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Don't let this limit the effectiveness of whole school literacy

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Beware of the implementation dip

As a leader of literacy, you know that literacy improvement involves change.

How many times have you seen this?

You organise a wonderful professional development session for teachers at your school, with lots of practical suggestions for literacy improvement. Everyone is keen to try new teaching strategies.

Then nothing happens.

Or teachers might report: 'I tried that and it didn't work.'

Or they get too busy and don't have time to try it.

This could be due to the implementation dip.

The guru of leadership in schools, Michael Fullan, has often noted that any change might be followed immediately by a crisis of confidence and a decline in performance.

'The implementation dip is literally a dip in performance and confidence as one encounters an innovation that requires new skills and new understandings' (Michael Fullan, 2019)

It makes sense. Teachers are experts in their area, but when it comes to literacy, they may have to learn new concepts about about language and literacy pedagogy ... and this is really confronting. Not only that, when they try to implement their new knowledge in the classroom, sometimes it doesn't turn out they way they expect. It takes time to develop new skills. This is true for teachers, as well as for their students.

This leads to an implementation dip. As you can see in the detailed diagram below, the literacy professional development could be the little star. After the star, there is a decline in confidence or performance or both. It takes a while to improve to get back to where they were before, and even longer to improve. We are also encountering a 'myth', the dotted line, which is the false expectation that we will immediately improve after professional development. That doesn't usually happen.

I believe that one of the reasons why literacy professional development might not be effective is that teachers get stuck in the dip.

Our job as literacy leaders is to:

  • be prepared for an implementation dip

  • give everyone realistic expectations and time

  • try to make the depth of decline shallow by supporting teachers with time and resources

  • try to make the duration of recovery short.

This blog will provide plenty of suggestions about how to deal with the implementation dip.

For more from Michael Fullan, I recommend his book 'Leading in a Culture of Change', which is all about leadership and change in schools. It is not about literacy particularly, but it is great reading for literacy leaders.


Fullan, M. (2019). Leading in a culture of change. Second Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Herold, D. & Fedor, D. (2008). Change the way you lead change. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

To reference this blog post

Please use this citation

Weekes, T. (2021, October 2). 'Don't let this limit the effectiveness of whole school literacy' [blog post]. Retrieved from


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