Dr Myron Tribus learned about this problem in the mid 1940s. His insights may give you courage.
Here is a story Myron told me several years ago.
Irving Langmuir (1881-1957) was awarded a Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1932. During his life he created a long string of diverse inventions in the fields of physics and chemistry.
In 1944 Myron became interested in Langmuir’s work on cloud seeding – precipitating changes in structures within clouds, with the possibility of making rain.
When Myron failed in his attempt to attract the interest of the US military in Langmuir’s work, Langmuir told Myron:
The hardest thing in the world to sell is a new good idea. If it is new, people will not understand it. If it is good, they will feel they must act on it. But, if they are to act on it they will have to learn and they will have to change their ways. And they simply don’t want to do that.
Myron went on to explain:
You present people with a new idea, and their first reaction is ‘this will change things and I am comfortable with what exists’.
I have found this to be true. My life has been spent in bringing new ideas in. In fact, I have been accused of being the kind of person who always seeks something that’s different. I won’t agree with that, but certainly when somebody comes to me with a new idea and I can sense the importance of it then I get behind it. Apparently, that’s a minority view.
Joseph Juran, a highly influential American quality specialist, defined the term “breakthrough” (which was very popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s) as “an improvement to unprecedented levels of performance”. He pointed out:
All breakthrough is achieved project by project, and in no other way.
Joseph Juran, 1988, Juran’s Quality Control Handbook, fourth edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, p. 22.
To achieve significant improvements in capability and performance, in line with the priorities in a school plan, improvement projects are needed.
Improvement plans need to be broken down into finite, definable projects that can be managed over the life of a plan.
A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to meet specific goals and objectives with a defined beginning and end.
Projects and processes
Projects contrast strongly with daily routines. Daily routines involve the ongoing enactment of an organisation’s processes.
Projects are temporary endeavours to improve an organisation’s processes, to create new products, services or processes, or to build infrastructure.
In short, working in the system is accomplished by process; working on the system is accomplished by project.
Project teams, not committees
This presents a challenge for schools, which are accustomed to establishing committees rather than project teams.
Committees are a common feature of schools. They usually carry responsibilities associated with management and improvement in specific areas of school endeavour but are problematic in that they have an ongoing role and can easily be distracted from improvement efforts.
Project teams are formed for specific, defined timeframes and purposes. Guided by a precise purpose and structured processes, such as the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle, project teams usually realise greater success. They stay focused and can maintain the energy necessary to see through the improvement, due to a tight, defined timeframe and an effective progress reporting approach.
Our study of schools, in Australia at least, reveals that schools in general, have neither well-developed project management methodologies, nor the management structures and disciplines to execute their improvement plans in this manner. This is a significant capability gap. Until these structures and disciplines are more strongly established, school improvement efforts are likely to continue providing disappointing results.This is not a criticism of schools or those that work within them, rather it is an observation of a systemic failure, which needs to be addressed by senior administrators and policy makers.
In this post, we seek to clarify the concepts of accountability, responsibility and authority. These terms have specific meanings; the concepts are frequently confused. Lack of clarity can result in micro-management.
In the next post, we will explore challenges related to making school leaders accountable for school performance.
Let’s begin with a definition.
Accountability: the collection of outcomes that an individual is charged to produce and for which the individual can be held to account
Most individuals in organisations are charged with achieving certain outcomes, their accountabilities.
The outcomes for which an individual is held to account are usually determined through a process of negotiation. The head of a government agency negotiates with their respective government Minister. A chief executive negotiates with their Board. A principal negotiates with the district superintendent, or equivalent.
Outcomes are monitored and reported
Once agreed, progress towards the agreed outcomes is monitored and reported. The most senior people in organisations are held to account for the outcomes achieved by their organisation. This does not mean they are expected to achieve these outcomes on their own; they must work with others in the organisation to achieve their accountabilities.
Cannot be delegated
In a corporate context, a chief executive can negotiate with the chief financial officer, for example, the range of outcomes for which the chief financial officer agrees to be held to account. This is likely to include an accountability that the financial accounts are kept in accordance with relevant laws and accounting standards. The chief executive officer is not absolved from her accountability to ensure that the organisation complies with all relevant laws. The most senior executives remain accountable for the organisation’s performance. This is true even when failure to meet agreed outcomes is the result of someone further down the organisation failing to meet their accountabilities.
In a school context, principals are frequently held to account for student learning outcomes. This accountability is negotiated with their line manager and cannot be delegated. The principal must work with teaching staff to achieve this accountability.
