Four tips for successful school initiatives.
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.
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.
Have a Clear Vision
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
1. Prepare for internet issues (infrastructure and technology). A reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth are vital.
2. On-site IT support and backup plans are critical to buffer schools from the inevitable technology issues.
3. Blended learning coordinators played an important role in supporting schools’ adoption of blended learning.
4. Establishing productive, self-directed learning cultures is important for students to fully benefit from online learning.
5. Single sign-on portals can allow even very young children to quickly access online programs.
6. Teachers’ satisfaction with training associated with the adoption of the blended learning model varied by site.
1. 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?
2. 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.
3. 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.
Blended Learning 102 (above) provides a comprehensive look at the most effective models.
Interested in learning more about how Kiddom’s tools are supporting teachers? Book a short 1:1 walkthrough. The tools are free, so we’ll leave out the sales pitch.