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December 14, 2022

Learning Our Way To Better Schooling

Teachers are generating school improvement through the Tang Action Research Program
by Susannah Poland

This fall, ten educators from a variety of schools nationwide initiated research projects to make improvements in their home schools. From Boston to Washington D.C. to Tulsa, Okla., teachers and school administrators formed a cohort with diverse interests but a common motivation: they all wanted to make measurable change in their own schools using the collective expertise and learning capacity of their own community—without relying on external input or importing solutions.

These ten educators are all part of the Tang Action Research Program. Throughout this year, they are learning to apply the principles of improvement science with guidance from Dr. Rebecca Stilwell, organizational psychologist at Teachers College, Columbia University. Improvement science is a type of action research which emphasizes continuous learning and utilizes iterative testing to guide development. This style of research empowers members of organizations to accelerate wider change processes through collective diagnosis of issues, building a theory of change, making small interventions, and measuring outcomes. The methodology is radical—it emerged from libratory movements in social science and is being used to generate ground-up change in education.

Each educator has identified an area for improvement in their home school. The range is broad, and, collectively, the cohort has taken up projects that address many aspects of schooling. Several are looking at student outcomes such as the skills of self-advocacy, self-efficacy, and critical self-reflection. Some are improving support for specific groups, such as non-binary students, students who stay within the same school from middle to higher grades, and students of racial and socioeconomic minorities. Others are developing strategies for communicating new competency-based grading policies, including student input in curriculum and incorporating participant feedback into the design of professional learning programs.

Each research process is contextualized to the setting and community, and the solutions generated by each educator will be tailored to their school. However, every project will generate insights that can be applied more broadly, offering learnings for all of us. Over the coming months, we will hear from each participant in the Tang Action Research Program on this blog. We at the Tang Institute are honored to spotlight the original work of these educators and help share their insights for the benefit of our broader community.

Categories: Partnerships, Featured

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