One Change a Week

Buddy up with someone and together make a small change in your classrooms each week, sharing how it went at the end of each week.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

Written by

Update - Aug-30-2015 4:58 PM EST:  I have been thinking of how to grow this from something generalized into a specific goal to achieve, this is what I have come up with so far.

Misson:  Reduce fear and anxiety in regards to failure in order to foster a desire to innovate.

Target Group(s): 

Alpha phase: Several classes of students. Ideally, this will implemented by a small group of teachers in their classrooms. Three to five teachers from different grade levels/subject areas would be a good group to test with.

Beta phase: Whole school implementation. (By invitation?) Moving beyond a small group expand to include staff and students in one or two whole schools. 

Beyond:  Expand to a board level initiative. This is something that could go well beyond the realm of education and work in industry and in communities.

Method: The goal here is to ensure people stay comfortable along the way, big changes can be scary and tough to stick with. Everything will be done in small steps. Picking a larger change that the team would like to make, it is broken to into smaller pieces that can be progressively implemented. By breaking the change down into smaller pieces the change will be gradual and provide everyone with an opportunity to adjust at each step. This should lead to more comfort with change and in the end make participants comfortable with trying new things.

I was initially thinking one change a week, but I think every two (or even three) weeks provides a chance to discuss, revise and revisit the change. At the end of each week the team discusses the change that was made. The initial meeting is to discuss what worked, what didn't, and how to move forward into the second week. During the second (and third) meeting the team can discuss if the change was successful or if it needs to be revised and retried before moving on to the next step. 

Specifically: I think a great project to try this procedure out on is to remove the negative connotations surrounding failure and make it a desired learning opportunity. Some initial steps I was considering:

1. Display quotes about failure around the classroom. For instance:

  • I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. -- Thomas A. Edison
  • Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. -- Samuel Beckett
  • It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. -- Bill Gates

During this phase team discussions can center around what the students are saying about the quotes. Make note of students looking at the quotes, discussing the quotes, or asking about the quotes.

2. Start class discussions about the failure quotes. Ask the class about the quotes. Maybe spend 5 minutes a day discussing one.

  • Do they feel that they are positive or negative?
  • Move into discussing failure in general, what is scary about it?

During this phase team discussions can be about student responses. Work towards finding what students are worried about.

3. Rather than changing something in the classroom, this step could be focused on reflecting on individual failures and personal ideas of what failure is. The team can discuss their own opinions, working toward sharing some personal failures and reactions to them. This may be a longer step as we try to become comfortable with our own failures.

4. Share some of your own failures with your class. Emphasis what you learned from the experience. Make it positive and promote a feeling that it is OK to fail.

Team discussions can be working towards developing an appropriate method to move into the next phase.

5. Now try and get students to share their failures. This can be very intimidating for students, so perhaps having them anonymously submitting their failures may be best. These can than be discussed.

At some point it may be a good idea to post failures like quotes, or even have students develop their own quotes that put a positive spin on failure.

6. From here I think things will evolve during team meetings as to what to do next. The eventual goal is to encourage everyone, the team and students, to risk failure and try new things. Have an idea? Share it or try to implement it. 

What if it doesn't work?

Did you try something and it didn't work? Awesome, you were successful. You tried something new.

Did you make it part way and it didn't work out? Great, you still implemented changes and were innovated. 

By just making an attempt you have been successful at being innovative. It wasn't a drastic change, but something small and easy to recover from. Time to try something new.


Original Post

I have often seen blog posts about improving your photography by taking one picture every day. Many people say it has made a big difference in their creativity and ability. You can check out and for some inspiration. This can translate into a routine to inspire innovation in the classroom.

Team up with some colleagues and develop a list of small changes that you can make within your classrooms. Stick with things that can be implemented and evaluated over the course of a week. Each week pick a change to make and everyone try it out. At the end of the week get together and share your successes and failures with your change. Then pick another change to try out the next week.

If you pick changes that are outside your comfort zones and challenging, you can inspire innovation amongst yourselves.

