I was part of a group of people who brought major changes to my school district. We implemented a 1 to 1 program in grades 4-12 and are working to change instruction and assessment across the board, while maintaining rigor and expanding opportunities for students. This would have never happened were it not for the change agents within our school. The list provided by George Couros is excellent, but I would like to offer a few amendments.
5 Characteristics of a Change Agent: "In my work through school and organization visits, I have been fascinated to see the correlation between the speed of change and an individual who is “leading” the charge. The schools that have someone (or a group of people) helping to push the boundaries of what can be done in schools seem to move a lot quicker with a larger amount of “buy-in” through the process..."
"Below is a list of what I have seen consistently."
1. Clear Vision – As mentioned above, a “change agent” does not have to be the person in authority, but they do however have to have a clear vision and be able to communicate that clearly with others... It is essential to note that a clear vision does not mean that there is one way to do things...
2. Patient yet persistent – To have sustainable change that is meaningful to people, it is something that they will have to embrace and see importance. Most people need to experience something before they really understand that, and that is especially true in schools... change agents just help to make sure that people are moving ahead.
3. Asks tough questions – It would be easy for someone to come in and tell you how things should be, but again that is someone else’s solution... Asking questions focusing on, “What is best for kids?”, and helping people come to their own conclusions based on their experience is when you will see people have ownership in what they are doing. Keep asking questions to help people think, don’t alleviate that by telling them what to do.
4. Knowledgeable and leads by example – Stephen Covey talked about the notion that leaders have “character and credibility”; they are not just seen as good people but that they are also knowledgeable in what they are speaking about... If you want to create “change”, you have to not only be able to articulate what that looks like, but show it to others...
5. Strong relationships built on trust – All of the above, means nothing if you do not have solid relationships with the people that you serve. People will not want to grow if they do not trust the person that is pushing the change...
"...positive change is not reserved to be the responsibility of any position... I can think of many people that I have encountered who have helped pushed their organizations ahead that have no formal “authority” over any individual... some of them do it in spite of their principal or superintendent and often feel that they are in constant conflict..."
6. Willing to challenge conventional thinking -- Change can never happen unless we have someone who is willing to think outside conventional wisdom. This goes with 'asking tough questions', but the difference is important. Traditions must be challenged, routines should be questioned. Are we doing this, because it is what is best for kids in this day and age or because this is the way we have always done it? I say question everything. Often change means glueing a new idea to an old one, but rarely do we evaluate the entire substructure and foundation and consider rebuilding from ground zero.
7. Draws knowledge from a diverse PLN -- I don't know how an agent of change could have the knowledge and inspiration without being plugged into multiple social networks that help them maintain a diverse professional learning network. A PLN dramatically expands the vistas of possibility. My list of blogs in Reader, Twitter community, and other smaller communities in other social networks inspire and motivate me daily, e.g., George Couros.
8. Works overtime -- Change agents don't work from 8-3. They are driven by passion, and that often means they never "stop working". They reflect on their lessons all day, they think of new class activities at home, they listen to education podcasts when they have time, they participate in Twitter chats, they answer emails until they go to bed, they "talk shop" with teachers and non-teachers, and they read. They read a lot. Change never comes easy, and it will never happen during school hours only.
What else can we add it this list?