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Diffusion of Innovation Theory and Its Application in a Teaching Environment

Diffusion of Innovation Theory and Its Application in a Teaching Environment

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Published by Lia Tasoudi
How the model described in the Diffusion of Innovation Theory can be used by teacher to assist the process of differentiation of their lesson in a given classroom.
How the model described in the Diffusion of Innovation Theory can be used by teacher to assist the process of differentiation of their lesson in a given classroom.

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Published by: Lia Tasoudi on Jul 18, 2014
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Diffusion of innovation theory and its application in a teaching environment

For the past fifteen years a more interactive way of teaching has appeared along with the
implementation of technology in education. However, recent research argues that interactive
technology alone does not guarantee a deep and thorough understanding of the material from
students. Proper pedagogy and the division of labour between teacher and students are
instrumental in achieving the desirable learning outcome.

Diffusion of innovation theory
Diffusion of Innovation Theory (DOI) is a sociological theory, developed in 1962 by E.M.
, containing a set of general rules to explain how an innovation is adopted by
the population and affects social change.
'Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain
channels over time among the members of a social system'
and 'an innovation can
be anything from an idea, practice, or object perceived as new by an individual or other
unit of adoption' .
[1, p.35]

According to researchers
[1, p.245-249]
,the population can be divided into five groups (see
figure 1) depending on their innovativeness, which is their relative propensity to adopt
an innovation earlier, compared to rest of the members of their social system.

Figure 1. Adopter distribution based on their innovativeness [1, p.247]. The distribution approaches normality with
mean innovativeness (x) and standard deviation (sd).

The underlying principle driving diffusion is the uncertainty associated with anything
new. The innovation-decision process
[1, p.163-178]
is the effort of the individual to minimise
this uncertainty and consists of five stages: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision,
Implementation, Confirmation.

The Decision stage
[1, p.210-232]
is affected by five qualities of the innovation itself:
1. Relative Advantage: How much better the innovation is perceived to be
compared to the idea it seeks to replace
2. Compatibility: How compatible it is perceived to be with regards to the values,
practices and needs of the social group
3. Complexity: The degree it is perceived to be difficult to understand and use
4. Trialability: The degree it is possible to for each individual to test it
5. Observability: How easy it is to see positive results from its adoption

It is evident that the Diffusion of Innovation Theory can offer a useful guideline to
promote an idea or behaviour in any particular social system by understanding the
Figure 2. A model of five stages in the Innovation-Decision process [1,p.165]. The Persuasion stage is the
formation of a favourable or unfavourable attitude towards the innovation and is influenced by the
Characteristics of the individual. In the Decision stage the individual engages in activities to make a choice to
adopt or reject the innovation and this choice depends on its Perceived Characteristics.
needs of each population group, utilizing peer-to-peer communication channels and
refining the characteristics of the innovation to much the existing needs.
Background of the study
As part of the Communicating Physics course, the school I was allocated to visit and
conduct my project on was Central Foundation Girls' School in Bow, London. It is a girls',
Comprehensive, Voluntary aided school for students 11-18 years old. It has
approximately 1500 students the majority of which are Bangladeshi and the main
minorities are White British, African, Black Caribbean. As a result there is a high
proportion of students that are at the early stages of learning English as a second
language. According to an Ofsted report
the school has an above average percentage
of students with Special Education Needs (SEN) or Statement of Special Education
A preliminary visit was scheduled with Mr. Wahid Uzzaman, the main host in the school
for this program, to meet and discuss. As was suggested by Wahid, most girls are
encouraged by their families to pursue professions that are perceived to be of a 'high
status' (lawyers, doctors). Lack of knowledge and misinformation lead the students to
lose interest in science, as it is seen as a 'dead-end career path'. All the above
information were taken into consideration while building the project.