Update - Aug-25-2015 7:38 AM PST

Selecting your changes:  The initial hurdle is going to be selecting what changes to make. One option is to make changes that build towards a larger goal; break down a larger initiative into smaller phases. Another is to try more independent changes that aren't necessarily building towards a larger project. In the latter case, the changes would be better if they were themed somehow.

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Potential for Impact: Imagine this solution had near perfect implementation. To what extent would this solution bring about a culture of innovation within a school or classroom?

A lot! This solution would greatly bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 100%

Somewhat. This solution would somewhat bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 0%

Not much. This solution might help with other things, but I don't see it really bringing about a culture of innovation within schools or classrooms. - 0%

2. Feasibility and Fit: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If this solution were available to me right now, I would be able to use it with relatively low investment. (i.e. money, time, or skills).

Strongly agree (this solution strongly aligns to my/my school's current capacities). - 66.7%

Agree. - 33.3%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 0%

Strongly disagree (this solution would take a big lift in resources to pull off). - 0%

3. Adaptability: I could imagine this solution working well in a variety of school and classroom contexts across a diverse set of needs.

Absolutely! I could see this working for a variety of schools and classrooms with different or unique needs. - 100%

Somewhat. I could see this working for many schools and classrooms, but it might need some adjusting to fit a broad diversity of contexts. - 0%

Not a lot. This seems like it might be better suited to only a few contexts. - 0%

4. Scalability: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: This idea could be adopted by an ever-growing number of teachers or students without requiring significant changes.

Strongly agree (this solution could easily scale without any significant changes). - 66.7%

Agree. - 33.3%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 0%

Strongly disagree (this solution would require significant changes in order to properly scale). - 0%

5. Desirability: Do you wish this solution were available to you right now?

1 - Not a lot. There's not a big need for this right now and/or we use something already that fulfills a similar purpose in my school or classroom. - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 0%

5 - A lot! There's nothing like this already and I'd love to have it in my school or classroom. - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jennifer Auten

I work with 2nd graders, so we are at a different level of discussion. However, we have talked about "failure" and perseverance. Students built boats to hold pennies without sinking. After the 1st iteration they met and discussed what didn't work, what they saw in the boats of other teams that they wanted to incorporate, and then they tried again. We then met whole class to discuss what they learned by creating boats that didn't work the 1st time and how observation, brainstorming and discussion led to improvement and new learning.

Students have also been reflecting (on post its, so they aren't faced with a huge piece of paper) on what has been hard so far but what they have done to improve--ask for help, try a different way, draw a picture, etc.

Photo of Alexandrea Alphonso

Hi Mark, Drea from the Google for Education team here. I'd love to dive into a few things. Firstly, what support/resources would you need from a district/principal standpoint to implement this into the classroom? With regards to the "beyond" group. How do you see districts involving the outside community into this idea of "change"? Are they also sharing failures? Or coaching through failures?

Lastly, I do see similarities between this on our post on "Fail Wall". Could these ideas possibly be combined? Could the fail wall be a project for the "one change a week" lesson plan?

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I'll start with your last question. The more I have thought about it the more the two posts have seemed to merge together. I mentioned it in the Fail Wall post. I feel that the Fail Wall would be a great activity to build into using the one change a week idea, and they are definitely something that can be merged. It is how I am intending on implementing in my classroom.

In regards to support and resources for the classroom, it think some of it will depend on the specific project being tackled. Generally, plenty of encouragement to keep everyone motivated, and opportunities for time when developing project goals and reflecting. Time will be the biggest requirement. Time to meet and discuss the project, weekly time to meet and discuss progress/next steps, and occasional time to do some planning.

This morning our welcome back staff meeting was started by a student discussing 21st century learning. He left us with the question, "Can real learning happen in classroom anymore?" That hit exactly what I was thinking in regard to going beyond and into the community.

I think building partnerships within the community will allow for a different look at how to approach teaching. How we teach and assess in the classroom is often very different from how things happen in the "Real World." By working in small steps to increase the community involvement with the school, programs can be effectively built to include meaningful learning experiences that educators may not have the background to develop on their own.

