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Lewin’s Model of Force Field Analysis and Higher Education


In education, as it is in many fields, the ability to cope with rapid changes is essential for sustained success. Throughout the years, higher education has been capable of making effective changes. However, there are several areas in different colleges, institutes, and universities, including the University of Rookies that still face difficulties as it pertains to coping with the contemporary aspects associated with the 21st century. Force field analysis (FFA) is a decision-making tool that was developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the mid-20th century. FFA is a practical tool in analyzing the forces against change in addition to supporting informed decision-making. The Lewin’s model of force field analysis includes three stages; unfreezing, change or transition, and the freezing. The three phases were created to ensure successful change. Due to the challenges and issues associated with teaching and learning in higher education, it is necessary to refer to the Lewin’s model of force field analysis to facilitate effective decision making and subsequently better educational outcomes.

According to Chan (2016), whether it is kindergarten or institutions of higher learning, the education environment is continually changing. Change in higher education is no longer defined in centuries, but rather it is now measured in years, months, days, and even moments as such pinpointing on how fast-paced contemporary education is. It is essential to recognize that higher education is in a unique industry since it has to take into account several government guidelines, globalization, contemporary demands in the 21st-century workforce, among other aspects. Therefore, it is necessary for school organizations to adapt forces that not only understand but also support the unique nature of the educational system in efforts of remaining relevant and practical (Chan, 2016). The current system of higher education is a market-driven commodity that is characterized by competition and diversification. Indeed, in ways that remain unprecedented, the 21st century higher education system in the USA is forced to respond to burgeoning knowledge and demands of different stakeholders (Jung, Park, & Ahn, 2019). For instance, the technological advancements of the 21st century have shaped students in University of Rookies to expect immediate access to learning and feedback from their instructors.

The FFA postulates that changes are affected by the different driving and restraining forces. The model argues that it only through understanding the driving forces behind the change and the restraining effects to that particular change can school administrators and by extension, management bring about change in the institution (Swanson & Creed, 2014). The theory is grounded on the premise that to be adequately understood the decision and therefore, individual behavior must be evaluated within its associated context. It is asserted that each system that is not currently in a state of equilibrium is seeking to establish equilibrium. According to Lewin, equilibrium is the balance between opposing and restraining forces (Aziz, Muda, Ibrahim, & Masor, 2017). Lewin identifies three stages to the dynamic change process, the unfreezing, forming or transmission, and the freezing stage. The model asserts that it is necessary for old habits to be unfrozen to facilitate experimentation with new practices, the first stage, referred to as the unfreezing (Cummings, Bridgman, & Brown, 2015). The second stage, which Lewis describes as the forming or movement for the establishment of new equilibrium lays the foundation for new habits prior to the third stage known as the freezing.

The core challenges associated with higher Learning is that change in entirety is cumbersome. The unfreezing in Lewin’s model of change is understood in three broad categories, disconfirmation, induction of guilt or survival anxiety, and learning anxiety. In higher education, the unfreezing process is somewhat tricky since schooling is essentially a loosely coupled system that is characterized by shared decision making and goal ambiguity. Indeed, the objectives of higher education are divergent, the power can be defined as diffuse, and many of the leadership roles are shared (Wood, 2017). Disconfirmation occurs as a result of dissatisfaction or frustration associated with extensive research. The dissatisfaction creates an imbalance in the previously established equilibrium (Cummings, Bridgman, & Brown, 2015).

However, there is a lack of sufficient organization coherence to support the idea of change since when discomfort occurs; it is necessary for different departments to be informed or in some cases convinced to accept the dissatisfying outcomes. After convincing various departments on the necessity of better educational results, it is necessary to respond as such triggering the survival anxiety. The survival anxiety makes stakeholders in higher education believe that without change, the entire education system will collapse on the grounds of failing to meet the needs and the goals of the society. It is in response to the survival anxiety that the learning anxiety occurs, which prompts the different entities in higher education to consider which changes are necessary (Wood, 2017). It is essential to acknowledge the difficulties of a grounded structure are particularly evident in efforts of implementing significant changes in an organization. Additionally, the interdependent nature of higher education departmental and divisional structures illustrates that there is a risk for mixed and multiple messages as it relates to change, which makes the first stage rather tricky.

The desire to create positive change is what will transition stakeholders in higher education, which Lewin’s describes as the reforming stage. Successful reforms in teaching and learning approaches in this model is grounded on creating sufficient psychological safety to ensure the different stakeholders accept the information associated with the proposed new behavior which paves the way for survival anxiety which in return motivates change (Aziz, Muda, Ibrahim, & Masor, 2017). The cognitive restructuring and the expected results associated with new techniques of teaching and learning are the dominant characteristics of the third stage in Lewin’s model of change known as the freezing.

Previously, education and the ideals it embodied focused on creating and facilitating the idea of the “perfect citizenry”, in later centuries, the objective of schooling to ensuring individuals are well-trained. However, in recent years, education, particularly education in institutions of higher learning, the ideal is creativity. The current educational systems focus on the capacity to learn in addition to supporting and building a character with a lifelong willingness to face new things and modify the academic expectations accordingly. The current system of teaching and learning emphasizes re-learning and the revision of expectations (Jung, Park, & Ahn, 2019). To ensure stakeholders in higher learning education embrace a system of knowledge delivery that values the importance of creativity and change rather than being structured on the demands of the workforce at the time of knowledge delivery, it is necessary for specific changes. Indeed, in contemporary society, which is driven by rapid paced technological developments, education is lifelong rather than sporadic.

