About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.


Personal Learning Login

Sign Up | Forgotten password?
Register with the NCETM

Secondary Mathematics Subject Leader In-Depth Study Module 5

Created on 01 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 09 April 2013 by ncetm_administrator

Mathematics Subject Leader In-Depth Study Module 5 (2 hours)

Consider and bring about change using innovative and other methods

By studying this module you will consider ideas about what it means to bring about change in a mathematics department using innovation and other methods. In particular you will come to know more about:

  • the sources of ideas on change
  • what change means in your context
  • how change can be engineered
  • what changes and innovations are needed
  • planning to bring about change
  • deciding where the money is spent
  • the role of mentoring, coaching and action research in bringing about change

The sections can be studied in the order presented here or you can click on one of the sections below to take you to a section that particularly interests you.

  1. What does change mean? (30 mins)
  2. What needs to be changed and what innovations are needed? (30 mins)
  3. Deciding where the money is spent (20 mins)
  4. The role of Coaching and Action Research in bringing about change (30 mins)
  5. Reviewing the module (10 mins)

 Back to top

1. What does change mean?
Change and innovation has been an important part of school life in recent years, so much so that people have become weary of ‘initiatives’. This section is about making the changes that are actually needed in order to improve the learning in your department in a way that suits your department. Click the title of the section you want to study:

Sources of ideas about change

There is an enormous amount of literature about educational change. The literature sees change as: 

a process

Michael Fullan defined change as a process (Fullan, 1982:41). Put simply, where you end up and what you end up with (outcome) is inextricably connected with what you are trying to achieve (purpose), and the avenues you use to try to get there (process). Trying to become a democratic school through using authoritarian means, for example, is clearly going to be problematic. Purpose, process and outcome are inseparable. End points of change are not all the same. All outcomes are not equal. Thus, the focus of change, the point of all of the effort, will affect what happens and who is involved. It is therefore important to clarify ideas about both outcome and process at the outset of a deliberate change project.

improvement or transformation

Change can be thought of as something small and unchallenging, or something gradual and incremental, or something quite radical and transformative. Some argue that in order for schools to meet the needs of all children, they need to be radically overhauled because it is the system of schooling which is at fault. In contrast, some suggest that meeting the needs of the information age requires no more than the intelligent use of ICT in schools to enhance the current curriculum and pedagogy. Whether change is seen as improvement or as transformative depends very much on how the need for change is seen. Depending on the magnitude of the change envisaged, the processes used have to be up to the standard of the task, and issues such as time, ownership, and resistance become crucial.


School change as design offers an opportunity to consider the practices of real life designers. They spend considerable amounts of time investigating the problems with existing circumstances in order to develop careful briefs for redesign. They weigh up very carefully the human and physical worlds in which the new design must work. They sketch out ideas, consult, sketch again, trial and test prototypes. At best, designers do not rush to introduce new ideas, but work with them for as long as it takes to get them ready for real life.

Designing schools could thus be a task which works with, from and over what we already know and suspect about schooling, learning and teaching, knowledge, leadership and management. It must also at the same time break with the status quo and offer something different. This requires careful thought and time. It cannot be rushed.

straightforward - or not?

The notion of design may lead to the conclusion that the process of change is straightforward, perhaps even rational and linear, and can be planned for as a series of logical steps and stages.

Much of the research on actual school change suggests quite the reverse, that is, school change tends to be messy, complex, has unforeseen and serendipitous effects and often lurches both forwards and backwards at the same time. Some of those interested in change as a process lean towards versions of chaos and complexity theory (e.g. Brooke-Smith, 2003; Fullan, 2005) in order to understand the ways in which change can be steered, but must also be managed on a day to day basis. One management writer goes so far as to dub this ‘adhocracy’ (Waterman, 1993). Others suggest that school change is like rebuilding a plane in mid-air (Datnow et al., 2002).


Design is of course not the only potential alternative term for change. Goodlad (1994) suggests that the ambiguity surrounding the notion of change, combined with the overuse of the terms ‘change’ and ‘reform’ and their continued association with ineffective projects, should convince us to abandon these words altogether. He suggests the word renewal to indicate the dimensions of the task to be undertaken in contemporary schools.


Ainscow, M. (1999). Understanding the development of inclusive schools. London: Falmer.

Brighouse, T., & Woods, D. (1999). How to improve your school. London: Routledge.

Brooke-Smith, R. (2003). Leading learners, leading schools. London: Routledge Falmer.

Datnow, A. (1998). The gender politics of educational change. Washington DC: Falmer Press.

Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership and sustainability: System thinkers in action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Ontario Principals Council & Corwin Press

Goodlad, J. (1994). Educational renewal: Better teachers, better schools. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Hargreaves, A., & Fink, D. (2006). Sustainable leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Hopkins, D., Ainscow, M., & West, M. (1994). School improvement in an era of change. London: Cassell.

Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. Education in the age of insecurity. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Stoll, L., Earl, L., & Fink, D. (2003). It's about learning (and it's about time): What's in it for schools? London: RoutledgeFalmer

Waterman, R. (1993). Adhocracy. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
How do you see change?

Reflect on what you have learned from reviewing the change literature

How do you see change?
  • Is it an orderly process?
  • Can you design change?
  • How do you cope with the messy realities of introducing change?

Skills for leading change

The literature also indicates that there are important skills for leading change for example:

  • Rapport building
  • Organisational diagnosis
  • Dealing with the change process
  • Finding and using resources
  • Managing the leadership work
  • Building skills and confidence in others

                                            Lieberman, A., Saxl, E., and Miles, M.  1988

Reflect on yourself as a leader

Which of the skills for leading change will you find easiest?

Which will you find most difficult?

How can you get help to develop those skills you find most difficult?

A consideration of what change means in my context

What might need changing?
It might be:
  • changes in resources
  • change in attitudes.
  • change in skill levels.
Evidence for change

Fold a piece of paper in half:
  • on one side make a list of all the sources that you could use to establish a need for change
  • on the other side list what information each source provides

See Folio 5.1.1 for an example of the information sources that others have used to establish a need for change and the information that they provide.

What changes do I want to make? – Getting the vision

What changes do I want to make?

First use Folio 5.1.2 to make a ‘wish list’ of innovations & changes you would like to make – don’t think of practicalities at this stage, just list all the changes that come to mind.

See Folio 5.1.3 for ideas on what other department leaders want to change

Now think of (or work with a partner to decide on)

  • which changes could be made quite easily?
  • which changes must be made no matter how hard they may be?
  • which changes are beyond your control to make?

Keep your wish list safe – you will need it later

How can change be engineered?

Read the extract in Folio 5.1.4 from the BusinessBalls website “Engineering Change”

The document is designed for business leaders and managers

  • Highlight the ideas that are relevant in your situation
  • What do you need to do to achieve the changes in attitudes and skills that you identified previously?

Choose one ‘change’ from your wish list

  • What changes in values must be facilitated?
  • What will people have to learn to make the changes?
  • How can this learning be facilitated?

 Back to top

2. What needs to be changed and what innovations are needed?

As subject leader you will have to make changes and innovations in many areas of your department’s practices – especially if you are going to achieve all the items on your wish list. Click the title of the section you want to study: What is a change and what is an innovation?

The differences between change and innovation depend on the scale and the context: what for one department is a straightforward change in working practice can, for another be innovative and new.
Changes   Innovations
  • Working practices
  • Environmental
  • Resources
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Personnel?
  • Working practices
  • Environmental
  • Resources
  • Skills
  • ?

Think about the ideas listed above

Using Folio 5.2.1 list working practices, environment, resources etc  that would be a change for your department and then think of ideas that would be an innovation.

