Brianne Gidcumb | October 2015

Fostering Change in Your Teaching Practice

As I talk with educators about a variety of topics, from foundations of arts integration to project-based learning to performance-based assessment design, the same question inevitably arises: where do I start? When we see the big picture of a shift in the way we might deliver our instruction or engage our students, it can be overwhelming, even a little scary. So, how do we take the fear out of implementing change in our teaching practice, so that we can confidently deliver instruction in a new way? Today, I’d like to share three simple guidelines for how you might affect change in your teaching practice successfully.

Start small.

We educators are over-achieving creatures. When we are presented with a new methodology or way of doing things, we want to jump right in. While it might work for some of us to dive right into the deep end, for others, such an approach feels forced, inauthentic, or overwhelming. It is okay to start small in your efforts to implement change. Allow yourself time to grow into a new practice and give yourself space to grow into your learning curve. Root your changes in lessons, practices, procedures, etc. that you already do successfully. By starting with a successful and comfortable access point and simply reframing it in a new practice, you increase your change of success.

For example, if you are looking to implement project-based learning in your classroom, you might start with a traditional project that has been successful for your students and simply frame it in inquiry, allowing for student voice and choice (see Project to PBL: Extreme Makeover). If you are new to arts integration, start with your most comfortable arts access point, and simply find a few strategies that you can use repeatedly in order to gain comfort with bringing the arts into your classroom. Over time, as you gain comfort with you implementation, you can expand your efforts.

Don’t do it alone.

Change is hard, and it shouldn’t be done in isolation. Collaboration is key. Work with your professional learning community to share ideas, foster connections, and provide pedagogical and moral support. Ask for time to engage in peer observations and review- if you can observe other teachers engaged in the practice you are looking to implement, that often helps take the mystery out new ideas. Seek out professional development opportunities and experts in the field. Celebrate successes with your colleagues, and foster opportunities to provide feedback and areas for growth in your implementation. Teaching is not a one-man sport: assemble a team to foster change.

Ensure authenticity.

Above all else, we have to ensure that throughout any change in our classrooms, we don’t lose sight of our content standards. There is no benefit to implementing a new idea or way of doing things if we fail to maintain fidelity to our standards or if we lose authenticity and relevance for our students. In whatever new practice you are looking to implement, start first with your content standards. Next, look to align a performance-based task or assessment that will help students meaningfully and authentically engage in content. From there, we can look at how to frame our instruction in our new practice. But standards come first.

What are your tips and tricks for implementing new ideas and fostering change in your teaching practice?

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: