As we approach the end of the school year, alongside thinking about how many days are left or what the break might bring, hopefully there is some time to reflect on this year’s change ideas. Hopefully there is some time to ask, So What? and Now What? So What,- what was the impact for students of trying these ideas? As you look back on this year and, maybe, allow yourself to think about how you might incorporate some of these same ideas next year, we need to reflect on What worked, for whom, and under what conditions. Then, decide – Now What?- what change ideas to continue to incorporate in your practice.
In short, it’s time to adopt, adapt, or abandon your change ideas.
This flowchart sums up these early questions nicely. Start with asking yourself if you did the change idea as designed, tried it multiple times, and measured and assessed the results. Consider what you were trying to accomplish, what challenges you were trying to address, and whether your data suggests this change idea will reliably address those challenges for you and other teachers in similar situations.
Having implemented with fidelity (Done) and reviewed your data (Studied), you’re ready to set a course for next steps (to Plan/Act). There are three common paths with your change idea for planning what’s next:
Abandoning a change idea can be the right choice if you did it as written, measured it, and saw no improvement. You identified a problem or challenge your students were having, and this change idea—at least as implemented in this way—did not make a measurable difference for students. You tried this a couple of times, and the needle did not move, particularly for those who needed it most. Maybe the change idea is good for addressing another driver or key problem, but for the key aspect of learning you wanted to address, this approach, as designed, did not pan out, based on your review of the evidence.
In this case, you could clearly share with a colleague what worked, for whom, and under what conditions. You could almost “prescribe” this for another classroom, noting what practices you used and what measures the colleague could employ to see if they get similar results. In short, it’s time to define what the key moves are here, incorporate them into your practice, and discuss scaling at your school.
Arguably the most common option, this is likely an idea with some promise, but may need some reconsideration for future use. For example, you may have made adaptations to the original idea and need to go back and try the original. Maybe this worked in your sixth-grade class but was less effective with eighth graders. Perhaps it helped students when working with literature, but less so with nonfiction or informational texts. Maybe it missed landing in the warm-demanding quadrant, making too many demands of students without enough support.
Adaptation of a change idea might mean trying with a different group of students under different conditions, tweaks to the idea itself, altering the frequency (or dosage) of the change idea, or different measures (smaller grain size, more or less frequent, or combining academic and engagement measures).
Taking time to reflect and plan for next steps are a key way to avoid “initiativeitis,” or that feeling teachers can get when changes come and go, and new practices never seem to stick around. Choosing to adopt, adapt, or abandon is a way to take ownership of improvements to practice, clarifying your sense of what works, for whom, and under what conditions for yourself and your colleagues so you can steer classroom practice towards ideas that get better results for your students and equips you to have a larger toolkit of effective practices to address the challenges you are most likely to encounter.