Getting through the implementation dip: Find and hold onto your inspiration!

Holly and I just finished a 2 day skills-based health education workshop with some amazing educators in Maine. People left feeling excited, energized  . . . and a little overwhelmed. Making a significant change in the way you are teaching can be a daunting task, no matter how committed, passionate and ready you are! This can be particularly hard due to the “implementation dip” that we know occurs after learning new material.

The implementation dip refers to the phenomenon of the fact that you leave a professional development feeling confident and ready to make a change but then . . . when you go to implement your new learning, it isn’t as clear or as easy as it was in your head after you left the conference. In other words, you experience a dip. You begin to try out your new ideas and confidence drops a bit. Or you weren’t able to get started right after the PD and now you aren’t really sure where you should start or even how to start. This is the implementation dip.

implementation dip

The good news is, this is temporary – and you can move through it. Not only that, once you move through this dip, you often come out more confident in your new learning. Hold steady – it is important to not let this dip prevent you from moving forward! With all new learning and trying a new strategy comes bumps in the road. Just like we tell our students – you just keep trying, you will get there. Whether you recently attended a PD or are pulling from an event you attended before and are now trying to make the shift to a skills-based approach and are hitting some bumps along the way – read on!

One thing you need to remember is that change is hard and often uncomfortable because we are pushing ourselves outside of where we have become comfortable. This means you may feel overwhelmed, have lessons flop, look at an assessment you gave students and think “well – that didn’t go quite as planned”. You may find that you have trouble getting student buy in at first because they are unfamiliar with your new approach, or have difficulties convincing a co-worker about this new(er) way of teaching health. Don’t get discouraged!


Here are some strategies to overcome the implementation dip:

  • Find Your Inspiration – No matter what obstacles you face – it is key to find your inspiration and to leverage the support of your #SkillsBasedHealth #HealthEd community to keep moving forward!
  • Write Down your Goal/Plan – Maybe your inspiration is your students, your own professional growth, the approach itself, the challenge of making a change . . . whatever it is, write it down! We know from research that writing down and intention makes up far more likely to achieve it. Stick it somewhere that you can see it often so that it can serve as a reminder to keep going!
  • Seek out Support – There is no need to suffer alone. Reach out to us, join (or create) a learning network of teachers who are embracing a skills-based approach, review the materials, use social media such as twitter, Facebook, or Voxer to ask for support. There are lots of people willing to help and offer ideas.
  • Try something new – Sometimes the hardest part of getting started is to just DO IT. Be willing to be open with yourself and your students. Let them know you are trying something a little different and that you are all in this together. They will feed off of your confidence
  • Keep Skills as the Primary Focus – While this may seems like a no brainer (we know, we know), it is easy to get pulled back into the land of content because that is where we are/were comfortable. Refer back to the skill cues, consider the outcomes you want from your students, and then make a plan. If you keep in mind that everything you do in the classroom leads to student outcomes you are more likely to be thoughtful in the activities and assessments you select.

We can all get bogged down by life, dwell on our mistakes or failures and feel that we aren’t going to be able to actually make a change. But when we push through and persevere – that is the good stuff – that is progress, and growth and expanding our limits!

No matter where you are in the process, remember:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” ~Arthur Ashe

Every change you make will lead to more changes and eventually you will reach your goal of being a kick@ss skills-based health educator!


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