Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Beating the Implementation Dip: How to Maintain Momentum

Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.

Many Nevada Ready 21 schools are in their second year of one-to-one instruction and have experienced many successes, but also encountered challenges. If you work in these schools you might report “implementation dip”. Educational researcher Michael Fullen (2001) coined this term to describe the dip in performance and confidence as one encounters an innovation that requires new skills and understandings.

(Graphic from the Center for Public Education)

 Consider this story about the implementation dip from Sue Chapman (2017):

A couple of months ago, my 90-year-old mother bought her first smart phone. Mom was excited about all she could do with this new tool and wanted to become proficient. But she struggled to remember the steps she needed to follow. She did not yet know how to swipe and tap proficiently. As she experimented, she would accidentally change settings and move apps to places where she could no longer find them. Eventually, my mother stopped using her smart phone. It was just easier to call family members on her traditional phone rather than trying to send a text. It had been fun to take photos with the phone but it was hard to remember how to share them. When mom needed to look u a phone number or make an appointment or check the weather, by habit she went to her Rolodex, or the calendar on her desk or the thermometer on the wall (p. 1).  (Click here to see a picture of her mom with her new phone http://bit.ly/2poMtWd).

This dip is a normal part of any learning experience and research indicates that nearly all teachers experience an implementation dip during the early stages of change (Fullen, 1999), but “here’s the danger of the implementation dip – it’s the point in learning where there is the greatest chance that a learner will give up” (Chapman, 2017, p. 1).

This all might leave you wondering – how do I maintain momentum or help my teachers maintain their momentum? Research calls attention to the important role of the instructional coach. A coach can help teachers push through the implementation dip by modeling best practices and providing feedback and support as teachers try new practices. Additionally, coaches can support teachers in developing a growth mindset about their own failures. Remember that the NR21 team is here to help if you need a nudge through your own implementation dip! For a positive message about seeking happy failure and learning through the implementation dip watch this TedTalk from Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek (https://ed.ted.com/on/v26wnG0x).

Remember, what you are doing is messy and challenging. There will be days with failure, but those might be the days that you learn the most!


Chapman, S. (2017). Coaching: The answer to the implementation dip. Retrieved from https://mathsolutions.com/uncategorized/coaching-the-answer-to-the-implementation-dip/

Fullen, M., & Smith, G. (1999). Technology and the problem of change. Retrieved from http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/13396041050.pdf

Fullen, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Fransisco, Jossey-Bassy.