I hear a lot of talk about schools, principals, and teachers wanting to be innovative. However, I contest, that we must be much more than innovative. Just using the latest teaching strategies or the newest technology does guarantee success. As Adam Bellow says, "Actions speak louder than buzz words."
1. You Explore and Adopt/Reject
I think this first step speaks directly to the Adam Bellow tweet above. There are some amazingly awesome ideas out there when it comes to education. However, we cannot just randomly pick the "flavor of the month", tell our teachers to "do it", and hope for success. We must look at the innovation, whether its a new teaching model, piece of technology, or an app, and explore it to make sure it's the right choice for our students and our school. I am not the first person to say this and I won't be the last, but we have to make sure the things we are implementing will bring us closer to what we are trying to accomplish. I have seen many great websites, apps, and pieces of technology in my job and have instantly thought about how cool it would be to use such a tool in my work. However, when I got over the initial excitement and began to think about it's usefulness, I realized that I was fine without it and it didn't fit the needs of my class. Set goals, and then find the innovation that will bring you closer. Remember, implementation is about "aim".
If you think we run through step 1, then you better not blink or you'll miss the planning stage. We have a tendency to fall in love quickly with the new and then just throw it out there and hope it sticks. Success does not happen by accident, you have to aim for it. When moving from innovation to implementation, the first thing you need to plan for is what and how you are going to assess the success of the innovation. Just like a good teachers decides how they are going to assess what they are teaching BEFORE they teach it, those who are going to introduce something new to a staff must do the same thing. You must decide what it is you are looking for and how you are going to measure for that success. Secondly, you must decide how you are going to support those who are implementing the new concept or tool. Then, once you have decide what you looking for, how you are going to measure it, and how you are going to support it, you plan on how you are going to introduce it. Finally, plan on what the innovation looks like when it is fully implemented. A good teacher wouldn't give his or her students a project without showing them the rubric by which it was going to be graded and giving examples. Design a rubric of innovation that spells out what you are expecting this innovation to look like fully implemented in the classroom. Then stair-step down a few levels to show teachers where they can start and how to build up to full implementation.
I personally believe you must have these things in place before you introduce the innovation to the staff because it will help you get buy in. If the staff see that you and your team have done your homework, picked an innovation that serves a purpose, set a goal, designed adequate tools to measure success, planned to support, and have spelled out what your expectations are along the way, then they are more likely to buy in. Without buy in, I don't care how good the innovation is...it won't work.
With your plan in place, you can now move forward and implement the innovation. This section becomes a lot shorter because you planned well before you got here. When you get to this point, trust the plan and stick to it. We deviate and allow things to slide during the implementation stage if we have not adequately planned. Don't compromise any part of the plan if it's going to undermine the integrity of the innovation. Now I'm not saying you can't make adjustments on the fly, because you certainly can and will. However, there probably won't be any sweeping changes to the plan, if you have adequately planned. Also, be open, honest, and realistic throughout the implementation stage of the innovation. Know when to push ahead and know when to slow down. Putting something new into place is a delicate process and timing is everything. Implementing is not like downloading an update to an app. I don't have to convince my iPad that the latest update to GarageBand is a good idea. However, education is very personal and you can almost always expect to have push back at this stage in the game. Push back is not a negative thing. It's through resistance, that we gain strength.
4. Continuously Improve
I don't care how well you explored, planned, or implemented, nothing is ever perfect the first time through. This is why you planned to assess. This is why you planned to support. This is why you planned to implement. So that while you are working through this process you are making adjustments as needed. Of course, this is also the time where you can decide if the innovation was the wrong choice and go a different direction.
Throughout this blog post I have used the word "you". However, do not think I believe the journey from innovation to implementation occurs just because of the work of one person. Every step of this process must be a team effort. Throughout the process of moving from innovation to implementation I encourage you to include all staff, students, parents, and the community. Great things occur when we when we all work together for a cause greater than ourselves.
Professional development is all about gradual release. When you move from innovation to implementation, that which is innovative becomes an imbedded tool in the teachers' tool-belt. Unfortunately, for too long it has been more like "catch and release". We bring educators into a room, catch their attention with something shiny, and release them into the wild. Gradual release is a longer process that takes patience and dedication, but in the end everyone benefits.