Fidelity to What?

I was talking with a colleague about the concept of fidelity. I walked away wondering about what teachers were being asked to act with fidelity for. Is it fidelity (which means faithfulness to a belief or cause, demonstrated by continued loyalty) to a concept? a research agenda? a procedure? a program? or a script?

If I am "fidel" does that mean I am being asked to stop questioning things? to blindly accept what others have deemed is good for my students? to accept what others have said is effective?

At one extreme, this notion seems to go against every democratic ideal we have. At the other extreme, it seems to imply teachers should just shut up and do what they are told. How do the program creators know what works for all kids, so well, that it should just be followed and not questioned?

The question for me seems, "At what level are we being asked to follow with fidelity?" I can see asking teachers to work within the parameters of my framework for the Reading Workshop, namely the essentials for a reading workshop - to include a literate environment, reading aloud, interactive discussions, lessons in comprehension, reading assessment, and independent reading. If teachers are doing these things, does that mean they are doing the Reading Workshop with fidelity? How my control must be exercise over all teachers to say they are applying a program with fidelity? We need to begin asking what we are being asked to do.


  1. I completely agree. I took your class as a staff development at the school where I taught several years ago. I loved what you had to say! At the same time I was frustrated because what we already knew as professionals along with what we were learning from you completely contradicted what and how administration was mandating us to teach. Actually, I went to the principal at one point to share my feelings. The next week, you shared almost the exact same concern during our class. She called me into her office and accused me of emailing you to have you back me up! Administrators who can't spot good teaching would rather have a program that has page numbers so they can look at the page and make sure the teacher is teaching what they are supposed to. If you don't know good teaching, how can you have true accountability without a program? Unfortunately, when micromanagers with no understanding of how children gain true knowledge become administrators, they vote in boxed programs instead of becoming educated. Just my experience.


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