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By Learning Forward
April 2012
Vol. 33 No. 2

Reaching for the Highest Gains

In their influential research, Student Achievement Through Staff Development, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers (2002) described five components to professional learning design. Along with their earlier research, this study is fundamental to establishing an understanding of adult learning as well as the importance of ongoing support in implementing change. The table below highlights the components and their impact in terms of percent gain in knowledge, skills, and implementation.

The Implementation Dip

Michael Fullan defines the “implementation dip” as “the inevitable bumpiness and difficulties encountered as people learn new behaviors and beliefs.”

In Leading in a Culture of Change (2001), Fullan writes that “the implementation dip is literally a dip in performance and confidence as one encounters an innovation that requires new skills and new understandings. All innovations worth their salt call upon people to question and in some respects to change their behavior and their beliefs — even in cases where innovations are pursued voluntarily.

“What happens when you find yourself needing new skills and not being proficient when you are used to knowing what you are doing? How do you feel when you are called upon to do something new and are not clear about what to do and do not understand the knowledge and value base of new belief systems?

“People feel anxious, fearful, confused, overwhelmed, deskilled, cautious, and — if they have moral purpose — deeply disturbed. Because we are talking about a culture of pell-mell change, there is nonshortage of implementation dips or, shall we say, chasms.”

Connecting the Standards for Professional Learning

As the introduction to the Standards for Professional Learning states, “They are the essential elements of professional learning that function in synergy to enable educators to increase their effectiveness and student learning” (Learning Forward, 2011, p. 14).

Standards Learning CommunitiesLeadershipResources

The table at right highlights several questions that explore how the Implementation standard integrates with the other six standards.

• How are learning communities supporting members to implement new learning?

• What additional learning occurs within learning communities to support, sustain, and refine implementation of professional learning in practice?

• How are learning community members holding one another accountable for implementing professional learning?

• What can school and district leaders do to set expectations and create conditions that support full and faithful implementation of professional learning?

• How do teacher leaders support their peers as they implement professional learning within their classrooms?

• When implementation does not occur, what steps do leaders take to reverse this situation?

• What resources are allocated to support full implementation?

• How are coaching services allocated to provide personalized implementation support to individuals and teams?

• To what degree are resources reallocated to support full implementation?

• What plan helps to sustain resources until full implementation occurs?

As JSD examines each standard individually, we will also demonstrate the key connections between and among all seven standards.

DataLearning DesignsImplementationOutcomes
• What data will provide evidence of educators’ implementation of professional learning?

• What student data will provide evidence of implementation?

• How will fidelity of implementation be evaluated?

• What data will help to evaluate the degree of implementation of learning?

• How will the selection of learning designs influence the degree of implementation?

• Which learning designs are more likely to promote implementation in which contexts?

• Which learning designs are more appropriate for various levels of use, i.e. nonuser, novice, proficient, expert?

• How are expectations for implementation communicated to educators?

• Who will provide support for implementation?

• Who will provide feedback about implementation?

• What data will be collected to monitor progress toward full implementation?

• What student learning outcomes will indicate that full implementation has been achieved?

• What behaviors will educators exhibit when full implementation has been achieved?

• How do the expectations for implementation align with educator performance standards?

Components of Professional Development

Theory: Presentation of information about theory or practice.10%5%0%
Demonstration: Opportunity to observe a skill or practice.30%20%0%
Practice/feedback: Opportunity to try a new practice with input and feedback.60%60%5%
Peer coaching: Ongoing support of implementation of practices.95%95%95%

Implementation Dip



Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

The Learning Professional

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