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A Framework for the Initiation of Networked Improvement Communities


by Jennifer Lin Russell, Anthony S. Bryk, Jonathan R. Dolle, Louis M. Gomez, Paul G. Lemahieu & Alicia Grunow — 2017

Background/Context: Educators around the country are working individually and collectively to improve teaching and learning. Despite marked progress in some places driven by these improvement efforts, overall progress in the education field has been slow and outcomes remain highly variable. This is partly because the field is not organized to learn systematically, accumulate, and disseminate the practical knowledge needed for the improvement of teaching and learning.

Purpose/Objective: This paper explores the initiation of a social structure to organize collaborative improvement work: the networked improvement community (or NIC). NICs are highly structured, intentionally formed collaborations among education professionals, researchers, and designers that aim to address a high leverage practical problem. We focus on NIC initiation, because of the challenges associated with launching improvement networks.

Research Design: Drawing on analysis of case studies of network initiation and theory on network initiation and the NIC concept, we posit an organizing framework for describing the process of NIC initiation.

Findings/Results: The NIC initiation framework specifies five domains of activity that we hypothesize are critical to launching a NIC. These domains attend to: developing a theory of practice improvement; building a measurement and analytics infrastructure; learning and using improvement research methods; leading, organizing, and operating the network; and fostering the emergence of culture, norms, and identity consistent with network aims. We illustrate these five domains with examples from a set of case studies of network initiation that we utilized as a way to test and further elaborate the framework.

Conclusions/Recommendations: A firm foundation for network initiation is laid through the strategic actions of a network initiation team. By attending to the five domains of activity specified in our framework, initiation teams can catalyze the development of an organizational structure that allows educators to accelerate learning from practice and building a professional knowledge base that enables the field to tackle complex educational problems.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 5, 2017, p. 1-36
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21784, Date Accessed: 6/23/2017 6:26:40 PM

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About the Author
  • Jennifer Russell
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER LIN RUSSELL, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Learning Sciences and Policy in the School of Education and a Research Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She studies policy implementation and other planned change efforts through an organizational perspective. Her current work examines how educators get support from their professional networks and interactions with more expert others such as coaches to support mathematics instructional improvement and investigates how schools organize to support students with special needs. Recent publications include, “Designing Inter-organizational Networks to Implement Education Reform: An Analysis of State Race to the Top Applications,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (2015) and “Theories and Methodologies for Design-based Implementation Research: Examples from Four Cases,” National Society for Study of Education Yearbook (2013).
  • Anthony Bryk
    Carnegie Foundation
    E-mail Author
    ANTHONY S. BRYK is the ninth President of the Carnegie Foundation, where he is leading work on transforming educational research and development, more closely joining researchers and practitioners to improve teaching and learning. He recently published Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., and LeMahieu, P. G. Learning to Improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better (2015, Harvard Education Press).
  • Jonathan Dolle
    WestEd
    E-mail Author
    JONATHAN R. DOLLE is Senior Research Associate at WestEd where he provides strategic leadership to REL West and Innovation Studies to foster field partnerships focused on meaningful improvement goals. His current work focuses on how to develop, manage, and scale organization- and network-based learning systems that can reliably improve quality outcomes. Prior to joining WestEd, Dolle worked at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching where he focused on initiating, developing, and scaling the Community College Pathways networked improvement community. Recent publications include "More than a Network: Building Communities for Educational Improvement," National Society for Study of Education Yearbook (2013) and "Value-free Ideal for Research: Controversies" Encyclopedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy (2014).
  • Louis M. Gomez
    University of California, Los Angeles
    LOUIS M. GOMEZ is Professor of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He is interested in helping schools and communities of schools improve through the collaborative creation of new approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. His work has often employed design, development, and engineering techniques in these efforts to help schools improve. His recent publications include “Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better” (2015) and “Embedding Language Support in Developmental Mathematics Lessons: Exploring the Value of Design as Professional Development for Community College,” Mathematics Instructors (2015).
  • Paul Lemahieu
    Carnegie Foundation
    E-mail Author
    PAUL G. LEMAHIEU is Senior Vice President for Programs at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. His recent professional interests focus on the reconceptualization of the research and development enterprise in education that integrates improvement science with the power of networks. Recent publications include: Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., and LeMahieu, P. G. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better (2015, Harvard Education Press) and LeMahieu, P. G, Edwards, A. R., and Gomez, L. M. “At the Nexus of Improvement Science and Teaching: A Special Section of the Journal of Teacher Education.” (2015, AACTE).
  • Alicia Grunow
    Carnegie Foundation
    E-mail Author
    ALICIA GRUNOW is a senior partner and director of the improvement science and analytics group at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She both studies and works with organizations to build their capacity in improvement science and analytics. Her recent professional interests focus on how to structure and lead professional collaborations in ways that make it more likely that they lead to results. She recently published Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., and LeMahieu, P. G. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better (2015, Harvard Education Press).
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