Former K-12 teacher and administrator
Passions include women’s history and literature, vintage fashion, cats, and travel. She hopes to stamp all 195 countries on the globe in her passport someday.
Change is constant in education policy—right alongside change fatigue. There is no shortage of news about schools adopting new technology, curriculum, or assessment frameworks. Despite the best (and most ambitious) intentions, these initiatives are quickly abandoned, far too often.
As federal and state administrations shift and new research comes out, school leaders race to keep up with trends and purchase or adopt the next best thing. But this ever-swinging pendulum moves at the expense of teacher buy-in and professional training, and the ‘guinea pigs’ of these experiments, our students, can only stand to lose.
Often, the failure of an initiative isn’t a reflection of the tool or strategy itself, but the plan for implementing it.
Change fatigue is defined as “a general sense of apathy or passive resignation towards organizational changes by individuals or teams.” Every time a school or district decides to change a curriculum providers, an assessment system, update a gradebook, or adopt new software (and hardware), teachers are going to get increasingly tired, checked-out, or resistant. This is bad for professional development and damaging to kids.
Mitigate change fatigue in schools with these 4 tips:
With so many stakeholders involved, and with such high stakes, new initiatives led by school and district leaders must be planned with four key things: vision, time, communication, and reflection.
Tip #1: Have a Clear Vision
John Kotter, a leading professor in organizational science, has developed an eight step plan that outlines what is needed to lead change in an organization. We can use this framework as a guide to implementing new technology in schools.
Kotter’s cycle as we apply it to ed-tech begins with leaders working with teams to set a vision for a new initiative, testing solutions, refining your strategy, and implementing full-scale change:
What is your goal for using a new tool or strategy?
You’d be surprised how many school administrators choose curriculum or other education technology based on brilliant sales pitches instead of first developing objectives and goals for seeking new tools.
Just as teachers are asked to set objectives for learning, administrators should know exactly their intended outcomes before moving their whole school community in a new direction.
Tip #2: Be Mindful of Time
Be more intentional in launching organizational change. Do not select a new system or tool in August, roll it out to your whole staff in September, and expect immediate buy-in and impact. Change fatigue most commonly results from sprints: initiatives that aim to cover immediate ground without fully grasping the depth (or distance) of implementation.
- Build a planning committee made up of a diverse range of stakeholders — parents, students, teachers, and administrators will all bring unique perspectives and needs to the process. This will help you develop a clear action plan for which resources and supports your community will need.
- In all likelihood, seeing the results you’re hoping for will take longer than a single school year. Do your research and plan backwards. For example, if you expect all classrooms to effectively adopt 1:1 technology in three school years, you might use year 1 to pilot with a small team of teachers and cull best practices, use year 2 to have successful pilot users train the larger community, and by year 3, your whole community will have had time to train, internalize, and integrate new practices seamlessly into their workflow.
- We can’t emphasize enough the importance of setting aside time for staff training and collaboration when adopting new school-wide practices.
Without space to safely take risks, refine their practice, and learn from each other, teachers will only implement new tools at the surface level—or not at all.
Tip #3: Communicate Effectively
No matter how strong your plan is, if you’re the only one who understands it, it will fail. Ensure that all stakeholders are able to participate through clear and frequent communication.
- Build buy-in and encourage feedback with surveys and town halls. Invite your community to participate in the decision making process, test possible tools, and discuss obstacles to implementation.
- Develop shared language and help everyone get on the same page — keep an ongoing glossary public for all in your community to be able to communicate effectively and ask questions.
When you plan to present your ideas, remember that your audience is hearing this for the first time and may not be as energized as you are. As such, simple and concise presentation of your ideas will be most effective in connecting with the stakeholders.
Tip #4: Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
In some cases, as soon as any data—whether reliable or not—indicates a new plan “isn’t working,” schools tend to abandon ship.
Make space for reflection and fine-tuning to adjust course. Collect diverse sets of data to allow for deep root-cause analysis. Anecdotal information from teachers, student achievement data, and community surveys will all highlight different barriers to success.
Data analysis is an art. It is not black and white. Besides the data itself, you need to consider how the players, environment, technical challenges, and outside issues factored into where you find yourself at this assessment point.
Setting up 1:1 meetings with your staff weekly or bi-weekly in the initial stages will ensure you are keeping up with the pulse of each team member. Come prepared with set questions and areas to address, so that you are gathering the necessary feedback from everyone consistently.
In addition to your 1:1 meetings, use group meetings to discuss the plan’s progress, to reinvigorate the team, and to address general issues. This is helpful in further communicating and clarifying your vision. Use this time to highlight teacher and student success not only to acknowledge growth, but also to help teachers see the impact this integration has had, in the hopes to reinvigorate their interest in the goals at hand.
How do I start?
Despite the possible pitfalls of too much change, at Kiddom, we don’t believe school leaders should shy away from evidence-based, carefully planned initiatives. In fact, we’ve developed specific resources to support this work with educators around the United States. In this excerpt from Blended Learning 101, we offer some considerations for administrators and teachers transitioning to a new teaching and learning model:
- Prepare for internet issues (infrastructure and technology). A reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth are vital.
- On-site IT support and backup plans are critical to buffer schools from the inevitable technology issues.
- Blended learning coordinators played an important role in supporting schools’ adoption of blended learning.
- Establishing productive, self-directed learning cultures is important for students to fully benefit from online learning.
- Single sign-on portals can allow even very young children to quickly access online programs.
- Teachers’ satisfaction with training associated with the adoption of the blended learning model varied by site.
- Determine your technological requirements and constraints. How are you planning to use technology? How prepared are you to take advantage of the technology addition? Do you have enough devices or know how to get more?
- Explore how other educators are implementing blended learning in their classroom and decide what works best for you. There is a video directory of blended learning in action that features different blended learning methods.
- Get excited about enhancing your curriculum! This is an opportunity to hone your craft: you can revive the joy of teaching that can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day. Finding the right tools to support the procedural skill development to allow you to plan engaging projects is an important part of this process. Try not to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel or record countless videos of yourself (unless you absolutely love it).
Blended Learning Initiatives
Were you thinking about adopting blended learning initiatives at your school or district? A successful blended learning program is the intentional integration of educational technology within classrooms to enhance the learning process. Implementation can take many forms.
Use our free resources on blended learning to start planning.
At a typical Kiddom school, hands are in the air, there’s a buzz in the room, and teachers and students are energized. Kiddom was designed to help improve teacher retention and increase student performance and graduation rates.
For the first time, the most important parts of teaching and learning are connected and simplified in Kiddom. Curriculum lives in one place and is easily measured and refined, instruction is personalized to meet the needs of each student, and data serves as a powerful system of support for every member of the learning community to keep students on track.
Giving students a laptop without a plan isn’t blended learning.
Learn the blended learning basics, like which models are best for your classroom, how to implement them and the many ways Kiddom can help you with implementation in our free blended learning guides.
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Using standards to emphasize what students learn over how much work students do.
Understand the basics of standards-based learning with these professional development guides. Learn how Kiddom supports individualized instruction in your classroom with competency-based curriculum.