Every once in a while you come upon an idea that really helps you to make sense of things. For me it was the book, Trade-Off, which looks at how the balance of convenience and fidelity determines which products catch on and have staying power, and which products quickly fade away. It was in the context of trying to understand the cost-effectiveness and enduring impact of our Power2Achieve programming that we began to consider these ideas of convenience and fidelity. The graphic below is a visual we built to demonstrate the basic ideas.
If you just think about programming that you’re familiar with in schools in terms of convenience and fidelity you begin to see what we’re going after: Some approaches are convenient (easy to use, doesn’t take too much time, students like it—or at least don’t hate it), but they lack fidelity. These are your “rock hard abs in just 15 minutes a day programs.” They are what we crassly call “cheesy, contrived, junk.” Then there are other programs that have great fidelity (strong theoretical and empirical basis and likely to have impact if they’re sustained), but they are impossible to sustain because they’re inconvenient to implement (they take too much time, require too much coaching and training, etc.). Too often these are the programmatic solutions of academics and theoreticians who overbuild and rely too heavily on extensive training and coaching because the ideas are not refined to the simplicity beyond complexity.
In fairness, in the past we’ve been guilty of proposing a convenience-fidelity proposition to schools that was unsustainable. Even schools that believed deeply in what we were proposing and the rigor of its vision and general recommendations, struggled to figure out what to do, how to do it, and ultimately struggled to sustain their efforts. We got closer last year with our first generation of Power2 programming. The subsequent revisions to this year’s programming we believe are getting closer still to programming that is right in the crosshairs of convenience and fidelity. Something that is theoretically and practically sound, engaging for students, user-friendly for teachers, and goes after the core issues that impact teaching and learning.
We’ll be sharing more examples of what this looks like and how we’re doing it. But reflect for a minute about the programming you have experienced using this convenience and fidelity notion as a lens. I think it helps you understand when you’ve got something that isn’t right and when you’ve got something that is right; the real challenge, is what to do to fix something that IS NOT balancing convenience and fidelity. For us it just took more than 15 years of blood, sweat, and tears. But with any luck, you can learn from our mistakes and more effeciently and effectively create something that has enduring impact.
For a fuller description of how we are operationally defining the terms “convenience” and “fidelity” and how Power2Achieve is going after this balance of convenience and fidelity you can check out this link from under the programming tab on our website http://excellenceandethics.com/programs/P2A_Logic_Model_Description.pdf.