Improvement science project seeks to continually improve learning and teaching across the state

Participants at the end of the Improvement Science conference

A new school year may be just beginning for the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, but preparation for new projects for the corporation are already underway. Teachers and leaders within EVSC joined faculty from the School of Education for a two-day conference this summer to learn more about improvement science, a user- and problem-centered approach to improving teaching and learning.

The School of Education, along with EVSC, was selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in a competitive search as part of the Improvement Leadership Education and Development (iLEAD) initiative that uses improvement science. Drawing upon process improvement models more commonly found in business, healthcare, and manufacturing, improvement science tests ideas that educators work in teams to introduce, test, and refine before bringing the idea to a larger group. Instead of a traditional pilot program, improvement science seeks to develop the necessary know-how for a reform idea ultimately to spread faster and more effectively.

Of particular importance, the change ideas used in this process emerge from those working in classrooms who have a keen understanding of a particular problem of practice.

“The process has multiple benefits,” said Chad Lochmiller, assistant professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and coordinator for the improvement science initiative. “Namely it empowers teachers as focal actors in improvement activities and accelerates changes in practice based on data derived through a structured inquiry process.”

The IU-EVSC Improvement Science Partnership repositions IU as a key stakeholder in K-12 educational improvement initiatives. Within this project and other work with improvement science, the School of Education hopes to be the hub for improvement science and thus serve as a support provider, coach, partner, facilitator of improvement science activities across the state. Lochmiller also said the School of Education is discussing further ways improvement science can support local schools in and around Bloomington, as well as partnerships with the Indiana Department of Education.

Students at the School of Education will also soon be able to engage with improvement science as well: the project aligns with the development of a new, 12-credit hour graduate certificate in improvement science that will be offered through the School of Education in Spring or Summer 2019.