In practice, the negotiation of accountabilities is frequently lost to the history of an organisation. The accountabilities associated with particular roles in the organisation were negotiated long ago and are now accepted as part of that job description. Under these circumstances, there is no fresh negotiation with a new incumbent for a position, rather, the accountabilities are accepted with the job.
Can be accepted
Achievement of outcomes, and thus achievement of accountabilities, is contingent upon the quality of the organisation’s systems and process, as was described in detail in chapter three of our book Improving Learning. The senior executive of the organisation is thus accountable for the performance of all the organisation’s key systems and processes. To manage this accountability in a practical manner, she negotiates for others to accept accountability for specific organisational processes. For example, a principal may negotiate with a deputy for the deputy to accept accountability for the student discipline and welfare processes. Similarly, the school leaders negotiate with classroom teachers the outcomes for which the teachers will be held accountable.
Accountability defines who is to be held to account for the achievement of outcomes.
Accountabilities are achieved through meeting responsibilities.
Responsibility: the work activities and outputs an individual is charged to complete.
The outcomes for which an organisation strives are achieved through enacting processes. Individuals within the organisation complete their work activities, which, in turn, link together as the organisation’s processes. These processes may be documented as deployment flowcharts that make explicit the responsibilities of those charged with enacting the process steps.
Can be delegated
Responsibilities can be delegated. The principal may, for example, ask the deputy principal to run a staff meeting. A teacher may ask an aide to prepare learning materials. The office manager may delegate responsibility for stationery supplies to an assistant.
When a responsibility is delegated, the accountability for the outcome is not.
Distinct from accountability
At senior levels of an organisation, accountabilities and responsibilities may be significantly different. Senior executives remain accountable for many things upon which they take no action on a day-to-day basis. A school principal remains accountable for the safety and wellbeing of all students in the school, yet has little day-to-day responsibility for sickbay, for example.
At more junior levels, the division between accountabilities and responsibilities becomes less distinct. A classroom teacher is typically responsible for the learning and teaching programs of her classes; the teacher is also accountable for the outcomes of those programs.
Responsibility defines who will undertake specific processes and actions.
Documenting Accountability and Responsibility
A Process Accountability Matrix may be used to document agreements regarding accountabilities and responsibilities. Key processes are listed in the rows of the matrix and roles identified in the columns. Within each cell of the matrix, the role may be listed as:
Accountable for outcomes of the process.
Responsible for performing actions within the process.
Consulted or informed during execution of the process.
A Process Accountability Matrix can be used to ensure there are no gaps or overlaps in accountability, i.e. each process has one and only one role Accountable for the process. The matrix can also identify roles that have little or too much responsibility and accountability.
Any discussion of accountability and responsibility is incomplete if it does not also discuss authority.
Authority: the delegated right to make decisions
It is important to be clear who is accountable for outcomes and who is responsible for actions. It is equally important to ensure that appropriate authority is delegated; who is authorised to make decisions?
Governments define the structures by which decisions will be made and disputes settled. These delegations are detailed in legislation and regulations. Law enforcement agencies, such as the police, are established to enforce the determinations. Courts are also established to adjudicate disputes.
Governments also delegate specific rights to manage and regulate public institutions, including schools. These rights can be delegated to government agencies, and they can also be delegated to non-government agencies such as religious authorities. These agencies and authorities, in turn, delegate specific rights to officials, including school leaders. Through this process of delegation, school leaders have rights to make defined determinations for the school. The specific rights delegated to school leaders vary by jurisdiction. In some cases, school leaders have the right to hire and fire; some have the authority to manage the whole-of-school budget. In other cases, the school principal has significantly less authority.
Authority can be delegated.
Supports responsibility and accountability
Responsibility must be accompanied by authority to make decisions and take action. The school principal can authorise the bursar or business manager to keep financial records and to pay accounts, which is consistent with the bursar’s responsibilities. The office manager may have the responsibility and authority to enrol students. Teachers have the authority and responsibility to report on students’ progress.
Similarly, the negotiation and acceptance of accountability needs to be accompanied by the agreement to delegate the necessary authority to meet those accountabilities. For example, if a deputy principal accepts the accountability of ensuring that school programs comply with the requirements of a national curriculum, they will also need the authority to establish school policies and procedures to ensure this accountability is met.
Where authority is not aligned with accountabilities and responsibilities there will be frustration and wasted effort.
Where there is a failure to clearly delegate authority, organisations can become paralysed. If an officer is unsure if they have the authority to make a decision, they will push the decision ‘up the line’. This results in delays and frustration. It also frequently results in more senior leaders’ time being taken up with decisions that could and should have been made at more appropriate levels in the organisation.
