How understanding controlled disruption and coherence making impacts leadership

I think it is important to define controlled disruption and coherence in order to answer this question. Controlled disruption “displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative” (Howard, 2013). Coherence making “is a neverending proposition that involves alignment, connecting the dots, being clear about how the big picture fits together” (Fullan, Cuttress, & Kilcher, 8 Forces for Leaders of Change, 2005). Understanding disruption and coherence making was key for me when trying to apply the concepts to the changes that are happening at my school.

It has been a tough start to our year at my school. We have a new principal, assistant principal, behavior specialist, attendance secretary, and administrative assistant. On top of that, because of the change in staff, none of our supplies were ordered in the spring. We had to use our budget for this school year to buy the supplies we need to teach. A couple weeks ago, we ran out of copier paper. Our cupboards are all empty and I’m buying my own tape, staplers, cardstock, and other supplies for my classroom. I have heard that teaching is the only profession where you steal from home to stock your classroom. In addition to that, we are also starting the new teacher observation model. We have also been informed that we have to do a “walk to read” and progress monitor all Tier III students weekly. We have not been trained how to do the interventions for our Tier III students and the district is not buying additional resources for schools. There has been a lot of heated discussion about how to implement “walk to read”. As Fullan (2001) wrote, “When change occurs, there will be disturbances, and this means that there will be differences of opinion that must be reconciled. Effective leadership means guiding people through the differences and, indeed, enabling differences to surface.” One of our team members flat out refused to do a “walk to read”. She was so adamant that we decided to do a push in, even though it may prove to be more difficult for new teachers because we are essentially teaching small groups of students at the above level, on level, below level, Tier II, and Tier III in our classroom at the same time with the help of two RTI tutors. As a new teacher, I find wrapping my head around what it will “look” like in my classroom extremely stressful.

I think this is where having a shared moral purpose is key for our school, especially for our principal as she leads us. “Leading with moral purpose means having a commitment to making a difference in the lives and outcomes of students as a result of their experiences at school” (Bezzina, n.d.). We are all there for our students and we are committed to giving them a quality education. This is what unites us and helps us get through the frustration we are having at some of the changes we have had to endure this year.

For me, personally, I find that I can better appreciate what my principal is going through this year because I understand controlled disruption and coherence making. I can also lead my mentee through the changes by educating her on the concepts. Making sure we both focus on our shared moral purpose can make the process easier.


Bezzina, M. (n.d.). Moral purpose and shared leadership. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Educational Leaders:

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fullan, M., Cuttress, C., & Kilcher, A. (2005). 8 Forces for Leaders of Change. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from National Staff Development Council:

Howard, C. (2013, March 27). Disruption Vs. Innovation: What’s The Difference? Retrieved November 19, 2015, from Forbes:


4 thoughts on “How understanding controlled disruption and coherence making impacts leadership

  1. Wow Cherie, it sounds like you are dealing with a lot changes. I can’t believe that you ran out of copier paper! My school has been through “walk to read” model and progress monitoring change. If you ever have questions or need ideas I can try to help. Its great that you can remain positive with so much change.


    1. Cynthia, you are always so encouraging. Thank you! I really did want to try the “walk to read” model, but I was out voiced. I try to stay positive. It is not always easy. This class has helped me understand my frustrations and the changes in our school. I see that we are going through major changes, especially with our leadership. It really has helped me keep things in perspective.


  2. My school is in the similar situation: I’m the new K-1 Teacher, we got all new staff for secondary, we moved into a new school, new teacher observations, and new curriculum. I did a “walk to read” last year. The school’s reading specialist placed all the students in their reading grade level based on their Reading Mastery fluency tests, or AIMS tests (I forgot which one). Reading Mastery is our districts reading/language arts curriculum. If students were reading a certain number of words per minute, they were placed in that reading grade level i.e. a fourth grade student might walk to the fifth grade class for reading. This worked because all classes had the same reading time; in fact I think administration set up all teachers’ schedules. I think walk to read only works if you have so many students at different levels. Keep up the hard work Cherie!


  3. I thought walk to read would work great for us because we have 5 first grade teachers and we had additional support of RTI tutors being given to us. I’ve never been afraid to try new things, but others are and I’m trying to keep that in mind. It isn’t all about me, but it shouldn’t be all about the other teacher either. Ultimately, it should be about what is best for all our students. I see that you have gone through a lot of changes too. I’m smiling as I write this because it seems that we all go through changes and frustrations, but helps to know that I’m not alone. Are you doing walk to read this year or something else? I’m curious about what other schools are doing.


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