The INCLUDES Center, led by SRI Education and the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, aims to support NSF-funded INCLUDES project share ideas on improvement, relevant resources, and results from improvement efforts, so that together, the field can draw generalities that are more likely applicable to a wider audience of interested researchers and practitioners working on similar problems across different contexts.
Our four essential and coherently related anchors for such sharing include:
- High Leverage Problems. A fundamental tenet of improvement science is that it is essential to focus the efforts of community members on high-leverage problems that can fundamentally re-orient systems. High leverage problems are those, which if progress is made upon, will significantly impact a valued outcome.
- Using Data to Improve. Making progress on high leverage problems requires regularly
collecting and analyzing data. Data for improvement helps in answering a core question: How will we know that a change is an improvement? In order to go from a current level of performance to a desired level of performance, individuals need regular feedback on current practices as well as on the changes they are making. Importantly, this feedback needs to capture outcomes, processes, and unintended consequences.
- Formative evaluation. Analyzing data can suggest specific individual improvements, but overall improvement within an INCLUDES network will benefit strongly from conceptualizing
systematic formative evaluation logic, a logic that is broader than any specific data point or improvement suggestion. Such a logic, often called a “theory of action”, maps flow of change from inputs into actions or changes that can be implemented, then leading through mediating process to measurable outcomes.
- Communication. The process for managing an improvement network builds on strong
overall project management skills, and all successful Launch Pilot projects are likely to have a highly qualified project manager as PI or co-PI. Yet, networked improvement communities also
introduce management challenges beyond typical research project management, and communication is a key area of challenge. Successful Pilots will need to invest significant energy in considering how they effectively communicate (for example, about the high leverage problems, data and improvement suggestions, and formative evaluation) both within a single Pilot and across multiple Pilots.
The INCLUDES Center will work with NSF Launch Pilots on these four closely related issues, while keeping in mind the additional objective of designing infrastructure and plans for a national backbone.