Cycle of Continuous Improvement

“People don't resist change. They resist being changed. You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create.” ― Peter Senge

Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are great teachers and great schools. Learning is key for everyone in a school, including the adults. This ranges from building individual capacity to organizational capacity. The investment in human capital development is one in the greatest resource any organization has…’s people.

Continuous School Improvement

Reflective practice is one of the key elements in professional growth and development. Teachers and principals have to constantly keep probing and asking how they can improve their practice. Keeping notes of what went well and what you’d work on or do differently is a good practice.

One of the best things about the National Board Certification process is the reflection piece that every teacher is required to complete. The rhetorical questions becomes “If it works that well and helps to improve practice, why don’t we all do it?” John Dewey (1933) was a pioneer in the concept of reflection as a form of thinking. He maintained that, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” He promoted educators to step back and review their practice and results to improve going forward. This is applicable to everyone, regardless if you are a first-year teacher or a thirty-fifth year administrator. We can all improve is we are willing to engage in the process of reflection and be open to feedback. The power of reflection is a stimulant to improving one’s performance. It starts with an honest critique of our own performance and a commitment to continuous improvement. It is the most basic (and perhaps the most effective) form of professional development.

Learning Organizations

A learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. Whatever their source, these ideas are the trigger for organizational improvement. But they cannot by themselves create a learning organization.

10 Ways to be a Reflective Teacher

1. Record yourself teaching

Today, this is simpler than ever. It can be a matter of casually propping up your smartphone out of sight, setting it to record, and getting on with the lesson.

2. Share that video with your PLC

Every teacher needs a high-functioning PLC.

3. Invite colleagues to observe your class

Ask them to be ‘critical friends’. It’s not about you, it’s about your craft.

4. Ask the students for feedback

You might be surprised how good they are at guiding you in your work and how honest they can be.

5. Ask yourself daily, “How did it go and how do you know?”

This is a question from Cognitive Coaching training, and it’s a useful tool to frame reflection.

6. Keep a blog or journal

Nothing fancy, the only goal here is to reflect

7. Be honest with, but not critical of–yourself

So many potentially great teachers are blind to their shortcomings. No teacher is perfect, but reflection can help you identify those barriers that are keeping you from improving.

8. Surround yourself with enthusiasm

The more potential you see around you, the more you’ll observe, analyze, and design to try to fit some of those ideas in.

9. Look for what’s working

Identify your own strengths, and use them to bolster where you’re weak.

10. Diversify your metrics

It’s tempting to have ‘stuff you like,’ but have a diverse set of measures of the effectiveness of what you do.

"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." - Jack Welch

Reflective practice and learning doesn’t just apply to individuals, organizations have to be reflective to continue to improve. This requires teamwork and collective efficacy to be successful. It helps to have a framework for continuous school improvement. Many schools utilize their School Improvement Plan as their template or guide to continuous improvement. These usually come in the form of monthly meetings to review and reflect, revise, and set a plan to implement necessary adjustments. This is then followed by implementation and monitoring. One of the cycles of continuous improvement we’ve used over the years that has yielded the most benefits without being additional work is a 4-step cycle of continuous improvement tied to monthly school improvement team meetings and school improvement plans. These four steps include:

1. Review and Reflect

2. Revise

3. Implement

4. Monitor

Below is a template that has this four step process outlined with guiding questions. With this guiding template, each week of the year is planned with the reflective process built into the school improvement process. This type of template provides guiding questions for each of the four phases of improvement each month.

The PDSA model is also a good model of continuous organizational improvement. This process includes:

Plan. Determine areas that need improvement to guide the development of an improvement plan.

Do. Implement the improvement plan by carrying out a small-scale test of the planned action. You can test almost any type of action, ranging from small to large. During the test, you observe and document any problems or unexpected events and collect data that will help you determine the impact of your test.

Study. Analyze the data you have collected and the observations you have made. Compare what you find with what you expected to happen and summarize what you learned from testing the action item.

Act. Use what you learned to improve your planned action. At this point, you may decide to either test the change again with modifications or proceed to full-scale implementation.

Instructional leaders guide this process and are active participants in each phase. As the instructional leadership capacity of the individuals in the organization improves, the principal becomes more of an active participant than leader in the process. This reflective process ensures the organization continues to grow and improve over time.

“the bad leader is he who the people despise; the good leader is he who the people praise; the great leader is he who the people say, "We did it ourselves”

― Peter M. Senge, "The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization"