This case study shows how the content of a change initiative can be used to predict the extent to which this initiative will activate the learning process of employees and, consequently, cause them to change their working methods. The object of this case study is a school for secondary education in The Netherlands. Its management team wants to improve school results and has formulated the content of the change as an elaboration of the ideology of professionalism. Both the change content and the employees’ cognitions are analysed by means of a mixed-method approach that is based on notions and techniques of cognitive anthropology. The results show that the envisioned change lacks cognitive relevance, as a result of which a change of working practice is not likely to occur, a conclusion that is claimed to be valid for organisational change processes more generally. This paper concludes that an analysis of the cognitive relevance of the content of a change enhances the quality of the predictions of success or failure of organisational change in concrete cases, and can be used alongside more conventional change approaches that focus on processual factors.
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- Cognitive anthropology
- Educational change
- Organisational change
- Working practices