Successful change that improves students’ learning outcomes is crucial to a thriving evidence ecosystem in Australia (Evidence for Learning, 2017a). Structuring a successful change process within a system or a school requires careful planning that needs to be based on the latest evidence (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017). At Evidence for Learning (E4L), the structuring of a change process has been part of our strategic approach since inception. It’s called the Impact Evaluation Cycle (Evidence for Learning, 2017b) as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: An impact evaluation cycle
Examples of using the Impact Evaluation Cycle
Educators across Australia have embedded the Impact Evaluation Cycle into their work. Some examples of this include Cath Apanah, Assistant Principal of Montrose Bay High School in Tasmania.
While over 4,000 kilometers away, John Cleary, Principal of Casuarina St Primary School in the Northern Territory is using the Impact Evaluation Cycle at a system level. John is working across 16 schools in Darwin and Katherine leading the Northern Territory Learning Commission, with both students and leaders, to embed evidence as the key driver for decision making. This has grown from several schools in the previous year as the project grows within and across school regions. The project and the work of Learning Commissioners partners the outcomes of research undertaken by teaching teams and work to collect evidence to inform project design, which is both authored and completed by the students themselves.
Education Action Plan
Alongside this work of educators in their classrooms and schools, E4L is working on developing an online platform to support educators when they embark on a change process. We wanted to make something that is practical and useful to the profession, and it was crucial to involve educators in the process. We engaged with a range of educators across Australia to conduct user-testing interviews to develop a prototype. The feedback provided on the prototype was incredibly helpful and resulted in producing the Education Action Plan (EAP) (Evidence for Learning, 2017b). Working with Monash University with initial Teacher Education and Masters students helped us to adapt the EAP for beginning teachers.
The EAP is a road map for an improvement journey.
The educator outlines within the EAP:
- Where are you going?
- How will you get there?
- What will tell you that you’ve arrived?
EAP provides further scaffolding to the change process at the classroom, school or system level, with a series of questions mapped to the Impact Evaluation Cycle. The questions were changed substantially in response to the feedback from the profession and now it was time for road testing the EAP with the wider profession.
Figure 2: The Education Action Plan
System and school leadership working with the EAP
A system approached E4L to conduct a training session with senior staff on how to use the EAP with their school leaders. We ran a whole day workshop with the EAP where they applied it to their work within the system, working individually or in teams. The term Instructional Leadership Directors (ILDs) is useful when thinking about the role of system leaders (Honig, Copland, Rainey, Lorton, & Newton, 2010). Instructional Leadership Directors act to to support system wide teaching and learning improvement (Honig et al., 2010, p. iii). In using the EAP to structure their own thinking, the Instructional Leaders became familiar with the process and prepared to involve their school leaders.
Following this, we road tested the EAP with the school leaders and leadership teams. We worked with three groups of school leaders and leadership teams, in three workshops, two of which spanned over half a day. In some of the workshops, we worked through evidence found within the Teaching & Learning Toolkit (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017) and specifically about feedback, using the feedback implementation materials E4L produced in collaboration with Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) (AITSL, 2017; Evidence for Learning, 2018).
The engagement of school leaders within this work was evident with intense concentration and excited conversation ensuing as they produced their schools’ EAP.
They were documenting what practice-based evidence (Bryk, 2015) they would be gathering to demonstrate that the change had resulted in the desired impact. Our favourite moment in this work was an educator stating this was ‘really practical’ and they would use this in the future to structure change within the school.
The EAP is a way for systems, schools and teachers to structure a change.
By thinking through the why, how and the what of the process prior to beginning and then using the EAP to track their progress, educators can be focused on what is important for their school and use evidence to inform their plans and practice-based evidence to determine if the change has had the desired impact. This is a continuous cycle of change driven by evidence-based decision making and gathering practice-based evidence to make thoughtful changes to improve the lives of their students.
AITSL. (2017). Feedback. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/improve-practice/feedback
Bryk, A. S. (2015). 2014 AERA Distinguished Lecture Accelerating How We Learn to Improve. Educational Researcher, 0013189X15621543.
Education Endowment Foundation. (2017). Evidence for Learning Teaching & Learning Toolkit: Education Endownment Foundation. Retrieved from http://evidenceforlearning.org.au/the-toolkit/
Evidence for Learning. (2017a). Evidence ecosystem. Retrieved from http://evidenceforlearning.org.au/evidence-informed-educators/evidence-ecosystem/
Evidence for Learning. (2017b). Impact Evaluation Cycle. Retrieved from http://evidenceforlearning.org.au/evidence-informed-educators/impact-evaluation-cycle/
Evidence for Learning. (2018). AITSL – feedback implementation. Retrieved from http://www.evidenceforlearning.org.au/the-toolkit/implementation/aitsl-feeback-implementation/
Honig, M., Copland, M., Rainey, L., Lorton, J. A., & Newton. (2010). Central Offce Transformation for District-wide Teaching and Learning Improvement. In. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/ctpmail/PDFs/S2-CentralAdmin-04 – 2010.pdf
Dr Tanya Vaughan is an Associate Director at Evidence for Learning. She is responsible for the product development, community leadership and strategy of the Toolkit.
Dr Pauline Ho is an Associate Director at Evidence for Learning. She is oversees the program development, evaluation and community leadership of the Learning Impact Fund.