This is my favorite week of the year. For the third time, I’m excited to attend the Carnegie Summit. This is a place where people are talking about things the same way I want to. I’m inspired by the work people do and the amazing results they have improving the lives of their students and teachers.
For the first time I’ll be attending a pre-conference session on “Using Data for Improvement”. With our work this spring, I’ve found that the hardest thing is for teachers to use measurements! It’s been tough to find practical measures that teachers feel is a good enough responder to what they are trying to accomplish. For example, I suggested using the amount of time a student talks in response to a question. This was dismissed as misleading: students could be concise and clear or longwinded and obtuse, but the amount of time did not for sure reflect quality. I’m hoping to get lots of examples of what schools have used and perhaps some principles or logic about how to come up with them.
The keynotes this year are Tony Bryk, Becky Margiotta & Joe McCannon, Peter Senge, and Jeff Duncan-Andrade.
Other sessions I’m interested to attend:
- How do we improve? A comparison between three approaches to improving quality
- Building a science of improvement
- Tracking networks through social network analysis
- Developing ideas for change: Where do good ideas come from?
- How improvement science advances outcomes and opportunity
- Seeing the system from the user’s point of view through journey maps
Of course in the middle of all of this I am also midway through a first draft of my dissertation proposal. Hopefully this will be inspiration for some evening productivity!
A little over a year ago, I wrote about managing the second 500m of a crew race. Catch – send. Catch – send. There were moments that weren’t pretty, and work that I’m glad is done, but I made it through. I’m into the third 500m now, and it’s time for a power 10: 10 strokes as hard as I can pull.
It’s spring break. Campus is quiet, undergrads are off to Florida or Mexico, other grad students are working from home, and I’m in the office, frantically writing a first draft of my dissertation proposal. In two weeks, I need to have an executive summary for the Clark Seminar, which I’m honored to have been selected to. Next week, I’m off to another Carnegie Summit to present a poster about our PiPNIC work. So this week is it.
The third 500m is when you started to feel the send. You feel the glide of the boat under you, the water beside the boat smooths out, and there is a crisp snap against the oarlocks. The power 10 feels good: a sense of power, possibility, and strength.
I’m starting to see connections between what I thought was an interesting idea and the good work happening in schools. I use words like epistemology and distributed cognition and (at least I think) I know what they mean. I have definitely developed an appreciation for the time it takes to develop from an idea to a study.
Focus on the rhythm, keep the course, send each pull.
As part of our personalized learning in practice study, we visited, studied, and worked with a number of small district charter schools across Wisconsin. We talked a lot about High Tech High and Big Picture Schools. When I found this book (again, perusing the education stacks), it was in the area that I am thinking about: scale, design, and new models for learning. Reading it gave me a window into how to do education research at an organizational level.
Going to Scale with New School Designs: Reinventing High School, by McDonald, Klein, Riordan (2009).
The late 1990s was a time when the small school movement was rising, and there was interest and support for restructuring. This was the time of charters and vouchers, with the idea of choices and new designs. Similar to the Improvement by Design, this book is largely a story of the challenges of replication. In fact, they are an interesting (though unintended) juxtaposition. Whereas the goal of CSR was to replicate large traditional schools, the goal of “going to scale” with Big Picture was to replicate small, instructionally innovative schools. But their questions for inquiry are quite similar: how to install and support their design across contexts?, what challenges might be expected? how to manage these? what are the roles of the designer and client?
Next up on the read it and return it list is Change Leader: Learning to Do What Matters Most, by Michael Fullan (2011). This book was cited in something I read and I happened to be wandering the education stacks (yes, some people still do this) and I picked it up. I was curious about the first chapter: Practice Drives Theory: Doing is the crucible of change. Definitely in my court.
“All the best concepts to be deeply experientially grounded.” (p. xi) This book comes after Fullan worked on whole-system reform, engaging with practitioners and policymakers to change large, complex education systems. “The most effective leaders use practice as their fertile learning ground. They never go from theory to practice or research evidence to application. They do it the other way around: they try to figure out what’s working, what could be working better, and then look into how research and theory might help.” (p.xii)
- “Doing is the crucible of change” (p.3)
- “Effective change leaders … walk into the future through examining their own and others’ best practices, looking for insights they had hitherto not noticed” (p.11)
- adaptive challenge (require new discoveries and behavioral change) vs. technical problems (we know the answer, solution just needs to be applied) (p.17-18)
- “balance between capacity building and accountability interventions” (p.19)
It’s been awhile… I think every blogger goes through a spell when it’s really hard to write. In January, I set out a writing plan for the spring, which involved blogging a book per week. Easy, right? I made it through the first month, but the blogging never happened. And now I’m in a total writing block, unable to tap out the literature review that is past due! So, my goal is to get back in the saddle, as they say, and use this for what it’s always been good for: making me write, organize my thoughts, and document my work. I’ve pulled down all the books off my shelf from the library that I’ve read (okay, skimmed) over the past few years. In the next few days, they are going to get reviewed and returned. Forward progress and decluttering!
The first book is Improvement By Design: The Promise of Better Schools, by Cohen, Peurach, Glazer, Gates, and Goldin (2014). I’m all about improvement these days, heading to present a poster at the Carnegie Summit in a week, and I also am increasingly sold on the idea of education as the design for learning, which I wrote about LOOOONG ago, in the days before I did this reading and thinking for a living. So naturally, when I saw the title, I was intrigued.
I’m really curious right now about how people are using words around educational reform right now. The contents of the book talk about improvement, implementation, suitability, and building systems. Interestingly they do NOT say innovation, which is what I usually put alongside improvement. Here are MY definitions of a few terms:
- Improvement – making the system better
- Systemic Improvement – using a systems approach to make the system work better
- Innovation – creative application of a new-to-you idea
- Infrastructuring – the process of creating the connections, relationships, individual knowledge, and agency for change (based loosely on definitions from Penuel, 2015, and DiSalvo & DiSalvo, 2015)