EDEV_506 Week 9 Initial Post

The final discussion of the module centred on aspects of an organisation that impede or promote change.

The IU entrance exam booklet is printed on thin, yellow paper, giving an old-fashioned and highly conservative visual impression. Various layout aspects can be changed to improve readability, enhance engagement with the text and demonstrate a level of professionalism commensurate with that of an elite twenty-first century institution. However, implementing change in this seemingly simple example involves the agreement of multiple stakeholders and offers a useful chance to investigate the inter-operations at IU and how those characteristics promote or inhibit the change process.

A distinction needs to be drawn between dis/incentives for and limitations of change. Dis/incentives refer to the punishments and benefits of change (Morrill, 2007). Increasing funding or generating more prestige for particular activities promotes incentives (Pinnow, 2011), while disincentives to change include assessment policies that encourage current practices because the lack of effort spent in performing them is recorded negatively (Laureate Education, 2012b). Limitations refer to the organisational structures that impedes change (Kezar, 2005; Laureate Education, 2012a). At IU, both forms of impediment can be identified.

The quality of Japanese undergraduate instruction ranks lower to the high-school student than the prestige of the university (Yamada, 2014). The outcome of the harshly competitive gakureiki shakai (academic history society) culture of Japan is that the university entrance exam is the ultimate focus of students, not the graduate degree (Cutts, 1997; Sugimoto, 2014). The upshot of this is that universities are judged by the quality of their entrance exams. All national universities have their papers published, and any perceived errors are severely criticised in the press (Sugimoto, 2014). The stress associated with the production of these papers is well-known (Aspinall, 2015).

Three types of disincentive impede change to an entrance exam paper: reputational damage, a fear felt by each department, engendering a fractal-like conjoining of organisational hierarchies through a similarly held symbolic meaning of threat (Gialamas, Pelonis, & Medeiros, 2014); continuity disincentives, i.e. if a new type of question relies on specialist knowledge and that staff member leaves the institution, the question needs to be abandoned, causing embarrassment to the institution. The historical context plays a role in disincentivising change (Middlehurst, 2008); and end user concerns. The knock-on effects (Brown, 2014) to the high-school principal, often the most vocal critic of institutions, needs to be considered, including the level of the test, necessary teacher preparation, thematic issues and physical accessibility of the paper itself.

Structural limitations arise from horizontally distributed leadership operations that promote silo mentalities. Although many argue for distributed leadership and a less hierarchical horizontal management approach (Bolden, 2011; Jäppinen, 2014; Jones, Lefoe, Harvey, & Ryland, 2012; Kezar, 2005; Kezar & Carducci, 2007; Supovitz & Tognatta, 2013), without a clearly defined, consensual negotiation process, silo walls retain the segmented individual cultures and encourage idiosyncratic interpretations of the institute mission. Figure 1 describes this non-porous wall in IU.

 Non-porous wall

Figure 1. Admissions and Faculty silos not communicating

The cross-fertilisation of communication shown in Figure 2 remains elusive and serves as a reminder that, while changing the technical specifications on an exam paper is relatively easy to envisage, changing the culture required to implement the change is not (Brown, 2014). For real change to be made at IU, both the disincentives and the structural limitations need to be addressed (Laureate Education, 2012b).

Communicating silos

Figure 2. Admissions and Faculty silos breaking the communication wall


Aspinall, R. W. (2015). Society. In J. D. Babb (Ed.), The Sage handbook of modern Japanese studies (pp. 213–228). Sage Publications.

Bolden, R. (2011). Distributed leadership in organizations: A review of theory and research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13(3), 251–269. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2370.2011.00306.x

Brown, S. (2014). You can’t always get what you want: change management in higher education. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 31(4), 208–216. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/CWIS-11-2013-0062

Cutts, R. L. (1997). An empire of schools: Japan’s universities and the moulding of a national power elite. Armonk: M. E. Sharpe.

Gialamas, S., Pelonis, P., & Medeiros, S. (2014). “Metamorphosis”: A Collaborative Leadership Model to Promote Educational Change.International Journal Of Progressive Education, 10(1), 73–83.

Jäppinen, A.-K. (2014). Collaborative Educational Leadership: The Emergence of Human Interactional Sense-Making Process as a Complex System. Complicity, 11(2), 65–85.

Jones, S., Lefoe, G., Harvey, M., & Ryland, K. (2012). Distributed leadership: a collaborative framework for academics, executives and professionals in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(1), 67–78. http://doi.org/10.1080/1360080X.2012.642334

Kezar, A. J. (2005). What campuses need to know about organizational learning and the learning organization. New Directions for Higher Education, 2005(131), 7–22.

Kezar, A. J., & Carducci, R. (2007). Cultivating Revolutionary Educational Leaders: Translating Emerging Theories into Action. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 2(1), 1–46. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ958810

Laureate Education. (2012a). Leading for Collaboration. [Video], Laureate Education Inc.

Laureate Education. (2012b). Sustaining innovation. [Video], Laureate Education Inc.

Middlehurst, R. (2008). Not enough science or not enough learning? Exploring the gaps between leadership theory and practice. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), 322–339. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2008.00397.x

Morrill, R. L. (2007). Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities. Lanham: Rowman & LittlefieldPublishers, INC. and the American Council on Education.

Pinnow, D. F. (2011). Leadership: What Really Matters: A Handbook on Systemic Leadership. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.http://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Sugimoto, Y. (2014). An Introduction to Japanese Society, Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.http://doi.org/10.1080/03637756509375425

Supovitz, J. A., & Tognatta, N. (2013). The Impact of Distributed Leadership on Collaborative Team Decision Making. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 12(June), 101–121. http://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2013.810274

Yamada, R. (2014). Measuring quality of undergraduate education in Japan. Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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