The pursuit of improvement is a never-ending journey. With all the disruption we have and will continue to see, changes to how we educate kids must be considered. We often see a great deal of investment in an array of ideas, strategies, and solutions with the goal of improving learning for all kids. I am all for anything that can benefit all students. However, caution must be exercised when there is a desire to pursue the next “silver bullet” or embrace ideas that sound wonderful on the surface but have little to show in terms of evidence of improvement at scale.
Results, both qualitative and quantitative, matter, and this is something that everyone should embrace. Hence the need to zero in on what truly matters through efficacy-based practices.
The “why” behind this focus is as follows:
- Connect what we know works by leveraging research to improve practice
- Personalize learning for students and staff
- Optimize time, resources, and decisions
- Create a transparent culture to develop relationships
- Move away from “telling” to “showing” what actually works to drive needed change
Instead of assumptions and opinions, proven strategies should be emphasized to substantiate changes or improvements to practice. Having a foundation and a compelling reason to change is where research plays a pivotal role. It provides a baseline as to what has been found to really work when it comes to student learning and improving culture. We can look to the past in order to inform current practice. If efficacy is the goal, it is critical to embrace a scholarly mindset to inform and influence our work, not drive it.
It is hard to meet goals and expectations to improve learning if consistent support is absent. Professional learning develops and strengthens the expertise of teachers and administrators so they are better equipped to meet the needs of all learners. If people don't believe in themselves, then achieving goals will be near impossible. Thriving cultures focus on empowerment, support, feedback, and autonomy to take risks to build self-efficacy. Without efficacy-based professional learning that connects to research and practical strategies, evidence of improved outcomes will be hard to come by.
Qualitative and quantitative measures help to validate the time and effort put forth to initiate and sustain change. The only way to determine if goals have been met is through evidence. Discounting this shows a lack of understanding of what real change looks and feels like in education. Evidence can come in many forms, but in the end, it should clearly paint a picture that the ideas and strategies implemented have resulted in a better, more improved outcome. A combination of data and artifacts will tell you and anyone else whether or not goals were met.
Amazing things are happening in education, and the pandemic only amplified this through the embracement of innovative ideas. We must constantly push ourselves to be better and strive for continuous improvement. The more we take a critical lens to the efficacy of our work, the more collective goals we have for education, learning, and leadership can be achieved.