Have you ever implemented (what you thought was) really good professional learning only to find the implementation rate to be less than what you expected? I’m guessing you took the time to either create the professional learning (or find someone who could do a better job than you at doing so), you made sure the teachers were ready to receive the information, and you even communicated some clear expectations regarding implementation. So, what went wrong? WHY does this happen?
As I reflect on the answer to this question, I am led to three terms:
Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions.
Those three terms describe the three facets when implementing the InTASC standards. Those standards define what a teacher should know and be able to do in order to implement the Common Core. The Standard is stated and then, three things are described in order to implement the standard:
-The knowledge the teacher needs to acquire,
-The skills the teacher should demonstrate, and
-The disposition/s the teacher should possess.
As you consider the last professional learning initiative you implemented, those who are early adopters probably demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to implement the change. Those who are struggling with the initiative probably demonstrated two out of the three, and those who barely dipped their big toe into the implementation lake most likely demonstrated one of the three.
Change is a process. Typically, professional learning sessions focus on the knowledge and skills pieces. We tell teachers what they should know and what they should do or the skills they should demonstrate as a result of the professional learning or often we ask teachers to figure this out on their own so they acquire a sense of ownership related to the initiative.
When it comes to the disposition piece, that’s where we fall short.
When a teacher lacks knowledge (or understanding) and skills, we can always provide additional resources and support to remedy that challenge.
What about the teacher whose disposition prevents them from adopting a new practice? Have you considered how this can be prevented?
I recommend taking the time to talk with your teachers (preferably on an individual basis or in a small group) prior to a professional learning experience about how their mindset may need to shift when implementing something new. We may need to explicitly ask teachers to self-assess their beliefs and outlook regarding the impending change in their practice. The answer might be difficult to hear but, (as my mother would say), “At least you know the devil you’re facing.” You may actually begin to determine the teacher’s frame of mind regarding their level of conviction.
When you know the beliefs behind potential resistance, you can address those beliefs as part of the training. Conversely, when you know the beliefs behind those who are eager to implement, then you can seek out those teachers as early adopters and potential in-house experts.
Just remember to spend your time with those who are early adopters. Make those teachers a priority. It is so very easy to get caught up in trying to shift the disposition of the resistor, especially if that teacher has the knowledge and the skills. Speaking from experience, I loudly state, “Don’t do that! “ Spending time with those dig their heels in to new initiatives is discouraging to those who are the innovators in your building. Your time is too valuable to waste it! (Enough said about that one!)
I encourage you to reflect on the implementation levels related to your latest initiative or one that is being planned through the lens of these three criteria:
What type of knowledge is required?
What skills should the teacher acquire?
What disposition is needed to influence the implementation?
The answers may provide some valuable insight!
What have YOU done to address teachers' dispositions regarding a new initiative? Share your answers in the comments below!
Dr. Frances A. Miller,