A Process Study of the Diffusion of Career Development

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Virginia Tech

The process of communicating new ideas—diffusion—transpires over time along communication channels in a social system. In education, much stands to be gained from successful innovation. The process is a perilous course with high rates of casualty. As viable innovations fail, our schools bear the consequences. This dissertation includes a process study of the diffusion of an innovation at a state department of education and in two school districts. The study was framed by Rogers' model of innovation in organizations (1995) to determine if the diffusion of a comprehensive career development program verified theory.

Through instrumental case studies, the process of diffusing career development was traced. The investigative procedure included the examination of temporal patterns that, when sequenced, indicated operational links in a multi-dimensional process of innovation.

Findings indicated five stages as delineated by Rogers (1995) but more broadly defined. Additionally, the stages emerged in interactive looping patterns unlike Rogers' linear model. Different outcomes were evidenced in each case. The state department of education was the only agency that verified the problem-based foundation of Rogers' initiation stages. The model's implementation components were found to be too linear, precluding the recycling patterns that occurred during the on-going mutual adaptations between the innovation and the organizations.

Rogers' model of the innovation process in organizations attempts, unsuccessfully, to reach beyond the complex communication networking that his descriptions of diffusion categorize. To attempt to spread the strength of the theoretical implications of actual diffusion is to misuse the assets and unjustly ascribe an inadequacy to them. Diffusion of innovation in individuals and in organizations involves different complexities that are not accounted for in Rogers' organization model. Rogers' model for individuals is deployable to the organization innovation process as explanation of individuals acting within a greater body, yet explaining the parts of a whole does not necessarily explain the whole. Rogers' model lacks content explanation and complexity explanation of the process of organizational innovation.

diffusion, innovation, career development, planned change