Saturday, August 1, 2015

Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement : Review

Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement : Review

The problem with school improvement programs is that they are not created for your school.  It is entirely unreasonable to assume that a school in need of improvement can study what another school is doing, copy it down to the last detail, implement it to perfection, and be successful.  Why? Because schools are not the same.  They do not have the same students, the same teachers, the same leaders, or the same situation.  Yes, lessons can be learned and important knowledge gained through research.  But success lies in the thoughtful data-driven application of this knowledge.

To make the changes necessary school leaders must have a deep understanding of diagnosis and design principals.  Spillane and Coldren's book Diagnosis for Design provides a balanced framework for analyzing how a school is functioning and making structural changes.  

Their analysis includes:

  • identifying leaders in the school using social interactions and responsibility for analysis
  • alignment between actions and the school's vision; and
  • a situational analysis using routines and leadership tools. 

Their book includes tools and strategies to analyze the organizational structure of the school.   Additionally, they provide an analytical approach to improving schools.  Their book is based on almost a decade of research that the authors have undertaken.  

The decades of school improvement efforts in the US has focused on improving teacher's instruction.  The result has been that we have more highly trained teachers.  Yet, our schools are not making the goals that have been set for them.  Maybe, we also need to improve schools. 

Oh, the balloons?  Not a party . . . a physics experiment.  Demonstrating the importance of deep diagnosis.  

Their book can be found on Google Books for a little over $15.00.  

Spillane, J. P., & Coldren, A. F. (2015). Diagnosis and design for school improvement: Using a distributed perspective to lead and manage change. Teachers College Press.

A review: by Rob Koch

Friday, September 26, 2014

Variables involved in creating a school that is based on technology

What does it take for technology to have a meaningful impact on the capacity of a school? 

By Rob Koch

The potential for technological innovation to increase the ability of a school to facilitate instruction remains largely untapped in many schools.  There are multiple factors that influence the effectiveness of technology implementation.  Levin and Schrum (2013) conducted a study of eight award-winning schools that considered technology as an important element of their success.  The study stressed the importance of using a systems thinking approach to implementing technology that addresses all of these factors at the same time.  Peter Senge (2012) defined systems thinking as the study of organizational structures and behavior focusing on identifying high-leverage strategies.

Levin and Schrum’s study identified the following components as being important for the implementation of technology:

·       Vision:  Teachers in their study stressed the importance of having a clear vision that guides the practices of the entire school. 

·       Distributed Leadership:  Levin and Schrum also found that distributed played an important role in implementing new strategies to improve learning.  Their study primarily focused on the teacher empowerment effect of distributed leadership (DL).  Harris (2013) would also point to the ability of DL to increase the organizational knowledge of the school and the data-driven practices of professional communities.  Taken together, teachers in a DL model work harder to implement new practices based on data-driven decisions through collaboration. 

·       School culture:   The most compelling finding of the Levin and Schrum study regarding school culture was the importance of trust and establishing digital citizenship.

·       Technology planning and Support:  Levin and Schrum found that the majority of schools that they studied found it important to have IT support in place.

·       Professional development:    They also found that schools that were effective in implementing technology provided time for professional learning communities.

·       Curriculum and instructional practices:  Some of the benefits that the study found were increased accesses to information, teachable moments for information literacy, and the ability to gather data quickly.

·       Funding:  Many of the schools changed their textbook policies to allow for open educational resources, replacing the cost of a textbook with the cost of a tablet or other device.  Some districts implemented policies allowing students to bring their own technology.

·       Partnerships:  Levin and Schrum also found that technology enabled the schools to strengthen their communications with parents.  Additionally, they noted that through partnerships with businesses, schools were able to increase their funding.

It was interesting to use to gain further insight into the findings of Levin and Schrum (Please feel free to explore and comment).  In developing this model, the factors that seemed to arise out of other factors were not considered as independent variables (slider).  For example, it was determined that school-parents and school-organizations partnerships would be influenced by the level of inclusiveness and relationships of the DL practices.  Additionally, independent variable were selected considering the ability of the school leaders to make choices regarding the implementation and allocation of efforts and resources.  (The Insightmaker contains detailed information regarding the assumptions that were made in creating the model.) The importance of distributed leadership and the vision of the school become apparent in this model.   

Harris, A. (2013). Distributed school leadership: Developing tomorrow's leaders Routledge.
Levin, B. B., & Schrum, L. (2013). Using systems thinking to leverage technology for school improvement: Lessons learned from award-winning secondary schools/districts. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(1), 29-51.
Senge, P. M., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., & Dutton, J. (2012). Schools that learn (updated and revised): A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education Random House LLC.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Open Educational Resources to Improve Student Achievement

A recent review from the What Works Clearinghouse (2014) reported that a study of the effectiveness of using MOOC’s as part of a blended classroom environment resulted in higher test scores. This report and several others indicate that open educational resources (OER) when used in a blended classroom result in higher levels of student achievement. Welsh and Dragusin (2013) discussed the business aspect of OER in relation to post-secondary institutions, concluding that they need to adjust their practices. They identified potential problems that might arise in the future such as revenue models, accreditation, course completion rate, and student achievement. I believe two things to be true. First teachers will always be an essential component of the educational system. Secondly, the work of teachers and organization of schools in their current state is quickly becoming irrelevant. The question that begs to be considered is what is the potential effect of OER on the public educational system? How do public schools need to adapt to capitalize on the vast potential of OER? How do we prepare teachers to provide education in the 21st Century?

Welsh, D. H., & Dragusin, M. (2013). The New Generation of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCS) and Entrepreneurship Education. Small Business Institute® Journal, 9(1), 51-65.

What Works Clearinghouse (2014). Interactive online learning on campus: Testing MOOCs and other platforms in hybred formats in the university system of Maryland. WWC Quick Review. Retreived from

Rob Koch