Tag Archives: implementation

Implementation Model: Overcoming-Resistance-to-Change

There are many different models for implementing curriculum. One common model is the Overcoming-Resistance-to-Change Model (ORC model). This model focuses on gaining advocates and sharing power equally between administrators and teachers. The ORC model focuses on allowing for the personal needs of the teachers to be addressed through maintaining high flexibility in the implementation.

The ORC model focuses on change from the perspective of the teacher. In this model, there are four stages as listed below.

  1. Unrelated concerns
  2. Personal concerns
  3. Task-related concerns
  4. Impact-related concerns

Stage 1: Unrelated Concerns

The first stage is a stage of indifference. A teacher is aware change but do not see how it relates to their own life. As such the teacher is not worried about whatever innovation is coming. An example might be hearing about efforts to bring online learning to a school. The teacher knows this innovation is out there but it has not impacted them yet.

Stage 2: Personal Concerns

The teacher is now concerned with how the new innovation or curriculum will impact their life personally. For example, an English teacher wrestling with how using online learning will affect what they are trying to do in the classroom.

Stage 3: Task-Related Concerns

In stage 3, the teacher is thinking about how to use the new curriculum or innovation. Questions begin to go through their head in terms of application. For the online learning example, the teacher may wonder about such problems as how much time will it take to learn this? What are the best ways to use this new innovation? What kind of support will I get? These are just some of the many questions that are possible.

Stage 4: Impact-Related Concerns

Now the teacher has taken their focus of their performance and is now worried about how this will affect students. At this stage, teachers are focusing on their students, peers, and school. For the online learning example, teachers start to wonder how online learning will benefit the students. A teacher may start to wonder how other teachers are doing as they try to use this new innovation. The shift here is from self to others.


Change involves a reaction. For the ORC model, the reaction involves four clear steps. Every teacher may not go through these four stages. However, these stages help to explain what a leader can anticipate when trying to implement curriculum

Resistance to Curriculum Changes

It is common for people to dislike change. When curriculum implementation is taking place there may be resistance to the new ideas and innovations presented. Thomas Harvey has provided a list of common reasons people may resist change.

Lack of ownership. Change must be an internal movement to have success. If the ideas are coming from an outside push success is much less likely to happen. Few people enjoy taking orders from external powers.

Lack of benefit. If teachers do not see any advantages to the new program for themselves or their students, they may not accept it. The strong points of a new curriculum must be explained.

More work. Few teachers want more to do. Change often brings additional responsibilities, at least, initially. Wise implementation entails removing current responsibilities in order not to overburden teachers with too much work.

Lack of support. This is closely related to the previous point. If leadership does not support the change, the workers will not either. The example and support of administration is key to the success of any change happening in an organization.

Insecurity. The risk of failure is always present when new ideas are tried. This can make some people really hesitant to try new ideas. A supportive atmosphere where failure is okay is needed for dealing with this. If people look bad using a new curriculum they will not use it for long.

Incongruence with Norm. The philosophy and beliefs laid down in the innovation must be consisted with the beliefs of the people who will use it. If there is a conflict in beliefs there will be a potential rejection of the innovation. This is especially true over controversial topics like sexual orientation, abortion, or creation.

Chaos. Change often brings disorder. If the amount of chaos and disorder is perceived as too high people may resist. People want change that brings order and not disorder.

Complete/wholesale change. A change that calls for a complete revamp of a current system is too much for most people to handle. An incremental approach is much more acceptable when dealing with bringing curriculum change. Many schools will role out a new curriculum a grade at a time rather than all at once. This helps the students and gives the teachers time to prepare.

There are many other reasons besides these that may be the root cause of resistance to curriculum change in a school. These reasons serve to provide a basic introduction into causes for resistance.

Implementation Guidelines

There are two ways change can happen in relation to an innovation or curriculum. These two changes are slow/minor change and fast or/major change.

