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You are here arrow Home arrow Resources arrow Publications arrow Resistant Teachers can be a Real Challenge for Professional Developers

Resistant Teachers can be a Real Challenge for Professional Developers

by Barbara Bray

From the Professional Development Desk
CUE Newsletter March/April 2000

You can probably see the face of the teacher I am writing about: the one who rolls his or her eyes when you mention technology or the one who gives you every reason why technology will not work nor make a difference. These teachers can no longer say that technology is just a fad. Technology is not going away. As a professional developer, you may be given the task to support all the teachers at your site and build their proficiency levels for technology use. The district may have mandated teachers to use computers with their students. What do you do with the teachers that resist any support or fight using technology? No, it's not realistic to say get rid of them, even if you want to. Just because they do not use technology does not mean they are not good teachers. Resistance is mostly because of fear of any change. Many teachers are busy with their daily routines and can find any excuse when asked to add something new. "Why change what is working?" Many teachers find that it is easier to maintain the status quo; with what has been comfortable. Some teachers are afraid of taking any risk and exposing themselves as lacking skills especially in front of their students.

This fear of change can be categorized into three levels of resistance as stated by Rick Maurer(1):

Level One: "Resistance to any Use of Technology."
These teachers do not understand what the administration is trying to accomplish, or if the school realizes how much technology will cost in time or money. They have their own ideas about what the school should do, like the status quo, and believe the timing is wrong. Their main concern may just be afraid of letting others know what they don't know.

Level Two: "Deeper than the use of technology."
These teachers believe the administration has made promises before which they did not keep. They are afraid that technology use is really the start of something deeper and fear if they do not use technology, they will no longer be included as "in." Actually, many of these teachers may be worn out by taking on so many changes all at once and may not be completely opposed to using technology.

Level Three: "Deeply embedded resistance."
These teachers may have deeply entrenched distrust over many years. They fight anything the administration is supporting because values differ from what teachers want and what administration is proposing. One of the best ways to assure success is to have all the teachers vote on supporting the staff development program before you begin. The California Digital High School grant process will not start unless a majority of the teachers agree to participate. After the vote you may have 15% who do not want to participate. Is this acceptable? What happens to the children in their classrooms? We need to work with as many teachers as we can, even the most resistant, for our children's sake.

Every teacher has their own learning style and situation with different opportunities and challenges. As professional developers, we need to employ a variety of techniques and resources. We need to build a team onsite to support teachers in their classroom. Every teacher has to have a way of voicing their opinion on how technology works with their curriculum. If they join a study group of four or five arranged either by grade, subject, or project, teachers will mutually support one another. Hopefully, if the focus in each group is relevant to what they are teaching, everyone wins.

Below are some strategies for a successful technology professional development program that supports all your teachers:

  • Create a library of resources with examples of lessons and support material.
  • Build a support team of mentors or coaches who can visit each teacher's classroom to plan and model a lesson using technology, provide support with classroom management issues, and give ideas of assessment.
  • Please refrain from judgment.
  • Listen to their needs carefully.
  • Do not touch the mouse.
  • Explain everything.
  • Be sensitive to each learner and provide acceptance for their beliefs.
  • Realize that change takes time and is different for everyone.

Resistance comes in many forms and can become overwhelming for us as staff developers. Use the three levels to identify who you are working with and approach each teacher with what will work for them. One teacher may like manuals, so provide extra copies of all the manuals for this teacher. Another teacher may need handholding and will need more of your time. So be it. This is what the job is all about. Grit your teeth and keep smiling! When that one teacher you thought you could never reach comes to you with a project their students created with technology, it will be worth it.


Maurer, Rick. Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Unconventional Strategies that Build Support for Change. Bard & Stephen. 1995

Richardson, Joan. Dealing with Resisters Biggest Challenge for Staff Developers. National Staff Development Council (NSDC). 1997.

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