining discipline for behavior that becomes a habit. For example, schools often implement many great ideas that are not sustained for the long term, such as grading policies, attendance, or even protocols for discipline. This usually happens because human nature often wants to be responsive rather than prescriptive.
Lewin’s model provides a basic idea of the change process that many of us have experienced in one way or the other. It does assume that organizations are freezable, which in today’s dynamic environment is perhaps unlikely. Despite this, Lewin’s model is a traditional way of envisioning the experience of change in an institution.