I have seen a lot of well-intentioned ideas never really stick. My own numerous New Year resolutions are great examples. I am almost ashamed about the number of times I committed to something and then just could not stick with it. I’ve committed for a while to, say, better eating habits and then one day along came a cream puff—and just like that my life of sugar crime was ignited once again!
How many times have we seen initiatives come and go? Do you remember Reading First, Reading Recovery, Ohio Reads—the list is endless. These literacy approaches were and are relevant, but have come and gone as attention wanes and new initiatives with new funding streams emerge, competing for the top spot on the hit parade. Why does this happen? Why do good ideas—ideas we know will help us in the long run to do better, feel better, and be better—fail to stick?
One of the reasons that ideas come and go is because we never sufficiently invest in ensuring the fidelity of implementation. What I mean is that we never work on it enough to get it right and allow it to become part of our school culture. Many times we say, “I give up, I did it, but it didn’t work for me.” I have done this many times—like when I expected toned quads in just 10 days, as the ad promised me.
So, how do we approach something that is important to us and put in place the necessary supports to see it through? The work of Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, authors of the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, can help us solve this problem. Yes, right now change is happening all around us in education, but how we change in response is another matter entirely. According to the authors of Influencer, we have the power to change anything if we consider—and act on—six factors that influence change.
Let’s take FIP as an example. If we approach formative instructional practices as just one more thing to do, or as a chore to complete simply by clicking through a bunch online modules, it will be doomed to the Hall of BTDT (Been There Done That) relics. However, if we use the six factors that influence lasting change, I am confident that formative instructional practices can become an integral part of what teachers, leaders, and students do daily. So, what do Patterson and colleagues ask us to plan for?
The first thing we learn from the Influencer book is that if people do not think they have the ability or if they do not think there is good reason to make a change, they simply won’t. Addressing ability and motivation at each of three levels—the personal level, the social level, and the structural level—can help change stick. The important point here is that all six sources matter.
I’ll share a personal example, and maybe you’ll have some ideas about how these sources of influence can support your FIP implementation.
Let’s take my interest in strength training. Here is how I might address each of the six sources of influence to change my couch-potato ways:
- Personal Ability: I cannot lift 100 lbs. Let’s not kid ourselves—I can’t even lift 40 lbs. To be successful, my goals must be realistic, worthwhile, and reasonable to achieve in a specific time frame.
- Personal Motivation: I am now convinced that osteoporosis is something I should actively be fending off. Done. I have sufficient intrinsic motivation to set a goal.
- Social Ability: I need a buddy system. Peer groups and advocate programs can help individuals get better. (Watching The Biggest Loser helps, too.)
- Social Motivation: I know that if I had positive peer pressure to keep up with a routine, I would be more likely stay on the right path. It is too easy to give up when I have to be my own cheerleader. The key is to identify influential leaders or peers who are already behaving the way I want to...and surround myself with them.
- Structural Ability: If I have no free weights, no time in my schedule, no access to a gym, odds are I am not going to be successful. I need the right structures and environment to be successful.
- Structural Motivation: Should I consider if there are any extrinsic motivators or rewards needed to keep me focused on meeting my goal? If intrinsic motivators are insufficient, extrinsic motivators, when applied judiciously, can be an additional component to support changes in practice. Having a system of accountability around one’s own commitment does not diminish individual power—it makes your goals public and holds you to them. For my quest, perhaps I’ll publish my body mass index on Facebook. (I joke!)
These six sources of influence can be applied to help
yourself or others as you implement formative instructional practices. If you are
engaged in the FIP Your School work (or are planning to get started), think
about your implementation carefully—whether it be in your own classroom, within
your team, or across your school. Be intentional in what you ask of yourself or
of your staff. Help each other to be able and to stay motivated to make changes
in the ways you use formative instructional practices. And ask yourself, have
you used the six sources of influence to turn FIP Your School into the longest
lasting and most effective endeavor that you were proud to be committed to?