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Creating the Space to Focus on What Works

First Edition

Foreword by Andreas Schleicher

June 2022 | 160 pages | Corwin

When it comes to school initiatives, more isn’t always better.

Today’s educators are buried under old practices, new ideas, and recommended initiatives. The problem? With such an abundance of strategies, it’s hard to recognize what, if anything, is working.

Before you’re tempted to add just one more idea to the pile, take a step back—and an objective look—so that you, central office leaders, building leaders, and teachers can decide which practices to keep, which to modify, and which to eliminate altogether. This guide provides

  • A research- and evidence-based framework for determining efficacy
  • Practical steps for removing, reducing, or replacing ineffective practices
  • Action steps, examples, and tips for beginning the work—and getting teacher buy-in
  • Templates for charting your school’s individual path to de-implementation

Ineffective practices don’t just waste teacher time; they can have a catastrophic impact on student progress. Use de-implementation to shine a light on the path forward—one where teachers can focus on what works, and students can focus on learning.

About the Author
What Are Educators Interested in De-implementing?
Chapter 1: The Trouble With Implementation (and how to make it better)
Educational Trends Over the Past Thirty Years

Five Reasons We Over-Implement

Improving Implementation

A Quick Guide for Good Implementation

Addressing Our Assumptions

Anticipating Roadblocks

Monitoring Our Minds—Mindset

In the End

Discussion Questions

Chapter 2: The De-implementation Research (with practical adaptations)
Defining De-implementation

Two Types of De-implementation

Formal and Informal De-implementation

Anticipating Roadblocks

Monitoring Our Minds: Unlearning and Relearning

In the End

Discussion Questions

Chapter 3: What Gets De-implemented (based on reflection and evidence)

Partial Reduction

Replacement Actions

The Foundations of Your De-implementation Plan

Criteria for What Gets De-implemented

Gathering Evidence

Gathering Questions

Anticipating Roadblocks

Monitoring Our Minds: Locus of Control

In the End

Discussion Questions

Chapter 4: The Cycle of De-implementation (for big ideas around school change)
The Cycle of De-implementation

Sometimes Slow Is Fast

Anticipating Roadblocks

Monitoring Our Minds: Filling the Void

In the End

Discussion Questions

Chapter 5: Your Team’s De-implementation Process (considering who you need and how fast to go)
This Chapter

Part I: Your Team

Pacing and Agendas

Part II: Your Official Cycle of De-implementation

Anticipating Roadblocks

Monitoring Our Minds: Well-Being

In the End

Discussion Questions

One Final Activity


Constantly bombarded by new innovations that fail to yield promised results, education leaders often grow frustrated and discouraged. Rather than becoming skeptical of all innovations, Peter advises leaders to become thoughtfully discerning through the process of de-implementation. It’s wise advice that is long overdue and vitally important.

Thomas R. Guskey, Ph.D.
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

STOP. We add, reform, innovate, and tinker but rarely consider how to reduce and halt that which has the least impact and distracts from the joy of teaching. DeWitt invites you to reflect, respond, and remove, and introduces the notion of efficiency into your life. This book in education is so overdue. It is the Konmari decluttering bible for schools. 

John Hattie
University of Melbourne and co-director of the Hattie Family Foundation, Carlton, Vic, Australia

Schools are busy places that are often filled with the debris of failed initiatives. Peter's latest book tackles this unspoken challenge head-on. Highlighting the science of de-implementation and presenting a practical framework, his book is a must for any leader seeking support in clearing the decks in their buildings and empowering their teachers to focus on the important work of teaching. 

Tim O’Leary
Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Parksville, VIC , Australia

De-Implementation is a core competency for any organization that focuses like a laser on only those high value initiatives that have real impact. Peter shows “the why” behind implementation, and helps you map your own process and success criteria.  If your leadership goal is to be more purposeful in where you focus your time, resources and talent, De-implementation can help.

Colleen Kaney
Hamburg Central School District, Hamburg, NY

In De-implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works Peter Dewitt convincingly makes the case for getting serious about stopping or reducing (some) existing practices, and he provides no-nonsense tools to help you get this work done. It will help you to take the ‘less-path’, whilst also getting more done in the process!

Dr Arran Hamilton
Cognition Education, New Zealand

The pace and breadth of initiatives in schools seem to grow exponentially. De-implementation offers a much-needed sense of relief to step back and “creates space to focus on what works.”  The text reads like a conversation, offers a roadmap back to balance, and outlines a clear process and hands-on tools to support along the way.

Chris Beals
Washington Association of School Administrators, Instructional Leadership Network, Tumwater, WA

My goal this year as a principal was to evaluate what we are doing in our building that is effective.  As always, Peter Dewitt breaks down big ideas into immediate action steps that are simple.  This book is timely for leaders in education because it is an opportunity to make evidence-based changes that focus on student learners and effective practices.

Stacy Storey
Oklahoma City School District, Oklahoma City, OK

After decades of adding on in public education, DeWitt’s De-Implementation guides readers through a thoughtful experience of reflection, wonder and questioning.  He challenges decades of assumptions that more is better.  Instead, he encourages more implementation of deep, important practices.  Frankly, I will use the concept of “clutter checks” for the rest of my career!

 Like Peter says, “It’s now your turn!”

Michael Nelson
Assistant Executive Director at WASA, Enumclaw, WA

A timely and necessary read, DeWitt challenges us teachers and  leaders to look introspectively and consider what might we no longer need in education. The process of implementation should first look at what isn’t serving our best interests and DeWitt provides a practical model to do so. All stakeholders who are responsible for initiatives and professional learning should read this book immediately.

Vince Bustamante, M. Ed.
Edmonton AB, Canada

Peter has touched on a topic that so many school leaders have at times completely missed. De-implementation comes at a time when schools are being asked to take more on without considering what needs to be left behind. Peter’s notion of de-implementation provides a platform for school communities to examine not just what they do but how and why they do it.

Raymond Boyd
West Swan (Dayton) Primary School, West Swan, WA, Australia

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