Just as all children can learn, so can all adults. But for adult learning to thrive, we must create the conditions that motivate, inspire and support our nation’s teachers and educational leaders. This requires us to move away from traditional compliance-oriented or ‘top-down’ strategies that reinforce the same processes and ways of thinking of the past; and move towards trusting cultures and innovative thinking that builds on each person’s unique interests, skills and knowledge.
DARE Consulting helps schools and school systems move closer towards this goal by helping them to implement the four cornerstones of positive educational change:
- Actionable Data
There are often so many data points being collected in school systems, that it can feel overwhelming. Many times it is hard to know what to do with the information, even when engaging in rigorous scientific analysis. ACTIONABLE DATA focuses not on the spreadsheet or report that emerges from the research, but on the actions people take based on the data. It helps people discern not just what changes will matter most for improving outcomes, but how to implement and measure the success of those changes. This ensures that those using the data can see the results of their efforts in real-time, and inspires them to keep moving toward improvement.
- A Culture of Trust
There is a famous saying by Peter Drucker that summarizes what we know about educational change: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. No matter how good a new initiative is, it will only be successful if the community is ready for change. Educators and educational leaders that are ready for change TRUST that if they try new things and take risks, they will be supported and encouraged – even if they make mistakes. This mirrors the ‘Growth Mindset’ that many educators try to instill in students. And it is the key to developing an inspired workforce and supporting deep, ongoing improvement in schools.
- Continuous Improvement
Ideas for educational improvement move in and out of schools like a pendulum. Each idea usually has merit, but fails to create the level of change hoped for. The failure of each reform initiative usually has less to do with the power of the idea, and more to do with the fact that schools don’t typically have the time, capacity or sometimes even desire to implement the ideas fully. The CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT method stops the pendulum. It focuses on building both the capacity and desire of schools to identify, create and test out their own changes to improve outcomes for teachers and kids. It assumes that educators already have the knowledge, skills and creativity to solve the obstacles to school success. It just gives them the time and structure to design and test solutions that will have the biggest positive influence on student outcomes. This ensures that any changes made will be innovative, context-specific and have staying power. It also creates a cadre of inspired, skilled leaders that will continue to look for and instigate positive change wherever feasible – leading to ongoing, long-term, institutional progress.
- Effective Communication
There is no shortage of great ideas in schools. However, there is a shortage of knowledge for how to communicate those ideas in ways that lead to positive change. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION strategies help leaders articulate the most important elements of their efforts in ways that build interest and support for their work. This includes interest from those in the system (such as other educators and school system leaders), as well as invested stakeholders such as parents, funders, media and policy makers. The better the communication, the more likely the program or policy will succeed.