How to Get Buy-in from Your Teachers When Starting a New School Initiative

By: on May 9, 2022

If you’ve been working in the education field for a while, you’re familiar with new school initiatives and their not-so-stellar success rate. Whether it’s improving digital literacy, or lowering disciplinary referrals in each grade, the last thing you want is to waste valuable time and resources on a program that won’t be successful due to lack of teacher buy-in or poor communication.

That’s why, as a school administrator, it’s crucial to involve your teachers early on in the initiative planning process so that you can design a school initiative with clear, measurable, and attainable goals.

We’ll be breaking down not only why setting great goals and involving teachers are crucial when starting a new strategic initiative, but also how you can go about implementing these tips into your own planning process to lead to better outcomes.

Create a committee of teachers to increase buy-in

Any new project or initiative is doomed to fail if teachers don’t buy into it. If they think it’s not worth their time or don’t understand the reasons why they’re being asked to change their curriculum, they aren’t likely to be invested in making the project work.

In fact, a study found that teachers were much more likely to buy into a new strategic initiative of innovation if a level of self-determination was present. The simple fact is that teachers and staff will feel more ownership over a new project if they are involved in the strategic planning and implementation early. That’s why it’s crucial to set up a committee of teachers who will be in charge of enacting the new strategic initiative early in the planning process.

Teachers involved in the planning process will help you see where there might be gaps in the initiative, or where you might have been too ambitious or not ambitious enough. Teachers have a better understanding of what is realistically achievable and what might be too much. Not only will their input be invaluable to the final initiative, but they will also become champions for the project to other teachers who might be on the fence about the changes.

How to choose your strategic planning committee

Choose your committee with care. You can’t include every teacher, but be strategic about who you bring into the committee. Here are a few tips:

  • Include teachers from different disciplines.
  • Ensure prospective teachers have adequate time for the committee and a clear understanding of the goals.
  • Involve teachers who you know will have a great stake in the outcome of the initiative.
  • Try to have at least one teacher with many years of experience and one with just a few.

    • The younger teacher can bring new insights based on current pedagogical practices while the more experienced teacher will have a greater understanding of how the initiative will work in the current system.

Set clear, measurable, and attainable goals to increase the likelihood of success

If you want a new school initiative to succeed, you need clear, measurable, attainable goals from the get-go. Any strategic initiative that doesn’t have this criteria in mind is doomed to fail because, no matter how clear the end result is to you, if you aren’t able to communicate what’s expected of the people implementing the project, you have no way to measure success or progress.

Not only will you not be able to measure success, but your teachers won’t have a clear understanding of why they’re being asked to implement the initiative in the first place. If they know why you’re asking them to change their curriculum or how they approach teaching, they need to have confidence in the reasoning behind it. And the only way you can ensure they have that needed confidence is to show them that the project is working.

Without having an idea of what measurable progress you want to accomplish, you and your teachers won’t have any way of knowing if your strategic initiative is on the right track toward success.

How to set clear, measurable, and attainable objectives

Let’s say your initiative is to increase your students’ digital literacy. In order for this project to succeed, you’ll need to set clear, measurable, attainable objectives. Let’s break down what this might look like using the example of increasing students’ digital literacy:

Clear objectives

Several factors are taken into account when outlining clear objectives:

  • Who is involved in the initiative?

    • Students and teachers.
  • What does the initiative want to accomplish?

    • Improve students’ digital literacy so that they can effectively source reliable, unbiased information.
    • Raise students’ awareness about misinformation found online.
  • Where is the initiative achieved?

    • In the classroom.
  • When is the initiative achieved?

    • Over the course of a six week period. More specifically, over the course of several weeks-long units that break down different stages of digital literacy.
  • Why do you want to accomplish the initiative?

    • Increase students’ ability to interpret different sources of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis.

Using the information above, an objective might look like the following:

“We want to increase students’ digital literacy over a six-week period so that they are able to better interpret and understand sources of information and make informed decisions.”

Measurable objectives

When creating measurable objectives, consider these key points:

  • What is the timeline for the initiative?

    • Six weeks.
  • How will you know once you’ve reached your goal?

    • Test student comprehension with short answers, essays, and multiple choice questions throughout the unit, culminating in a presentation.
  • What are your indicators of progress?

    • Gradable assignments each week.
    • Weekly huddles with other teachers who are leading similar units to decide what lessons are working and what lessons aren’t.
    • 85% of students show an increase in digital literacy by the end of the unit.
Attainable objectives

It’s important to factor in these considerations to create attainable objectives:

  • Are the resources needed to accomplish the goal reasonable? Do your teachers have the necessary resources?

    • To increase student digital literacy, your teachers will need access to technology. Students will need access to the internet (both in and outside of the classroom). You’ll need to identify a variety of sources to challenge and present to your students.
  • Are there any examples of successful implementations of this goal in other schools?

    • Search for other schools that have successfully implemented better digital literacy practices. See what their goals and markers for success were. Compare them to yours to see if you’re aiming too high or not high enough.

Strategic planning early on in the process is the key to success

Whatever your new school initiative is, it’s important to start off on the right foot.

That’s why you need to remember that the key to getting teacher buy-in is to involve them early in the planning process. From there, you can make sure the initiative has clear, attainable, and measurable objectives that are realistic and implementable across your district or school.

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