Doing less to achieve more
Welcome to the last full fat Snack before I take a break for August (to spend some time with the fam). Thanks for all your support so far—it’s been a blast!
Big idea 🍉
Teachers and school leaders tend to care a lot about helping their students learn. As a result, we can easily find ourselves in a place where we have—over time and with the best of intentions—added lots of strands to our work.
However, this direction of travel can become problematic if not managed carefully. The time we have for work is (and should be) finite—which means that every time we add something new, we subtract a little from what existed before.
In short, teaching is a zero-sum game. And if we don’t approach it as such, we can all-to-easily end up overloaded, burnt out, and generally being less effective than originally intended.
If we’re going to keep making things better for our students in a sustainable manner, we need to intentionally stop doing things (or at least do them differently) as well as adding them. This is the basis of ‘de-implementation’.
At it’s most basic, de-implementation has 3 phases:
Identifying the thing We might stop doing something because the problem no longer exists, the solution is no longer effective, or the costs simply outweigh the benefits. Any decision should be grounded in evidence, and focus on something within our control.
Designing the change Depending on the situation, we might decide to either remove, reduce, rework, or replace our approach (this is a slight variation of the 4 Rs suggested by Hamilton, Hattie & Wiliam).
Implementing the de-implementation Securing a change (even stopping something) often requires careful management. The EEF’s implementation guide offers a good starting point for this.
Now, it’s important to highlight that ego and the sunk-cost fallacy can sometimes scupper our efforts to subtract before adding. We risk losing face when we decide that we're not going to do something we previously decided to do, and we often find it hard to let go of things we've invested heavily in already. As a result, de-implementation requires both strategy and bravery.
Challenge → When was the last time you analysed your workload for something to stop doing? How could you make this an even greater part of your (and your schools’) improvement routine?
Little links 🥕
On topic → Check out this guide for school leaders from E4L, this new book on the topic by Hamilton, Hattie & Wiliam, and this fab blog by Joe Kirby which lays out his ‘best bets’ for things that schools should stop doing. If you’d like to learn about de-implementation from real live people, E4L are hosting a webinar on 28AUG—register here.
On trend → This week we have a new study on the relationship between teacher autonomy and pupil outcomes, a new paper on the mechanics of the seductive details effect, and a new study exploring the accuracy of adult intuitions about early word learning.
Bonus → For folks in Aus, Steplab is running a series of Instructional Coaching Intensives during Autumn in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, led by Josh Goodrich, Harry Fletcher-Wood, Sam Sims, and Ollie Lovell. I’ve been to one—they’re banging.
That’s it from me for now. During August, you can still expect a few emails, but they’ll be much lighter snacks, just to keep things ticking over till September.
And for those of you just stepping into summer break—rest well & hope you get to use some sunscreen.