Purpose of this project
The aim of this project was to study the efficacy of the Diffusion Theory used by
teachers in order to create and modify their teaching methods for a particular class. This
case study used various approaches to communicate the concepts in each lesson and its
evaluation reports on the perceived attributes of the innovation (in this context the
holistic approach to science) that affected the students' decision to engage with the

Setting and Sample
This case study was conducted in Mr. Stephen Pearce's Year 11 Science Class (26
Research is a necessary component to identify the needs of a particular group and
proceed by introducing an innovation to satisfy a particular need. During both the
preliminary meeting with Wahid and the first visit to Stephen's class, information
regarding the students' attitudes and dispositions was collected.
Stephen's teaching method involved students copying key-words in their notebooks,
followed by a power point presentation from which students wrote down the
definitions of the keywords and anything the might consider useful. The slides however
were not selective enough and became difficult to read as they contained too many
pictures and text. Most students were struggling to jot words down and did not digest
any information. After the presentation students were handed worksheets to answer on
their own by going through their notes and books. When they couldn't find the answer
they could ask a fellow student or the teacher. This took about half the lesson. From my
observation this approach was only effective for a very limited number of students (6
out of 26). The students that were self-motivated and liked the subject were the ones
that did most of the work and then the rest copied the answers without engaging with
the material.
The observations agree with theory as discussed in the Introduction and stress out the
importance of teachers actively engaging more in a class where the majority of students
find the subject indifferent.
As soon as the research part of the project was complete, a Logic Model to assist in the
preparation and evaluation of each lesson was constructed:

Low student
n during
Do a
Start a
with the
No. of

No. of
Attitude ?
Out of the scope of
this study. Confined
due to time scales
involved, resources
necessary for follow
up evaluation.

The logic model was a systematic evaluation tool in order to refine the teaching process
after every class. Through analyzing the type of the reached population group as
described by theory (Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards)
and the successes and failures of each lesson, an improved lesson plan was constructed
for the following time.
Taking the students' background into consideration, it was decided that the project
should involve me actively teaching during the lesson, instead of merely assisting and
undertaking an afterschool activity, so as to act as a role model for them. Since the
school specializes in performing arts, citizenship and English
a more holistic approach
that incorporated various disciplines such as politics, history, philosophy and drama in
science was adopted in the lessons.
To sum up, the innovation was the adoption of an all-encompassing teaching method,
that would use modern technology without heavily relying on it. The problem that was
to be addressed with the introduction of this innovation was the students' lack of
motivation and engagement with the material in the classroom. The aim of this study
was to determine whether the Diffusion of Innovation Theory can pragmatically act as
the instrument to inform change in an educational environment.

The division of the student population in the 5 groups as described by theory was done
in the first observation of the class.
In a classroom the Innovators would be students that are already motivated, enjoy
science and are eager to try a new method so long as they consider it would give them
an academic advantage. They play an important role in the diffusion process by assisting
in bringing in the innovation from outside the system's realms. Innovators don't
necessarily need to be respected or esteemed by the rest of the population.
Next, the Early Adopters would be students that are highly respected members of the
social group. They are "Opinion Leaders" because they can influence the attitudes and
opinions of many other members of the social system. To maintain their central position
in the communication channels of the class, their organic role is to try a new idea and
communicate their subjective evaluation to the rest of the class.
The Early Majority consists of students that would be willing to adopt the innovation
and embrace the new way of teaching just before the average number of the system.
These students have key roles in the communication channels of the class but rarely
hold leadership positions.
Students that would be classified as belonging to the Late Majority are skeptical
towards any new ideas. Only when the rest of the population has formed a favourable
attitude towards the innovation will they

the diffusion process begins after an innovation has been developed to solve a recognized need

The characteristics of innovations, as perceived by individuals,
help to explain their different rate of adoption.

1. Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it
supersedes. It does not matter so much whether an innovation has a great deal of "objective"
2. Ofsted report 2011 on Central Foundation Girls' School (CFGS), CFGS Website, Last visited 02-
04-2014, http://www.central.towerhamlets.sch.uk/Ofsted

1. Everett M. Rogers diffusion of innovation, 3rd edition, The Free Press-A Division of Macmillan
Publishing Co., Inc., United States of America, 1982, ISBN0-02-926650-5, pp. 35
2.Kevin, Verenikina, Wrona, & Jones, 2010,p.10---

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