Trying hard isn’t enough to change systems | The Chalkboard Project

Trying hard isn’t enough to change systems

Thursday, February 22, 2018 Kari Nelsestuen

I believe that everyone in education is trying very hard, every day, to help the students they serve. But trying hard isn’t enough when education systems don’t change. We have to commit to doing things differently.

That’s why my approach to coaching applies tools and mindsets from improvement science and design thinking. Improvement science is a change model explicitly designed to accelerate learning by doing. It offers a user-centered approach that uses rapid tests of change towards quality improvement. It challenges us to take a step back to ask, ‘What problem are we trying to solve?’ And then insisting the work moves towards specific, measurable goals while gauging effectiveness every step of the way.  Design thinking teaches us to start small, learn as we move forward, and keep the users at the center of our design.  I draw on both approaches to help educators improve the systems in which they work.

My background in research and evaluation shapes my perspective as a Chalkboard coach. It allows me to alternate my perspective between a 30,000-foot view and an on-the-ground view of the people, policies, and programs that make up systems. I’m always pushing to understand not only whether things are succeeding or failing, but also to find why something is working or not. Because I spent years studying programs, I always push for increased attention to how change ideas are implemented—a critical yet often overlooked piece of the improvement puzzle.

I’ve also been told my secret power is making data understandable in ways that allow others to use data to better their work. To me, the reward of coaching is when I help people bring more voices to the table, make tangible progress towards their goal, and have fun along the way.

  • Student Success
  • Professional Learning
  • Quality Educators
  • Professional Development

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