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When Change Is Necessary, Implementation Is Everything

Education is the fastest-changing, slowest progressing profession. Lots of great ideas get tossed around after research has been done and leaders determine which ones to make a focus based on perceived need.

Many of these good ideas even change into educational initiatives dispersed with the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, even the best ideas are doomed to fail if they aren't implemented in a meaningful and systematic way that works for the people involved.

Big change is often hard for many people and thrusting mandates at folks who aren't ready to adjust doesn't endear them to the ideas (no matter how good the ideas are). Rather than force important changes on educators, why not implement a beta team or a pilot program with early adopters before implementing them in a whole school or system all at once?

Although I am the kind of person who thrives on change, despite an initial trepidation or fear of doing it wrong, I don't believe many enjoy the risk-taking as a usual practice. It's not because they don't want to change, they are just fearful of what they don't know; they want answers that aren't available yet.

A pilot program can alleviate these problems.

Consider this as a possible implementation plan:

  • A new idea that is necessary for growth comes down the pike

  • Initial research is shared as well as the rationale for its implementation

  • Put an open call out to staff for those who are interested in participating in a new opportunity

  • Make the stakes low and encourage, but don't mandate participation

  • Put early adopters into a committee and introduce the idea

  • Roll the idea out to each of the classes in a uniform way and make sure parents are notified

  • Hold a meeting for parents with questions and be prepared to explain why the change is happening

  • Allow the committee to make decisions about the rollout and then with the continued experience, revise the policy as they go

  • Encourage the committee to take risks and then discuss what worked and what didn't work and try to understand why in both capacities.

  • Continue to update the policy and meet regularly until the end of the year.

  • In June, add all data from the year, revise the working document to a final document, and then share with the staff BEFORE they leave for summer break.

  • Give the staff time to digest what will change in the fall and offer professional learning opportunities during the summer so teachers feel supported.

  • Come September, review the policy and get ready to implement it school-wide in a uniform and streamlined fashion.

  • Continue to have the original committee meet and function as a support team to the rest of the school.

Implementation is a huge part of why initiatives succeed or fail. Rather than set a good idea up for failure, why not plan ahead and ensure its success.

What do you feel is the best implementation method of school-wide change? I'd love to hear your thoughts

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in September 2015


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