Slow/minor change is change that is not significant or that takes place over a long period of time. Examples include changing unit plans, using a new instructional approach, or adjusting assignments for students. A rollout in increments of a new curriculum instead of all at once is another example.

Major/fast change is change that is significant or that happens suddenly. Examples include a new law that requires immediate compliance, or the immediate introduction of an innovation (such as computers) into every classroom. This type of change lives many gasping for breath as they struggle with what is new.

Few people like change. When dealing with curriculum implementation, there are five guidelines to keep in mind as explained below. These guidelines come from Warren Bennis (1966).

Guidelines for Change

  • Innovation needs to be based on research
    • Many great ideas are great because of marketing and not scientific research. Whatever the plan is it must be based on data that indicates that the idea will help students. In other words, read between the lines before implementing curriculum change.
  • Some innovations require changes in the structure of the school
    • The new innovation may require an overhaul of day-to-day behavior. A simple example would be the time that a school I worked at added art to the curriculum. It involved removing a study period from the schedule that was replaced with the art class. This allowed the students to learn art as well as get to know a new teacher.
  • Change must be manageable
    • This means that the new idea must be possible. For example, require students to write essays in English when they do not yet know the language is not manageable.
  • Implementation must be flexible
    • There is always a disconnect between theory and practice. Heavy-handed implementation of the innovation strictly only leads to passive resistance.  An adaptive approach in which the teachers can make minor adjustments to meet student needs is critical to success.
  • Have a plan for measuring implementation
    • Change must be assessed to make sure things are happening. To just tell teachers to do something without stipulating how the results will be analyzed is unfair to the teachers as they do not know how they will be graded. A teacher could never do this to a student.

These principles can help teachers and administrators to implement changes to the curriculum efficiently. They are intending as guidelines and not rules and there is so much more that could be said about this matter.

Nature of Curriculum Implementation

Curriculum implementation is about taking the curriculum that was developed and actually using it. This is easier said than done. A new curriculum means the replacement of an old one. It means getting many different stakeholders to accept a new and untested innovation. There are the dynamics of organizational change and careful planning.

In brief, there are three critical components to consider when attempt to implement a new curriculum and these components are

  • the speed of the implementation
  • communication during the implementation
  • support during the implementation

The Speed of Implementation

The implementation of a curriculum must happen in increments. If the change is sudden, people may not use or adapt the new curriculum as they may not have been a part of the decision process. During the incremental implementation of curriculum, there needs to be agreement on the following questions

  • How do we define improvement?
  • What do teachers and students think of the change(s)?
  • What is a quality in relation to the curriculum and education?

Keeping in mind these questions while slowly implementing the curriculum in waves (i.e. one grade at a time) rather than all at once can help to improve the implementation process.

Communication During Implementation

There needs to be two types of communication during a curriculum implementation. Vertical communication between the workers and the boss as well as horizontal communication between workers.

In general, it is easier to speak with peers rather than with one’s boss. However, normally it is the boss who pushes an implementation. This makes it necessary to speak with them and indicates how the processes are going. A break down in communication can lead to a great curriculum on paper that is never used.

Speaking with peers can have perils as well. There may be division over the new curriculum. Petty office politics can erupt and wreck a great plan. It is often left to the management to eliminate this sort of infighting. However, such problems do not affect only curriculum but many other aspects of the school.


A new curriculum cannot be dumped on a teacher. There must be support provided as the teacher acclimate to the new curriculum. Teachers need in-service training, staff development, money, and more to acquire the skills needed to use a new curriculum.

The support must be relevant to the needs of the teachers. This is a mantra we chant for students (meet their needs) but it is important for administrations as well (meet the needs of your teachers). This could help in making the use of the new curriculum a success.

Failure to provide some these needs will lead to the inability to execute the innovation even if there is acceptance of it. It is critical to see the bigger picture of change as the process of winning the hearts of the people affected by the change.