• Tobias Zimling Kristiansen
4. term, Master of Learning Processes (Continuing education) (Continuing Education Programme (Master))
Recognizing change as a fundamental factor in public as well as private organizations, this thesis examines teachers’ experience and response to organizational changes in primary and lower secondary Danish schools.

The background for this thesis is the Danish public sector’s history with New Public Management in the 1980’s and onwards and a constant effort to limit the growth of the public sector. Public schools were a part of this development, and in 2013 a major conflict between the municipalities (who own the schools) and the teachers’ trade union broke out resulting in a law that altered the teachers’ work conditions significantly. In 2014 a new school law came into effect disregarding the major autonomy teachers were accustomed to, and subsequently many development projects were initiated around the country.

Research shows that a high rate of change can lead to reduced employee satisfaction and resistance to change. This research is primarily based on a management perspective and there is a lack of knowledge about the employee perspective on how changes are experienced, how their reaction is and how a new change process can be constructed.

The pivotal research question (RQ) is How does primary and lower secondary school teachers experience organizational change processes in the workplace, how is their reaction to the change processes, and how can a new change process be constructed?
Answering this RQ is operationalized by three study questions (SQ):

1. How do teachers experience the nature of organisational change and how do teachers respond to them?
2. What change theories characterize the teachers' experience of change processes?
3. What change process preferences do teachers express?

The SQs and the RQ are researched by a constructivist ontology, meaning I recognize that the teachers’ experience with change and feelings exists due to their perception of them. Consequently, I use an eclectic epistemology combining phenomenology and hermeneutics in support of each other.

The period I am studying begins in 2014 and ends in 2020. I examined the SQs by creating empirical material: a survey send out to teachers (n = 77), and a semi structured interview with three teachers. This combination of methods supports the reliability of the research since the two kinds of empirical materials are qualitative and quantitive, respectively, and inform in the general (survey) and specifically (interview).

Regarding the first SQ concerning teachers’ experience with organizational changes and their reaction, the study finds that the teachers proclaim a will to change, and 74 % experience that the change frequency is high. The survey reports the change frequency to 1,06 organizational changes per year in the designated period stated above. Further the teachers responds that they find changes that do not work being initiated top-down, and changes that do work being initiated bottom-up. The teachers’ reaction to the high change frequency corresponds with the literature, by showing change fatigue, change resistance, and uncertainty. This reaction is probably caused by high stress levels due to high change frequency.

The second SQ examines the change theories experienced by the teachers. The teachers’ statements can be interpreted in such a way, that unsuccessful change processes fit rational change theory while successful change processes mimics humanistic change theory.
This leads to the third SQ regarding the teachers’ wishes for a change process. Answering this question, the teachers are clear, that a bottom-up sensemaking change process with a high degree of employee involvement is desirable.

Answering these SQs the conclusion and answer to the RQs last sentence is, that a new process of change should be based on seven specific principles and not as a linear process as organisations are different.

1. Direct participation of relevant employees, as evidence suggests that direct involvement increases the success rate of change processes.
2. Indirect involvement of union representative and MED committees, as this group has a strong network in the organisation.
3. Show respect for teachers' professionalism and professional identity and show scepticism about conceptual change, as teachers note a lack of respect for professionalism.
4. Be clear about the purpose and content of the change process and use practice- friendly terminology as teachers address the lack of relevance.
5. Introduce few change processes, follow them closely till the end, as teachers experience a very high rate of change and that change has a very short lifespan, and work literature is very clear that predictability is a major factor in employee satisfaction.
6. Prioritize the framework conditions for change processes so that teachers and others involved have the time and space to collaborate and carry out the change.
7. Recognize and motivate teachers to participate in strategic development, listen to their suggestions and justify which are applied and which are not.
SpecialisationChange Management and Work Environment
Publication date20 Dec 2021
Number of pages140
ID: 456346937