Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the British Columbia School Business Officials (BCASBO) Fall Professional Development Conference. At that presentation, we explored some of the global trends in education and how the draft K-9 BC curriculum is a piece of a larger puzzle which will need to include changes in several areas including assessment and reporting. We took another 20 minutes to use a force field analysis to explore the drivers and resisting factors around change.
Since the presentation, I have had several requests for more details on using the force field analysis as a decision-making tool, so the following is more detail on how this tool can be effectively used in a variety of settings including education. I find it interesting that as a History 12 teacher I employed the same tool which allowed students to a better look and understanding of the political decisions countries made, but was reminded of it, a few weeks ago, when Rod Allen from the BC Ministry of Education used it for analysis with a large group. My thanks to Rod for the use of some of his presentation slides to help explain the tool.
For supplies, you need chart paper, Post-it notes and enough markers for each person in the group. The activity works well in groups of no more than eight people.
First, start with an issue and write it in the middle of the sheet of paper. In a Social Studies class, it might be “United States entering World War 2 in 1941” or could be something out of the headlines like “Maintaining the current rules around the Agriculture Land Reserve.” For those with school or district decisions, the tool could be used for “Adopting an extended day calendar” or, as shown below, “The Creation of a new district-wide elementary report card that does not use letter grades for Grades 4 and 5.”
Group members are given time to brainstorm on Post-it notes the driving (positive) forces and restraining (negative) forces around the topic. It is best to focus on one item at a time, allowing 10 minutes to brainstorm the driving forces and then 10 minutes to brainstorm the restraining forces. In order to keep them separate, have people use different colour notes for the driving and restraining forces.
Once everyone has had a chance to brainstorm items, groups work to cluster these items to a maximum of five key items. If the groups are small, this activity can be done as one large group, or one person can be assigned the task of clustering items for the entire room.
When I had previously used this tool this is where I had left it — simply clarifying and solidifying the key elements for and against a topic. But, I really like what Rod Allen did when taking this strategy further — once both sides of the five areas were identified, the room voted on the level of importance of each area. A 5 point scale is used with ‘1’ being not so important and ‘5’ being very important. This could be done through a conversation and in a large room where people could show 1-to-5 fingers and the facilitator could scan the room for a majority. A value is assigned to each factor and the final numbers are tallied on the driver side and the restraining sides with each side showing a range between 5 and 25.
In reviewing the scores, the group has a quick sense of the ease/difficulty of the potential for change. If the drivers are well above the restraints in strength, this is likely an easier change; if it is the opposite, it is likely that more work will need to be done to improve the strength of the drivers or mitigate the restraining forces.
The strategy is nice because it can be completed within 45 minutes and it gives the group a clear view of the factors for and against change. For those who enquired about a detailed explanation, I hope you give this strategy a try and I would be interested in knowing how effective it was for your group. More details on using the strategy are available here.