THE WISCONSIN IDEA IN ACTION: A Networked Improvement Community Forum for Participatory Evaluation by Steve Kimball

I am Steve Kimball, a researcher and evaluator with the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative at the UW-Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research. We have recently embraced a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) approach to learn from and with schools using varying approaches to personalized learning. I have been intrigued with the implications of the NIC concept as a form of participatory and utilization-focused evaluation.

The Personalization in Practice Networked Improvement Community (PiPNIC) focuses on developing or refining student conferring protocols with five schools, to help teachers and students engage in productive learning conversations. Each school team includes 4-5 teachers and school leaders. The teams are meeting with our research group over four Saturday sessions during a 90-day cycle. Between sessions, the teams reflected on current student conferring practices and developed and refined conferring protocols. They are now testing their protocols using scripts, taking notes using brief reflection forms, and using videos to capture the student-teacher discussions.

A UW-Madison research team led by Professor Richard Halverson facilitates the NIC. The work is part of a larger partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, to develop resources supporting Wisconsin’s state longitudinal data system.

Lessons Learned:

  • On the research side, it is time intensive to recruit, orient and support participants in the NIC process. Extensive preparation preceded the actual work. The evaluation team recruits and convenes participants, facilitates problem discovery and networking meetings, and helps participants with data collection and analysis. Similarly, practitioners must also commit time and personnel resources to participate in the NIC, and develop and test the protocols.
  • Learning by doing involves risk and unpredictable results. For this first project, it was important to recruit practitioners already engaged in cutting-edge personalized learning practices. These educators were willing to take on new challenges because the problems were anchored in their practice and addressed an immediate need.
  • Benefits of this approach includes collaboration with peers within schools and across schools and deep ownership potential of the process and results. Teachers and leaders can immediately see the results and put them to use for improvement. Participants have said the work has represented high quality professional learning. Collaboration within and across schools created a mutually supporting venture into the unknown.

The NIC model provides a great structure for participatory evaluation. We are eager to explore the approach with others, and engage in the next 90-day cycle with participating schools and districts.

Rad Resources:

Explore the virtual honeycomb from Cooperative Educational Service Agency 1 for summary of personalized education.

Carnegie 90-Day Cycle Handbook

The main text that the hub facilitators shared with their school teams is from:

Getting Ideas into Action – the Network Improvement Community Model for Professional Learning.

Also see, Carnegie Foundation’s Learning to Improve

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating The Wisconsin Idea in Action Week coordinated by the LEAD Center. The LEAD (Learning through Evaluation, Adaptation, and Dissemination) Center is housed within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at the School of EducationUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison and advances the quality of teaching and learning by evaluating the effectiveness and impact of educational innovations, policies, and practices within higher education. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from student and adult evaluators living in and practicing evaluation from the state of WI. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.