Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Responsive Dissemination: A Data-Driven Approach to Change

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Responsive Dissemination: A Data-Driven Approach to Change

Article excerpt

The Teacher Education Network (TEN), a 2000 PT3 Catalyst grantee, developed a model of responsive dissemination. In contrast to traditional information transmission, responsive dissemination incorporates feedback from its audiences into the ongoing development and continuous improvement of its products and processes. All of TEN's activities, including online tool design and implementation, professional development, and technical assistance for each of its consortium partners, were based on a data-driven approach to systemic change.

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"How can good educational practice move beyond pockets of excellence to reach a much greater proportion of students and educators?" This question was first posed by Elmore (1996, p. 1) and remains just as pressing today. He argued that many educational reform-related changes are simply surface changes--changes that do not directly challenge the fundamental relationships among students, teachers, and knowledge. Being unrelated to the core of educational practice, those changes do not scale up to a wider audience, nor are they likely to be sustained. Sabelli and Dede (1999) found that innovations that showed promise in initial test bed settings often floundered when scaled up to a wider audience--especially when the educational institution was a decentralized organization with embedded subsystems of teachers within classrooms, schools, and districts. Part of this may be due to the stages of concern of the adopting population (Hall & Hord, 1987), and part due to the perceptions of the innovation by the adopting population (Rogers, 1995).

As the adoption process moves into the sustainability phase, Light (1998) identified four main factors that influence the systemic change process: (a) the external environment in which the organization exists, (b) its internal operating structure, (c) its leadership, and (d) its internal management system. Key variables contained within these four factors include external support and encouragement for innovation from a variety of sources; a sense of collaboration; elimination of internal boundaries so that system wide communication is seamless; maximizing the use of internal resources; a sense of urgency, responsibility, and efficacy among members of the adopting population; links made by leadership with other concurrent innovations, sometimes resulting in leveraged funds and resources; mission management; and using feedback for continuous improvement.

Clauset and Gaynor (1982) were among the first researchers to study systemic school reform processes using causal modeling. Two recent research studies updated their findings and produced sets of indicators of sustained capacity for educational reform. The first, a study conducted by Gibson (1999), used STELLA, a systems thinking software package, together with complexity theory and systems dynamics modeling concepts as a conceptual framework, to investigate the dynamics of innovation in five Vermont high schools. The results indicated that for systemic change to take place and be sustained, three critical processes must be in place (Sherry & Gibson, 2002; 2003):

* convergence of resources, providing a starting point for the change;

* mutual benefits to those who are affected by the changes; and

* continuous, extensive, free flow of resources and expertise throughout the educational system to fuel the sustainability of the change.

The second study, conducted in 1996-1997 by RMC Research Corporation, retrospectively analyzed the experiences of six high poverty elementary schools in the Northeast to learn about the processes that schools use to initiate and sustain reforms. To scale up and sustain an educational institution's capacity for meaningful reforms, RMC Research Corporation (1998) found that three elements are necessary:

* a learning ethic, in which teachers and staff are continuously developing new professional skills that will enhance their capacity to effectively engage all students in academic learning;

* collective grounding, a common vision or purpose for the educational organization that is rooted in the strengths and needs of their students (e. …

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