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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