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iLEAD Schools Embrace Improvement Science

Improvement Science

Many educators have long viewed learning as a process – indeed one that is about continual growth and improvement. This idea – which can be applied to any pursuit – is now being formally recognized as a new discipline. Improvement science is a concept which zeroes in on how to implement quality improvement well. Leaders at iLEAD have chosen to embark on a journey to learn more about this emerging discipline.

Improvement Science Defined
The philosophy behind Improvement Science, according to the Carnegie Foundation, has six core principles. They are: (1) Make the work problem-specific and user-centered, (2) Variation in performance is the core problem to address, (3) See the system that produces the current outcomes, (4) We cannot improve at scale what we cannot measure, (5) Anchor practice improvement in disciplined inquiry and (6) Accelerate improvements through networked communities.

Taking this to the next level, iLEAD Director of Humanities and Innovation Angie Nastovska is part of a The System Improvement Leads Project cohort that:
Inspires SELPAs and LEAs to engage in a culture of continuous improvement in order to improve outcomes for students (INSPIRE) .
Is committed to connecting SELPAs and LEAs throughout the state to resources and tools that will improve outcomes for students (CONNECT).
The System Improvement Leads Project promotes innovation as SELPAs and LEAs engage in the continuous improvement journey (INNOVATE).

The Team
Nastovska is joined by iLEAD colleagues Linda Krystek, iLEAD Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment and Matt Watson, iLEAD Director of Maker Outreach.

The Why
Nastovska sees this new learning on Improvement Science as a system that might help iLEAD become more streamlined and unified in terms of how the organization defines and addresses any of the problems or challenges. Through the current Improvement Science Training, she said she and her colleagues are being tasked through this with identifying a problem and using different measures and tools to address and work on that problem.

“We all joined to gain practical tools and strategies for systematic and effective problem solving cycles,” said Nastovska.

iLEAD Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Linda Krystek sees Improvement Science as a dynamic approach to problem-solving that iLEAD Schools will use to study and improve their education programs and processes. She thinks that the outcome of this training will be a greater understanding of how all of the iLEAD systems work, where breakdowns occur and what actions can be taken to improve overall performance.

She said that the team is reading the book Learning To Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better and it is having an immediate impact on their thinking.

“Collectively, educators need to adopt a more rigorous approach to improvement,” said Krystek. “Our field needs to continue to model how to learn fast and implement well.”

Watson is also excited about the new learning thus far that looks at organizational improvement as a science that can be designed and executed. He said he sees lots of potential for new and effective ways to improve iLEAD practices and results across the board.

“I love the refreshing approach that the facilitators of this course are taking in that they help us get out of the weeds of our own systems and look at results through the lens of the end user – the learners,” said Watson.

Connections To PBL
Nastovska said that Improvement science connects well to project-based learning and the mission of iLEAD Schools. She said at the core of both Improvement Science and PBL is the concept of problem solving – identifying and addressing challenges.

“Specifically, before using this approach, I thought that forming a solution to a problem constituted a change and now I see that change is a continuous process,” said Nastovska. “PBL is also all about emphasizing the process rather than the end product or the solution.”

Krystek concurs with Nastovska and sees the multiple connections between Improvement Science and the pedagogy for project-based learning.

“Both incorporate an authentic problem that needs to be solved,” said Krystek. “It’s about bringing together a team or network that addresses those issues to accelerate learning and achieve better outcomes.”

Looking Ahead
Although still new to the training and resources, Nastovska said she’s excited about the potential of the Improvement Science discipline.

“As a PBL practitioner, I think this is a discipline that we can bring to all that we do and all that we face in terms of challenges,” said Nastovska.

iLEAD Founder/CEO Dawn Evenson said that iLEAD has always emphasized lifelong learning and Improvement Science aligns well with this priority.

“This discipline will add structure around this iLEAD Design Principle,” said Evenson. “This will support our learners as they continually lean into their curiosities and passions.”

In addition to the aforementioned resources from the Carnegie Foundation, Nastovska recommends How to Plan and Implement Continuous Improvement In Schools.

Posted on September 21, 2021 in iLEAD Digest

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About the Author

Michael Niehoff is an educator, leader, writer and learner advocate.
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