Knoster’s Model of Change

In a learning institution such as a school, we face many changes as we learn more about teaching and learning, as we gain insight about the genius each of our students brings to our community, and as we collaborate to find adaptive solutions to our puzzles of practice. In this post, I want to describe a model we have used in my school district to reflect on change and strive to support teachers as we engage in change processes. This model, developed by Hendrik Knoster, is called the Knoster Model.

The Knoster Model describes Five Stages of Managing Change. During all of the stages described below, an intentional focus is placed on communication so that participants understand the why, the what, and how they will be supported.

  1. Unfreeze: With key stakeholders, we examine the current state in order to know what particular change is needed. Key stakeholders give insight and a variety of perspectives. In addition, they are leaders as information and strategies are dispersed across the system.
  2. Change: We implement the change, constantly gathering feedback and input on:
      • Do people understand the change?
      • Do people have the skills to engage in implementing the change?
  3. Refreeze: So that the change isn’t just another initiative that comes and goes, we need to sustain the change with support and systems that enable it to become a part of what we do over time.
  4. Refreeze: We measure the impact of the change; is it giving the intended results or do we need to adjust to improve? In a school system, impact can be measured by looking at student data but also should incorporate teacher feedback and feedback from families.
  5. Refreeze: The change becomes part of the system’s culture, the way we do things day to day. Knoster’s model considers this the final stage, however I feel it is embedded in the other stages in order that people see the “why” of the change. The more we can show how a change is connected to our needed change and to our values, the more people will see the importance of the change.

The Knoster Model describes five components that need to be in place for people to implement change effectively. Throughout the change process, we can examine these components to assess whether they are present, knowing that each person or team may need something different from the components. This helps us lead change with the needs of participants in mind. The components include:

  • Vision: Do people understand the change, why change is needed, and what success will look like? In my school district we call this the “compelling why” and we recognize that the more clear the vision, the more coherence there is in the system.
  • Skills: Do people have the skills needed? If not, how will we support them in job-embedded ways, such as coaching, training, co-teaching, etc.? Skills may include areas of pedagogy, assessment literacy, collaboration skills, or other areas that influence teaching and learning.
  • Motivation: Is there a belief that the change is needed? Are people excited and engaged in the change?
  • Resources: Are the resources easy to access and easy to use? This includes materials and resources such as co-teachers and coaches as well as scaffolds or on-ramps to learning.
  • Action Plan: Is the plan clear to people so they know the steps and the process involved? How are people involved in setting their own action plans, within the context of their classroom or students? The more we see the action plan in our day to day, the more we feel a sense of agency.

If a component is missing, it can lead to a false start, frustration, resistance, anxiety, or confusion.

Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change – A Complete Guide


We know that change is constant in systems striving to improve. Leaders need to constantly reflect on the communication and processes around new strategies… and most importantly, leaders need to observe and seek feedback from those impacted by change to ensure they are offering systems of support that are responsive.


Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change – A Complete Guide