REFINE AND SUPPORT
How can your team best engage in continuous improvement? How and when will you monitor and reassess?
- Leaders are more successful at supporting all learners when they consistently collect, monitor, and evaluate data and outcomes from schools.
- Leaders who engage in continuous improvement have “more engaged workers coached by more capable managers whose more agile organizations can make more effective decisions” (per McKinsey).
- Monitoring and assessing progress along the way allows for quicker course correction if needed, and for targeted and embedded support to teachers (the way we expect teachers to support students).
- Use a continuous improvement framework. Create a plan for continuous improvement via a plan-do-study-act cycle or another model. Frameworks can help your team develop a common language that makes communication easier and the work more efficient.
- Model with adults what you want them to do for kids. Practice what you preach. Model what you want teachers to do for students by providing just-in-time, embedded learning opportunities rather than blanketed professional development.
- Continuously align the work to main strategic documents. Make sure your ongoing iteration efforts are reflected in your key documents such as the LCAP.
- Leverage an existing continuous improvement toolkit for expediency. Instead of creating a continuous improvement process from scratch, consider using existing models and toolkits to help ease the lift. Our accompanying work plan for this playbook offers a high-level glimpse into the Plan-Do-Study-Act improvement process. For something more thorough, consider Instruction Partners’ Continuous Improvement Toolkit or CCEE’s toolkit for continuous improvement.
- Get clarity through questions. For an organization to improve, its leaders and other key participants must set clear and firm intentions. Try these questions as a starting point:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What changes might we introduce and why?
- How will we know the change is an improvement?
- Identify priority knowledge and skills for adults. Map out the adult learning competencies you desire to see and communicate them with staff. Those needed for blended teaching are outlined here. Align your desired outcomes and your LCAP as you create a plan for support and professional development.
- Assess or collect data on what support the team needs.
- Survey what is hard and what feels manageable, and what they want to learn.
- Do walkthroughs of classrooms to observe grade-level instruction and implementation of curriculum and identify needed PD.
- Collect lesson plans or work samples.
- Have teachers in PLCs look at sample grade-level assignments and lessons and tune how they could improve.
- Hold Q & A sessions or informal check-ins.
- Collaborate with educators and leaders to create a professional learning plan for this new phase. How will you support teachers in gaining the identified competencies, given the needs and assets in your community?
- Prioritize key needs and offer training to address knowledge gaps identified through surveys.
“Planning Professional Learning for Teachers and Leaders”, a 20-minute video developed by the CCEE and TNTP.
- Offer high-quality professional learning. Organizations focusing on accelerating learning for students cannot do so without high-quality professional learning for staff. According to research from the Institute of Education Sciences, high-quality professional learning:
- is tied to specific content and outcomes;
- incorporates active learning;
- is job-embedded;
- is collaborative;
- provides models;
- includes coaching;
- is sustained and continuous; and
- is aligned with school goals, standards and assessments, and other professional learning activities.
- Offer choice to engage staff in learning. Choice generates engagement. Cedar Rapids Community School District created a BINGO Board to encourage educators to select content and learning experiences based on their specific needs. This slide deck from Dallas ISD illustrates a creative way to present PD experiences to engage educators in supportive, personalized ways.
- Build in time to practice developing new skills with support.
- Foster a community of support among peers. Build processes for collaborative learning, peer sharing, and iteration as teachers adapt to new practices. Develop best practices by fostering peer collaboration, including connecting employees with someone in a similar role but different context, and partnering those experienced in a certain competency or tool with those who are new to it. Once your programs are off the ground, these tools from Instruction Partners can help you improve your PLCs, coaching practices, and other staff supports.
- Iterate cyclically to fine-tune competencies. Keep iterating. Get feedback and continue to work together. Be sure to host meetings and staff conversations, for both administrators and teachers, to discuss future plans for students and the LEA/school.
- Bring the adult community together and along.
- Don’t rush the team through transformation. Be sure to provide ample support and resources for the team during the change process. Acknowledge the depth of mindset and practice shift this new phase of learning requires of teachers. Veteran teachers will feel like novices again, tried-and-true practices for student engagement may not work, and technical hurdles will create frustration.
- See the Creating a People-Centered Culture section of CCEE’s Field Guide for ways to celebrate success and improve morale. These are hard times, and small acts of acknowledgement can go a long way.
- Make sure your plan has opportunities for staff collaboration.
- Use best practices for meetings as suggested in this sample agenda.
- Model strategies you are asking teachers to use to engage learners.
- Leverage teacher collaboration. One suggestion is to have teachers “tune” one another’s lesson plans for scaffolding.
- Check on grade-level scaffolding. Walk through classrooms to ensure teachers are appropriately scaffolding prioritized grade-level content.
- Carnegie Foundation’s reflection guide on Transforming Educational Systems Toward Continuous Improvement.
- EDC’s guidebook and toolkit on Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement.
- Knowledgeworks’ The Education Changemaker’s Guidebook to Systems Thinking.