Depending on the specific goals teams can be for with partners from the community and administration/teachers/students to co-plan and co-create projects that will increase community involvement. Those community members could both share their experiences with and coach through failure.

In regards to the Fail Wall, I think providing an opportunity for community members to share their experiences would provide participants with an understanding that failures happen and would be able to coach participants through some of those bumps in the road.

Photo of Jennifer Auten

Failure seems a great topic to start with. It impacts all students and seems to be something that is "danced around" and misunderstood (or at least different people involved have different perceptions of what failure means). Bringing it out in the open seems like a good way to start the year along with a discussion of specific personal examples, growth mindset, ways to get beyond the initial failure, etc.

Photo of Jennifer Auten

Julia, I never thought of it that way, but it is true that what bugs us is what often drives us to make a change.

Photo of Julia Goga-Cooke

I love the idea Mark and Jennifer. Bug lists are usually a good way to get to what needs fixing and changing. What's bugging us this week- can produce a list from which you decide what you'd like to tackle.

Photo of Jennifer Auten

I like the idea of implementing small changes and having a group to discuss with. I think accountability and sharing successes and failures would be an added incentive to stick with it. I would love to join this team.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

Welcome to the team.
I've been thinking about what changes to make; something big and broken down into steps or several small modifications to build towards a theme.

Photo of Jane Bain

Yes, agreed. This is the way that our math problem solving approach began and it has blossomed into learning mathematics through problem solving. It may seem contrived at first but it will grow organically as our deep understanding of how to be a teacher in a classroom where everyone learns and is able to follow their passions. Very exciting.

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

Hi Mark,

Great contribution! I really like that you've made micro change a group effort. I've tried many times to implement these small changes a day but I find myself forgetting or not sticking with it over time. I think that having a partner or team doing something similar would be very helpful in keeping one motivated and accountable to stick with the behavior. I also really like how this contribution fits in with your other ideas around getting comfortable with change and experimentation. You're on to something!

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I think working in a group is really important.
I was chatting with a colleague about the Fail Wall idea I posted earlier ( He thought it was an interesting idea but immediately thought of some staff members that, not intending any harm, would write funny/goofy comments. I could see that turning staff off to sharing something personal as it would be trivialized. That would be very disheartening, and would be hard for me to keep people interested in trying it.
Now if there was a group of us working to create this, it would be much easier to rally together and motivate others to try it out. People are much more responsive to change when they see it coming from more than one person.

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

That's a very good observation! The Fail Wall also reminded me of Helene Burks post about having staff meetings to talk about failure -->

Helene's idea is about having one or two teachers share their failures openly at staff meetings, which is very much in line with your desire to have the wall serve as a prompt for further discussion. It does get rid of the anonymous aspect built in to the Failure Wall, which I quite like as I think often when trying to begin establishing a new norm of embracing vulnerability-- when people are still reticent to be open about their failures-- having the possibility to share anonymously might encourage people who might not feel comfortable doing so otherwise. Anyway, with Helene's idea in mind, I'm thinking you could start by finding a middle ground between open and anonymous sharing. Maybe you could have people submit their failure write ups and you or a team of you curate a few contributions that you can then display and discuss at meetings? At least in the beginning, until everyone starts to really understand the power of being vulnerable and open about our learnings and experiences as we've tried and failed.

You should reach out to Helene directly too, she might have some good insights.

Photo of Jane Bain

I love it! A routine to inspire innovation. I think this translates into "just do it" or there is no wrong path other than not taking the first step. I agree with you, we need to put ourselves and our students and parents into a "routine" of making innovation a priority in our days and weeks. Through actively making the time we will move forward. Thanks for your inspiration!

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I think a scheduled routine is the way to go. If we don't schedule, it can be put off until tomorrow, and tomorrow may never come, leaving it by the wayside. Sticking to a scheduled routine will keep us focused and will help build a habit of innovation.

Photo of Michael Schurr

Mark, Great idea! You should connect with Teacher Coach Erin Finn-Welch who also post an idea around "Buddy Up!"