Micro-management is a failure to effectively delegate authority.
As is the case with accountabilities and responsibilities, the establishment of delegated authorities is also frequently lost to the history of the organisation, and simply accepted as inherent in the job description.
Authority defines who has the right to make decisions.
In 1993, Myron Tribus proclaimed: The job of the manager has changed.
People work in a system. The job of a manager is to work on the system, to improve it, continuously, with their help. Myron Tribus, 1993, “Quality Management in Education”, Journal for Quality and Participation, Jan–Feb, p. 5. Available at http://www.qla.com.au/Papers/5.
What did Tribus mean?
Firstly, we need to understand what he meant by system. Dr Deming defined a system to be:
A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. Edwards Deming, 1994, The New Economics: For industry, government and education, MIT, Massachusetts, p. 50.
Because Tribus is referring to managers, we understand him to be speaking of organisations. Organisations are systems comprising interdependent components working together towards some aim. A school is a system. A classroom is a system. A school district or region is a system.
A way of thinking about systems, in this context, is to think about how all the elements work together, as a whole, to get things done. How do school policies, procedures, facilities, committees, teams, classrooms, parents, leaders, teachers and students, for example, all work together to achieve the purpose and vision for the school?
Secondly, we need to understand whom Tribus is referring to in saying the job of the manager has changed.
Management is the ability to organise resources and coordinate the execution of tasks necessary to reach a goal in a timely and cost effective manner. Kovacs and King, 2015, Improving Learning: A how-to guide for school improvement, QLA, Canberra, p387
Managers therefore are those seeking to reach goals, by working with tasks, resources, systems and processes. Under this definition, it’s hard to identify individuals who are not managers. Everybody in a school is organising resources and coordinating tasks to achieve goals, even students! For this conversation, however, let us limit our discussion to adults. Principals, teachers and support staff are all working with their colleagues and students to achieve the goals of the school and classroom.
Working in and on
Thirdly, Tribus makes the distinction between working in the system and working on the system.
Working in the system is doing the daily work of the system.
For a teacher, this usually means managing the daily routines of learning and teaching in the classroom: planning, programming, instruction, assessment, reporting and so on. For school leaders this includes: meeting with parents, providing support to school staff, attending meetings, managing the budget, responding to emails and phone calls, and so on. This is all the daily work – working in the system.
Working on the system is improvement work.
Working on the system comprises two types of activities: improvement projects and innovation projects. Both involve making changes to the existing system.
Improvement projects focus on making the existing system more efficient and/or effective.
This is achieved by improving how the elements of the system work together, usually by making changes to the processes and methods by which the work is done. Refining the enrolment or reporting process in a school would be examples of improvement projects. Improvement projects build on existing approaches to make the existing system work better.
Innovation projects are about creation of new systems, processes, products and services by the organisation.
In a school context, innovation projects are about new technologies, new programs and system reforms. Replacing parent-teacher interviews with student-led conferences would be an example of an innovation project. Innovation projects are about new approaches that prepare or position the organisation for the future.
Given this, Tribus is telling us that all mangers within an organisation have an obligation to contribute to improvement efforts. But there is a subtle twist in the last three words of his proclamation: with their help.
…with their help
Finally, Tribus is explicit that managers should not unilaterally impose changes upon those working in the system. All managers need to be involved in projects that work on the system, but these projects need to engage those working within the system. After all, it is those doing the daily work of the system that know most about how it is done and could be improved.
Students know best the barriers to their learning; teachers know best what gets in the way of their teaching.
Within a school context, Tribus is saying that all adults need to be engaged working on the system to bring about improvement. They need to be participating in improvement and innovation projects, as project leaders in their own areas or team members with others’ projects. Students also need play an active role, contributing to improving their school and classroom.
I recently had the pleasure of completing a guided walk along the Milford Track – one of the Great Walks in New Zealand. The track passes through some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness in the world.
During the walk, I was reflecting upon the characteristics of the guided walk that made it so pleasurable. Here are my reflections…
A clear path
The 33.5 miles of track from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point is clearly laid out and very well maintained. Throughout the walk it was crystal clear where we were meant to go; if we stuck to the track there was little chance of getting lost.
The track is clearly and comprehensively sign-posted. Every mile there is a numbered milepost indicating progress.
Periodically there are signs indicating distances or estimated times to key landmarks along the route. These signs, along with the mileposts, enabled each of us to track progress and monitor the pace of our walk.
Other signs warn of potential hazards ahead, including areas of possible flooding or avalanche.
Taken together, these signposts ensured we knew where we were, how far we had come and still had to go, points of interest, and areas where extra care might be required.
