theory of change

One of the greater challenges that people in positions like mine often face is creating alignment between what learners, administrators, and teachers need in order to be successful. Sometimes, people have different perspectives about what is truly needed. They may not share a common view of what success will ultimately mean or what it is supposed to look like. They have different thoughts about how it will be achieved, how quickly, and to what degree. Facilitating initiatives within these realities is a complex venture, to say the least.

In the past, I’ve written about learning experiences, communities, and frameworks that have helped me become a more effective agent of change. Over the last two years, I’ve shifted my practice in another significant way: I’ve started asking kids, teachers, and administrators to develop rubrics that articulate the change they hope to see, what success might look like, and each level of development that might lie between the entry point into their work and the place where mastery could exist.

Doing so has enabled different groups of people within the same system to begin speaking the same language. This helps them hear each other better. It’s established greater clarity about expectations, and it’s ensured that they expectations are shared between groups rather than imposed by one group upon another in ways that leave people feeling devalued, confused, and frustrated. Most importantly, using rubrics has enabled everyone to work together in an aligned and coherent fashion without the need for quite as much outside facilitation. People know where they are going, why they are going there, and what it will look like when they’ve arrived. They also know that change may be incremental, and if so, they have some idea of what each phase might look like.

This simple shift in practice requires a bit of time and a commitment from everyone involved, but I’ve found it to be more than worthwhile. Over the last two years, I’ve helped groups design rubrics for initiatives relevant to curriculum mapping, curriculum design, formative assessment practices, guided reading practices, writing instruction, the use of reading and writing workshop, engagement, the use of project-based learning, and differentiated instruction. I have permission to share them too, so if you want to see, just let me know. The power doesn’t lie in these products, though. It lived inside the conversations that led to their creation and the conversations that continue, which will inevitably lead to changes that we make as we learn and grow together.


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