How to Cope with Change
by Andy Howard
and Kristina Kauffman
best laid schemes o' mice and men often go astray" Robert
is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and
unhampered, but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our
way, lost and confused, now and again checked in a blind alley.
But always, if we have fiath, a door will open for us, not perhaps
one that we ourselves would ever have thought of, but one that will
ultimately prove good for us." A.J.
Cronin (1986 - 1981)
years ago most people thought that change would mean more of the
same, only better. That was incremental change and to be welcomed.
Today we know that in many areas of life we cannot guarantee more
of the same...[we] cannot even predict with confidence what will
be happening in our own lives." Charles
The title of this module refers to a "journey"
which is very fitting for this section on coping with change. Since
ancient times, writers have used the metaphor of a journey to describe
a world full of changes. For example, Homer,
the classical Greek poet, describes in vivid images the many changes
Ulysses faced in his decade long journey.
While the reality of
change was recognized by the ancients, the last 30 years of human
history have seen the pace of change accelerate to unprecedented
levels. It is possible to see the events of September
11, 2001 as an attack on the pace of change, and on the very
nature of that change in the modern world. Most people do not rail
against change with such force that they cause wars of violent attacks,
but many of life's conflicts can be seen as a struggle with change,
its scope, its speed and its impact.
Can you recall a time
when you resisted change? Do you have a colleague who is uncomfortable
with the impact of technology? Have you seen a faculty member or
administrator reject necessary changes because they were imposed
by a "higher" authority in the community college system?
It is common to respond to change with fear, particularly when we
confront so many changes everyday.
Colleges are constantly undergoing change. In fact community
colleges may be key to supporting the positive changes in our society.
Beginning a generation ago, these changes included:
- Continued expansion
of access to higher education through open admissions,
affirmative action, outreach to working adults
- Expansion of remedial
and developmental programs to support students underprepared
for college work
- The introduction
of new curricula: black studies, women’s studies, ethnic studies,
global studies, environmental studies, interdisciplinary studies.
In the late 1980s and
1990s changes included:
- Demographic shifts
in the college population ranging from the concern about low
growth or declining enrollments in the 1980s and 1990s, to preparation
for the massive influx of new students (Tidal Wave II) at the
beginning of the 21st century
- Expanded community
- The creation of contract
- A trend away from
a broad liberal arts education, with it a focus on social concerns,
toward an emphasis on career preparation and personal development
- Increased responsiveness
to market demands for graduates with skills in problem-solving,
communications, working in teams, sensitivity to diversity, and
ethical decision making
and a commitment to diversity
- Introduction of writing
across the curriculum
- A large and growing
body of research on college teaching and learning
- Emergence of "faculty
development" and the establishment of support programs and
centers for college teaching and learning
- New instructional
approaches rooted in "active" learning
- New technologies:
media, distance learning, computers, the Internet and World Wide
from providers outside traditional academia, such as University
Changes which began in
the 1990s, but became broadly apparent in the early 21st century,
- Massive retirements
and the corresponding influx of Generation
- The growth of the
assessment movement to measure "outcomes"
- Introduction of systematic
methods to evaluate teaching, including student evaluations
of teaching, teaching portfolios, and peer review
- Paradigm shift
from teaching to learning
- Changes in the training
and socialization of new faculty (including 4faculty.org)
- Renewed concern for
a commitment to civic life, and the corresponding development
of co-curricular community service and academic service-learning
- Students who have
BA degrees returning to the community college for retraining
- The continued expansion
of online learning.
For more on this topic
that Changed Teaching and Learning from which part of this
list was derived.
Community College instructors face three key sources of pressure
needs reflect broad societal trends and the community college
is seen as their hope for training and retraining, as well as
provision of the first two years of a transfer curriculum.
- Their professional
fields are constantly changing, particularly for those who
provide occupational training.
- State legislatures
and other funding agencies demand continued improvements,
accountability and relevance.
can a community college instructor cope with change?
Community college instructors by
necessity must be able to cope with change, move with the times
and be flexible. As "professors" who both create knowledge
and impart it to others, community college instructors also must
question change, validate the necessity for change, and maintain
their intellectual integrity. These are often difficult tasks. Responding
to change not with fear, but instead with reflection and
purposefulness is key to surviving with integrity.
Those who adapt with the least
- Accept that change is inevitable.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus
recognized more than 2000 years ago that nothing is this world
is constant, except for change. Anticipate change and be ready
- Recognize that some change can be a choice.
While the outside world constantly forces change upon us, there
are many areas of our life that we can choose to change.
Choosing not to change can be a conscious, rational choice. It
- to recognize why we choose to reject
- understand fear
- not to be driven by fear.
- Monitor change by examining their
situation and the situations around them. Change can come abruptly,
but more often it occurs over a long period of time. Focus on
ways you can adapt and flourish in the new environment.
- Practice learned optimism and keep
an open mind. What caused the changes? What factors or issues
influenced these changes? Try to see the benefits or the "good
side" of these changes. Don't let fear, doubt, irrational thoughts
and anxiety stop you from having an open mind and a rational outlook.
- While ideas are the power behind change,
significant change comes in behaviors rather than beliefs.
Many people sincerely believe they should lose weight, but they
don't do it. It's the old "put your money where your mouth is"
or the "walk the talk" behavior that evidences change.
Most of us spend far more energy fearing change, resisting change
and thinking about change than actually making change.
outstanding book on change,
Who Moved My Cheese?, has helped thousands cope. Ideas
derived from the book appear in our list.
If you accept the reality of change you can
adapt more quickly, letting go of the old so that you can enjoy
and prosper in the new environment.
- Move with change: be an active participant.
Be in charge. Don't be a passive participant in the changes that
are happening in and around you. Work with the change, not against
- Enjoy change by savoring the adventure.
- Encourage others. Remember, changes
that occur in your life also affect those around you. Do not hinder
other people from moving on because of your resistence. Sometimes,
the best way to deal with the changes happening in your life is
by helping and encouraging other people who may also need to adapt
to that change.
- Learn to adapt to change. Be ready to
quickly change again and again. Accept the change. Change happens
for a reason, and the more quickly you are able to adapt and move
on, the better it will be for you and the people around you.
People who perceive themselves
as being in control of their lives, and to a large extent over the
events in their lives, are among what the psychologist S. C. Kobassa
calls "hardy copers." Hardy copers' have commitment.
They know their values and goals and intend to pursue
them diligently. They know who they are and what they want.
They perceive change as just another hurdle to jump along life's
raceway. They are willing to take responsibility for their
actions and do not blame others for the transitions that
inevitably come into their lives.
Others find relief from their fear
of change in their religious faith. They believe that
God is in charge of their lives and trust that God will guide the
change, give them the strength to cope, and ensure that changes
they perceive as bad eventually work out for some good.
Whatever mechanism you develop
to cope with change, you will find surviving the journey a more
enjoyable and prosperous experience when you have prepared in advance.
We hope that we have helped you to "pack" your toolbox
for an academic career that fulfills your dreams. We encourage
you to envision success.
write and let us know how you cope with the changes in the community
colleges and in your career.
Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org