The current needs of the society illustrate that it is necessary to view the world and by extension, education in a new way. Higher education institutions such as Rookies University have in the past demonstrated their essential role in introducing change in addition to facilitating progress in society. University of Rookies is facing different issues grounded on the demands of the 21st century, including but not limited to changes in universities as institutions such as the level of internal organization and changes in knowledge creation techniques. Moreover, there are problems in altering education models, the issues associated with importance and the necessity of embracing the potential of information and communication technologies not only in the creation but also in the dissemination of knowledge and changes in social responsibility and knowledge transfer.

According to Lewin, the first stage of the stage is the unfreezing, which is characterized by disconfirmation, survival anxiety, and learning anxiety. Recent research has showcased the importance and the necessity of shifting teaching and learning techniques associated with the higher education from the previous methods grounded on workforce demands at the time of training to adopt systems that emphasize lifelong learning (Jung, Park, & Ahn, 2019). The extensiveness of research that ascertains higher education has to shift approaches to keep pace with the demands of the society in the mid-21st century has created some level of dissatisfaction among various stakeholders in Rookies University.

Notably, the school administration and the faculty are dissatisfied with the current techniques. The discontent has so far created anxiety that the institution will fail in its mission to ensure both personal and social qualities in knowledge dissemination. The survival anxiety has resulted to learning anxiety where the university is endeavoring to embrace interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches, learning techniques that facilitate the development of critical and creative thinking, and maximizing the potential of information and communication technologies (Cummings, Bridgman, & Brown, 2015). The current changes in Rookies University illustrate the institution is moving from the first stage of the Lewin’s FFA towards the second stage known as the reforming. The reforming stage focuses on the changes will eventually become the norm in the society, therefore, leading up to the final stage known as the freezing stage.

Strategy for Change

Organizational change in higher education, particularly in Rookies University must be empowered by vision, collaboration through new competencies in addition to the consistent implementation of skills that create unique strategies for the successful implementation of change (Swanson & Creed, 2014). From the above analysis of the Rookies University, it is deductible that the challenges to the successful implementation of change are grounded on developing and sustaining new techniques of perceiving, deciding and acting rather than focusing on the mere aspect of planning and implementing. Therefore, the current strategy emphasizes that successful changes in systems and techniques of teaching and learning are about embracing the idea of learning collectively so that adverse institutional consequences are averted and as such support the aspect of achieving the desired outcomes. Learning collectively entails rigorous inquiry, open communication channels among the stakeholders in addition to openness in analyzing and criticizing all aspects of the institution.

Specifically, the administration in Rookies University must strategically engage in visioning to varying degrees as warranted by the unique requirements for the successful implementation of different changes associated with the 21st century. For effectiveness, the administrators’ visioning must be crafted and grounded within the contextual understanding of the different systems that higher education ascribes to. Apart from the administration and the senior leaders in Rookies University, it is important for the changes to be effectively communicated and embraced by the members of the faculty. Therefore, or change to be complete in the Rookies University, it is necessary for the school administration, the faculty and the students to improve the management of resources in addition to restructuring the systems to allow for internal democracy. Additionally, the institution should effectively implement interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches in addition to embracing changes in education models to champion teaching and learning techniques that develop critical and creative thinking. Additionally, University of Rookies should ensure social responsibility aspects in endeavoring for knowledge transfer.


Lewin’s model for change, as illustrated in the force field analysis, emphasizes the importance of balance. The model argues that certain restraining or facilitating forces often affect the balance. There are three stages of change according to the model, the unfreezing, the reforming, and the freezing. Rookies University needs to and is currently working on some changes to keep pace with the demands and the needs of contemporary society. The unfreezing occurred due to dissatisfaction with the current educational outcomes, and the reforming is grounded on extensive research not only on current satisfactory results but also on future trends in education, therefore, paving the way for the freezing stage. The current changes in Rookies University are grounded on the perception that education has the responsibility of developing an individual in addition to championing social qualities.


Aziz, N., Muda, M. S., Ibrahim, M. Y., & Masor, N. R. (2017). The Application of Kurt Lewin’s Model of Change in the Implementation of Higher Order Thinking Skills in School. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 109-116.

Chan, R. Y. (2016). Understanding the purpose of higher education: An analysis of the economic and social benefit for completing a college degree. JEPPA, 6(5), 1-41.

Cummings, S., Bridgman, T., & Brown, K. G. (2015). Unfreezing change as three steps: Rethinking Kurt Lewin’s legacy for change management. Human Relations.

Jung, Y., Park, K., & Ahn, J. (2019). Sustainability in higher education: Perceptions of social responsibility among university students. Social Sciences, 1-14.

Swanson, D. J., & Creed, A. S. (2014). Sharpening the focus of force field analysis. Journal of Change Management, 14(1), 28-47.

Wood, P., (2017). Overcoming the problem of embedding change in educational organizations: A perspective from the normalization process theory. Management in Education.


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