Planning to bring about change

Planning is important when leading a successful change or innovation. A backwards action plan focuses on a successful outcome of change and what that will look like and then plans how to achieve that outcome

A Backwards Action Plan

  • starts with a vision of what successful outcomes will look like (‘where I’m going’)
  • focuses on what is attainable and on the evidence of progress/success
  • works out the timetable for action in reverse (‘how to get there’)

The first question to ask is not “What do I do?” but “What will success look like?”

What will success look like? You can download an example here.

Then you work on how you get to that success

How will I reach that success? You can download an example here.

Use the Folio 5.2.2 Action Planning Sheet to plan your own success!

Choose an item from your wish list and decide what would count as success.

Then work on planning the actions that will be needed to bring about that success.


 Back to top

3. Deciding where the money is spent

One of the important jobs of the Subject Leader is to budget the money so that the department can use its resources to further its own aims. Click the title of the section you want to study:

Know where the money goes

Do you know your budget? Do you know how it is spent?

How much goes on books, equipment, copying?

If you don’t know find out now! Your school Bursar will probably provide you with a breakdown of the money and how it is spent. Study it; ask questions and make sure you understand where the money is going.

Then talk to other Subject Leaders in your school to find out how they budget their money and how they keep their costs down so that they have money to spend on their ‘wish list’

Budgeting for change

There are many ways to ‘blow the budget’, for example
  • buying textbooks for each pupil
  • buying a vital piece of software
  • on photocopying because you refused to buy the textbooks
  • sending everybody on the CPD that they need

The next exercise is about making the budget work for you so that your department can work the way that you want it to.

Budgeting for change
Decide what money must be spent: e.g. exercise books, photocopying, software licences etc.

From what is left, decide how you want to use it. This will be different for each school, as some include such things as CPD and others keep that budget separately.

Arrange a visit to another school to discuss how they make decisions.

Change costs money! It is important to budget carefully if you want to make big changes.

Financing your wish list

Look back at your wish list – which of your ‘easy’ or ‘must do’ items needs money to support it? How much? Use the following task to begin to plan how to finance your wish list.

Financing your wish list This will take research – you will need to find out
  • where the items / training can be purchased from
  • which provider gives discounts for the quantity you need or if it would be cheaper to buy more.
  • can you afford it out of this year’s budget?
  • could you find the money elsewhere? An interested firm nearby, grants available from LAs or external agencies, or the NCETM.

Once you have clarified what you need, why you need it and where you might get the funding, discuss the ideas with a member of the senior management team and your Bursar. They might have even more ideas about where the money could come from. Don’t give up: if it is important, then a way can usually be found.

 Back to top

4. The Role of Mentoring, Coaching and Action Research in bringing about Change

Departments that use mentoring, coaching and Action Research as part of their continuing professional development usually have an ethos of exploration, risk taking and steady improvement within the team. Click the title of the section you want to study: Coaching and Mentoring

There are many similarities between coaching and mentoring, the chief amongst them is that they are ways in which professionals work together to improve practice.


Traditionally, mentoring is the long term passing on of support, guidance and advice. In the workplace it has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding of teaching to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. This comes from the Greek myth where Odysseus entrusts the education of his son to his friend Mentor.


Coaching is focused on developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their practice improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organisational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals. Coaching in schools often happens as co-coaching, or peer-coaching where teachers pair up to improve their joint practice in an area that interests them.

Information on Coaching and Mentoring

There is a quantity of information available on Coaching and Mentoring.

For example, from the Secondary National Strategy Resources you could use:

There are also many commercially available packages.

Reflecting on your own experience of being mentored/coached

Think of a coaching or mentoring experience that you have had:

  • What did you learn from it?
  • What made it a good experience?
  • What might have made it a better experience?

How will you use coaching and/or mentoring in your department?

Action Research

Listen to the Vox 

Download the latest version of Adobe Flash to listen to this resource.