Walking at our own pace
We were encouraged to walk the track at our own pace and to take time to explore the locations we found interesting.
We were also encouraged to explore some of the side tracks that had particular points of interest. This was not compulsory. The side trip to Sutherland Falls, the highest falls in New Zealand, was truly remarkable.
Walking alone, or with others
In all there were about forty of us completing this walk together.
At times I walked alone. I like to do so; it gives me time to think. There were several occasions where it felt like I was the only person on the track. I could see no-one behind or ahead of me, and I felt I had the place to myself.
At other times I walked and chatted with my niece, Helen, who had invited me to do the walk with her.
Occasionally, I walked and chatted with small groups of others, some of whom had travelled across the globe to walk this track.
Everyone was free to choose with whom they walked.
A team of professional guides
A team of four guides accompanied us on the walk. They worked extremely well as a team. I was particularly impressed with the way the acknowledged and drew upon their individual strengths while working together to build their individual and collective capability.
Getting to know us
Each of the guides was friendly and welcoming. They each took time to speak with each of us and get to know a bit about us. They genuinely cared about each walker and were keen to ensure everyone had the best experience possible while under their guidance.
As the walk progressed, they learned about our walking style, preferences and limitations. Which of us were the quick walkers, guaranteed to reach each milestone first? Which of us were likely to find parts of the walk particularly challenging?
Through getting to know us, the guides were able to plan and execute personalised support, where it was required.
Knowing the track
The guides know the track intimately. Collectively they had walked the track many hundreds of times.
The guides highlighted points of interest and significance along the way. They proved very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, and took the trouble to point out and help us interpret that we were seeing. We were encouraged to be inquisitive and draw upon their knowledge and experience.
They also knew how we might respond to the track. They know where the going is easy. They know where it’s most demanding. They know where people may experience difficulty. They also know the hazards and have strategies to minimise the associated risks.
Helping us be prepared
Each evening one of the guides briefed us on the outlook for the following day. The briefing informed us of the terrain ahead, distances involved, weather forecast, points of interest and any potential areas requiring particular care. This enabled us to plan ahead and be prepared to meet the challenges that lay before us.
The briefings also celebrated our achievements that day.
Providing support, as required
At all times there was a guide at the front of the group. This guide checked the path was clear of hazards.
There was also a guide bringing up the rear, ensuring nobody was left behind. This guide provided encouragement and practical support to those walkers finding the terrain a challenge.
The other two guides walked between, within the group. When we encountered a hazard along the track, there was always at least one guide there to help us through safely. This occurred on three occasions: the first when the track was submerged in flood waters and twice where the track had been obliterated by avalanches.
Having walked more than 33 miles over four days, we arrived at our destination, Milford Sound. Our final briefing was more of a celebration, each of us receiving a certificate during a simple ceremony, then proceeding to enjoy a meal together.
The following morning, we were treated to a brief cruise through the sound before we each set off on the next stages of our respective journeys.
Learning can be like this guided walk
Schooling can be like this guided walk.
A clear path
The curriculum provides the learning path. Tools such as the Capacity Matrix and Gantt Chart put curriculum in the hands of the learners and provide signposts to support learners to plan and monitoring. Areas where special care may be required can also be highlighted.
Learning at their own pace
Once the path is clear, learners can be encouraged to progress at their own pace.
Learners can also take time to explore areas of particular interest to them, adding these to their capacity matrix and recording details of their learning.
Learning alone, or with others
Students can choose when they prefer to work alone, and when they may wish to work with others. Teams and groupings are by choice, not direction.
A team of teachers
Teachers work together as a team: acknowledging each others’ strengths and working to build their individual and collective capability. They are collectively responsible for the safety and progress of the learners.
Teachers take time to get to know the learners under their guidance: the learners’ aspirations, preferences and limitations.
Teachers know the curriculum intimately. They know where it is straightforward and where many students have difficulty. They encourage curiosity, enquiry and exploration.
Teachers equip learners with skills and tools to plan and be prepared to make the most of the learning opportunities.
Teachers provide personalised support, helping everyone who requires assistance through all sections of the track. They pay particular attention to supporting learners through sections of curriculum that most people find challenging.
Students and teachers acknowledge and celebrate achievements along the way and in ways that are meaningful to everyone.
What is your school’s theory of teaching and learning?
Some schools waste time focusing their efforts on trying to control and manage the actions and behaviours of individuals. They would do better examining the underpinning theory, systems and processes driving the action and behaviour. Reflecting deeply on, and defining (making explicit), the beliefs upon which current approaches to learning and teaching are based, can lead to great focus, alignment and return on efforts to improve.
