Too Many Dips in the Road?

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j-curve by Rasmus Pank Roulund

I’ve been thinking a lot about what proponents of educational change, and I guess that is all of us, call the implementation dip.  Michael Fullan points to the implementation dip as one of the key factors that leaders need to recognize when bringing positive change to their schools.  Simply put, while one might have high hopes for change bringing quick improvement in student learning, things often seem worse after change is introduced.  Change is hard, teachers and principals feel disheartened when the positive effects they had hoped for do not materialize.  Fullan argues that leaders need to roll up their sleeves and help teachers get through the implementation dip.

This makes sense, but how many dips can any group of teachers work through?  I argue that there are multiple yearly implementation dips that come from the many large and small changes that teachers face each year.  Big changes like introducing a new curriculum bring dips for sure.  But it is easy to look past the many small changes that bring dips as well.  Introducing a new e-mail system, changing the size of middle school classes or reducing the staffing in the main office are all examples of smaller changes that can bring implementation dips of their own.  So how many changes are too many?  How long before the “road” becomes too bumpy for all of us to travel on?  School leaders need to be aware that the more dips their teachers experience, the more they must roll up their sleeves and help.

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