Sunday / May 19

Beyond the New and Shiny: Unpacking De-implementation

By Peter DeWitt and Tanya Ghans

In this episode of the Leaders Coaching Leaders Podcast, How De-implementation Can Ease Overwork, Peter DeWitt and Corwin Editor, Tanya Ghans, discuss where Peter’s de-implementation research originated from and how intentional implementation can be the best form of de-implementation.

TANYA GHANS: The intentionality of this is such a big part. And I want to talk about this two sides of the same coin with implementation and de-implementation, which really comes up in your book as well. But as you were speaking, I thought about where this research came – from the medical field. And why it’s so important is because…there’s a lot riding on the medical field not being very clear about what’s working and not working. And I think in the medical field, it shows up in your face very quickly – or it can.

It’s just as urgent in schools. It may not show up in your face as quickly. That’s understandable. I think maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s so easy to add on, but the impact can be just as devastating for children and students and families if we’re not sure that we’re focusing on the stuff that really, really works in giving it time to thrive.

So going back to this de-implementation and implementation, in the book, you really talk about both of these. Can you talk about why that implementation part is such a big part of de-implementation?

PETER DEWITT: Yeah. And it’s because when I was looking at the medical research, I found an implementation model called prism. And what I thought was really interesting about it is that on one side, it talked about the characteristics or the perspective of the doctor, the nurse, the medical professional. And on the other side, was the patients, and the perspective of the patients. And then you had the characteristics of the doctors, the nurses, and the other medical professionals and then the patient’s characteristics.

So what I did was I adapted that to schools and put in a school leader and teacher. And then obviously instead of patients, it’s the students. But going through, when you look at the perspectives and characteristics of all of those- let’s call them stakeholders in a school, then you go into the whole idea of the implementation part. But one of the words that came out in that prism was maintenance.

And they even had outside influences on each side. So people can look at [those outside influences] as their school board or their school community or situations that happened. But that maintenance piece came up. And I remember the first time I talked about it with a large group of directors of teaching learning from across the state of Washington where I’m a lead advisor. They overwhelmingly said yeah, the hard part of implementation is the maintenance part. And I remember just doing a lot of thinking about that because when we implement, it’s interesting as a writer and maybe as the researcher side and just somebody who reflects way too much. Is that when you start to think about the maintenance and the implementation, it makes me start thinking about, so where does this come from?

I had a conversation with the superintendent a few weeks ago because I had said, “We have to be careful when we go to conferences and workshops that we’re not going to get the new shiny toy because we know there isn’t one. And we’ve been saying that for years.”

And this person came up to me after the conference, and he said, “I just want to tell you though, I feel a lot of pressure to bring back something new because my school board paid for me to be here for three days.” And I was like, “Wow”. I work with a lot of directors across the country and around the world who have talked about the idea that they go to conferences and workshops to find something new, and it’s caused me to really think about, do you go to a conference and workshop to get a new strategy or do you go to a conference and a workshop to inform the practice of what you’re doing already?

Those are the conversations that we need to be able to have. So this is a holistic issue that we have to confront. And it means that when we’re thinking about implementation, we have to be asking how does this look in our school district or our school already? Because I can guarantee you that there are teachers within the school or school district that are doing the work already. They just don’t call it the research-y term. You should talk to them if you ever go and make it seem like you’re bringing back a brand new idea. So there’s even that part of it that I think we have to be able to address and understand, do we really need to do all the things that we’re doing?

Written by

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is a school leadership coach, workshop facilitator, and he writes the Finding Common Ground blog and hosts the web show A Seat at the Table, both sponsored by Education Week, and moderates the Leaders Coaching Leader podcast with Tanya Ghans for Corwin Press. He is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most , School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy , and Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership. Connect with Peter on Twitter or he can be found at

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