The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has recently begun developing a rigorous set of principles and processes to help educators replicate the success of promising reforms through data-driven, collaborative inquiry. Improvement Science represents a research-based, proactive reconceptualization of "data work" that reaches the core mechanisms of teaching and learning. The PLAN program teaches the Improvement Science framework and guides participants through actual improvement projects using this framework within their schools.
Improvement Science Core Principles
1. Make the work problem-specific and user-centered
It starts with a single question: "What specifically is the problem we are trying to solve?" It enlivens a co-development orientation: engage participants early and often.
2. Variation in performance is the core problem to address
The critical issue is not what works, but rather what works, for whom and under what set of conditions. Aim to advance efficacy reliably at scale.
3. See the system that produces the current outcomes
It is hard to improve what you do not fully understand. Go and see how local conditions shape work processes. Make your hypotheses for change public and clear.
4. We cannot improve at scale what we cannot measure
Embed measures of key outcomes and processes to track if change is an improvement. We intervene in complex organizations. Anticipate unintended consequences and measure these too.
5. Anchor practice improvement in disciplined inquiry
Engage rapid cycles of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) to learn fast, fail fast, and improve quickly. That failures may occur is not the problem; that we fail to learn from them is.
6. Accelerate improvements through networked communities
Embrace the wisdom of crowds. We can accomplish more together than even the best of us can accomplish alone.
Learning to Improve: How America's Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Anthony S. Bryk, Louis Gomez, Alicia Grunow, and Paul LeMahieu. Harvard Educational Publishing.
The Improvement Guide: A Practical Approach to Enhancing Organizational Performance. Gerald J. Langley, Ronald Moen, Kevin M. Nolan, Thomas W. Nolan, Clifford L. Norman, and Lloyd P. Provost. Jossey-Bass.