Note down all the reasons why Action Research can be beneficial in your department
  • What are the benefits to the teachers of undertaking Action Research?
  • What are the benefits to pupils?

Now find out how other teachers have used Action Research

Watch the Teachers TV Action Research video.

Two of the teachers are from primary schools and one is from a secondary school.

What did the teachers in the video do and how did it develop their practice?

How could you use Action Research in your department? 

Doing Action Research

Action research is a term which refers to a practical way of looking at your own work to check that it is as you would like it to be. Because action research is done by practitioners, it is often referred to as practitioner based research; and because it involves thinking about and reflecting on your work, it can also be called a form of self-reflective practice.

Action research is always open ended. It begins with an idea that you develop, that turns into a question of the form How do I …? Or If I …. then …? The research process is the developmental process of following through the idea, seeing how it goes, and continually checking whether it is in line with what you wish to happen. Seen in this way, action research is a form of self-evaluation.

Action research is simply a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162).

The Action Research Cycle

action cycle

More information can be found at Jean McNiff.com

Action Research uses the sequence:

  • reviewing current practice, you could use the monitoring that is part of your day to day practice to do this.
  • identifying an aspect that you want to investigate and asking a research question (Asking the Question Folio 5.4.1)
  • imagining a way forward, work with others to do this.
  • trying it out, and
  • taking stock of what happens and seeking evidence to support what you see as happening (What counts as evidence Folio 5.4.2)
  • modifying what you are doing in the light of what you have found, and continuing working in this new way or trying another option if the new way of working is not right.
  • monitoring what you do,
  • reviewing and evaluating the modified action, (Writing the report Folio 5.4.3)
  • and so on…

Action Research can be used to build your own knowledge about your professional practice, or can be done as a whole department. Realistically you may prefer to try a small project yourself before working as a whole department or you may prefer to start with the support of your colleagues – it's your choice.

Using Action Research
Some departments use Action Research as a whole department
  • What would be the advantages of working in this way?
  • What disadvantages might there be?

You can get support for using Action Research – look at the NCETM and TDA websites.

A few books on Action Research
  • Bell, Judith.(1997) Doing Your Research Project , OUP, Milton Keynes.
  • Hopkins, David (2002) A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Research, OUP Buckingham
  • McNiff, Jean. (1988) Action Research, Principles and Practice, Macmillan Education, London

Many teachers and departments pair up with higher education institutions (HEI) in order to get support in starting Action Research, either through signing up to a Masters Level Degree course or less formal partnerships. It is well worth finding out what is available at your local HEI. Action research builds professional knowledge and confidence so go on, do it!

Carry out an Action Research Project – Use Folio 5.4.4 to start planning

Building a Learning Department

Both Coaching and Action Research are part of building a learning and growing department that provides in the best way that it can for the pupils in its care. They are also part of helping the staff, teachers and teaching assistants, in the department become even more professional, growing in knowledge and self confidence.

Building a Learning Department

Reflect on:
  • What ‘change’ could you use either coaching or action research to accomplish?
  • Would coaching/mentoring or action research be best in this case – why?
  • Make a plan to build an ethos of learning within your department.

 Back to top

5. Reviewing the Module

In completing this module you will have considered:

1. What does change mean?

  • the change literature
  • a consideration of what change means in my context
  • how can change be engineered?

2. What needs to be changed and what innovations are needed?

  • what is a change and what is an innovation?
  • planning to bring about change

3. Deciding where the money is spent

  • know where the money goes
  • budgeting for change

4. The role of Coaching and Action Research in bringing about change

  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Action Research

Each of these sections is intended to add to your knowledge of how to bring about change and innovation in your department.

Review the ideas that you have gained from each of the sections and reflect on which of the sections will make a short term difference to your department and which will add to your long term plans.
 Back to top



Comment on this item  
Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item



There are no comments for this item yet...
Only registered users may comment. Log in to comment