Hacks to making change ‘stick’ in your institution to prepare youth for their futures.  


Our institutions are currently catering for jobs of the 20th century – but we instead want to help prepare our youth for future jobs. Imagine if we have a square block of ice and we want it instead to be the shape of a triangle.

First, we need to unfreeze the square block of ice, and it changes to water.  Then we pour the water into a triangular mold and solidify it by refreezing.

This three-stage process of unfreezing, changing, refreezing model was designed by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. Here’s how you can utilize this model to create and sustain change in your institution:  

1. UNFREEZING – there’s a problem that needs fixing

The goal in the unfreezing stage is to help people see that the current way of doing things is obstructing the organization in some way. There’s a problem. People need to see, understand, and accept that now change is necessary.

Thinking about old behaviors, processes, structures is required to understand how they are limiting desired performances or outcomes and overcome the resistance to change.

Research shows that communication is key in the unfreezing stage, so people know why change is required, when it will be happening, and how it will benefit each employee and the whole organization.

2. CHANGING – adventuring to uncharted waters

Changing is the hardest step. It is a challenge to replace the old ways with something new that people still don’t fully understand.

Many people feel this is the time of great uncertainty as they do not know what the final changes will look like and what it will mean for them and their work. During the actual changing stage, people will still be learning new mindsets, behaviors, and processes that might not feel as comfortable as their old ways.

However, the more prepared the people are during unfreezing, the easier it is for them to move beyond fear and feel excited about the change.  

Leaders should keep in mind that support without pressure to change is essential for success.

3. REFREEZE – sustaining the solutions

Refreeze is when you are familiar with the new way and the comfort returns. Refreezing is also called the institutionalization stage of change - when processes and structures of the organization and behaviors of the people have changed - changes are accepted as the new norm.

Leaders need to pay attention, so people don’t go back to their old ways of thinking or old ways of doing work.

Celebrating implementation of the change with positive rewards and acknowledgment of individual and group effort can emphasize that the new way of doing work is becoming a permanent part of the organization’s culture.

Lewin’s three-step model can be useful to think about regarding changes in the way we teach.

Too often people and even organizations jump straight into step two – the change without knowing why the change is needed. The model reminds us of the importance of thinking about the motivation for change. The examination of why old ways of teaching are not as effective as they need to be for preparing a work-ready student needs to be widely and deeply understood before making any change.

Once we learn about new ways to teach with technology and work-based learning, we must ensure that we have systems that acknowledge and reward efforts to continue with the changed method of teaching.