On several occasions, I have heard about how educational initiatives are like a pendulum.  Schools go from one initiative to another, just to have it come back again several years later.  Why does this happen? 

            The first thought I have is about how schools claim to use research based practices.  This is one of the first fallacies because research is not on a pendulum.  Research is supposed to build on previous research.  For example, often researchers in the social sciences will use quantitative research is meant to check the validity of claims done with qualitative research.  Many journals are refereed, so people read over them and make sure that the methods are sound and information is accurate. 

            If research is not like a pendulum, why would people in education feel like initiatives are like it?  Many schools and districts do not stay with initiatives long enough to see them through.  If they are not given enough time, schools cannot tell if the initiatives are being effective or not.  It also makes teachers feel like they are bouncing from one initiative to another.  If the teachers do not get to see the initiative come into fruition, then they will believe it did not work, which leads to teachers believe that an initiative that seems like the opposite should be followed.   

            Some school leaders agree and say that initiatives are like a pendulum.  Leaders are the ones that have the opportunity to shape initiatives.  Granted many principals must follow directions from assistant superintendents and superintendents, but school districts need to be able to find a way to truly practice research based initiatives. To be able to have research based initiatives shows there needs to be people that are well versed in the research. 

            Another problem with initiatives is that many people that implement professional development, do not help make connections between previous initiatives and current initiatives.  This gives the illusion that initiatives are disconnected and that schools are bouncing from one initiative to another.  It also makes staff members feel like before one initiative is mastered, the school is focusing on another.

            Initiatives in school should not seem like they are pendulous.  The ways many schools approach research and new initiatives helps lead people in education to view initiatives as disconnected and going back and forth from one to another.  When leaders view initiatives in the same manner, it is discouraging since leaders are the ones that can help the faculty make connections between initiatives and can make sure initiatives continue to grow throughout initiatives.  



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One thing fascinating about the "pendulum effect" is that it never fails to hypnotize no matter how short the time span is. We can claim it never worked for us when someone tried it. Believe it or not, it works. Some people just stay in the hypnotized state longer than others. I think if this concept is used academically, it can also hypnotize students. Just my two cents.

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07/10/2016 10:57pm

It really makes staff members feel like before one initiative is mastered, the school is focusing on another!


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09/22/2016 11:06pm

Hi and thanks for this informative blog post. By definition, a pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. It constantly swings from one end to another. Research should not just be a continuation of an older research. It must be a completely new way of thinking. It shouldn't just swing from one end to another, it must go on its own path.

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