Fundamental to improving learning is to agree (define) the theory guiding our teaching and learning.
The following anthropological model adapted from the work of Martin Weisbord can help us understand why this is so. It describes a hierarchy of influences on organisational behaviour. The model is consistent with Deming’s teachings on how systems drive performance and behaviour, and the need to develop theory to drive improvement.
Weisbord’s model illustrates the relationship between beliefs, philosophy (theory), systems, processes, choices and action. An organisation’s systems and processes reflect and reinforce its values, beliefs and philosophy. These systems and structures dictate the processes and methods, and shape the dilemmas and choices faced by individuals of the organisation. The choices made by individuals, in turn, produce the actions and behaviours we observe.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate. Say we believe students are inherently lazy, that they have little desire to improve, and need to be motivated to learn. We will then develop systems and processes in our school and classrooms in an attempt to extrinsically motivate them. Our systems and processes will usually be based upon incentives and rewards, fear and punishment. If, however we believe we are born with an innate desire to learn and to better ourselves, and that the motivation to learn comes from within, then we will design very different systems of learning in our classrooms. These systems usually focus upon building ownership of learning, and working with students to identify and remove the barriers to their intrinsic motivation and learning.
Defining a theory and designing systems and processes can be a deliberate and thoughtful action or it can occur through natural evolution – the choice is ours.
We can make a conscious choice to define and make explicit our values and beliefs regarding teaching and learning. An operational definition is used to achieve and document a shared understanding of the precise meaning of concept/s. Operational definitions provide clarity to groups of individuals for the purposes of discussion and action.
It follows that once we have defined our theory of teaching and learning, we can design structures, systems, processes and methods that are aligned to it and naturally promote the actions and behaviours we desire.
Of course, we draw upon evidence-based research to craft our theory. We can then work together over time testing, reinforming and reaffirming this theory, and improving systems and processes to produce the performance and behavioural outcomes we wish to see.
Our work with schools in defining a learning and teaching philosophy has typically followed the process summarised in the flowchart below. All staff are invited to be involved in agreeing the philosophy which takes place through one or more workshops.
Step 1. Agree a research or evidence-base to inform the philosophy
The first step is to agree and draw upon a research or evidence-base to inform the philosophy. Education systems in Australia have, over time, adopted different pedagogical models. Schools have adopted many different models, all purporting to reflect the latest research and providing the theory necessary to guide excellent teaching practice. The Quality Teaching model, the National School Improvement Tool, the e5 Instructional Model, and the International Baccalaureate are examples of pedagogical models currently in use. Explore the preferred model/s with all staff before defining your philosophy to agree which one or more resonate and align with the needs of your learning community. Of course, if there is a model that adequately describes the philosophy to teaching and learning that your school community wishes to adopt, the job is made easier. Job done – just agree to use it!
Step 2. Brainstorm ideas
Something we tend to overlook is to recognise the ‘prior knowledge’ of our teachers. Every educator will have developed a theory – based upon their understanding and experience – as to the greatest influences on learning in their classroom. Ask staff also to reflect upon their own teaching and learning values and beliefs. We have found it helpful to express the learning and teaching philosophy as a set of (documented) principles.
To define the philosophy, ask staff to brainstorm their key learning and teaching beliefs, concepts and principles. This can be achieved by every staff member providing their input to the process by writing down their individual ideas as statements on sticky notes – one statement per sticky note.
Step 3. Collate the ideas using an Affinity Diagram
The staff input can then be collated by creating an Affinity Diagram with the sticky notes. Headings are applied to the Affinity Diagram reflecting the agreed major themes (as in the figure below).
Step 4. Agree theory statements
These themes can be documented as a set of agreed statements (principles). For example, the following are the principles of learning and teaching agreed to by Knox Primary School in Melbourne, Victoria.
Here is another example of an agreed learning and teaching philosophy. It is the Learning Model developed by the Leander Independent Schools District in Texas, USA.
The theory as a foundation for continual improvement
The school’s theory of learning and teaching, or principles, are then used as an ongoing reference to develop, review and continually improve consistency in policy and practice across the school. Each principle is subject to ongoing exploration through reflection and dialogue to develop deeper and shared understanding, and to inform the development of agreed learning systems and processes – the school’s pedagogical framework.
Naturally, the philosophy is dynamic. Like any theory or hypothesis, to be relevant and effective in an ongoing way, it will need to be regularly reviewed, reaffirmed or reinformed by further research and our experiences of applying it over time.
A final note
John Hattie’s research (Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence? Australian Council for Educational Research, October 2003) revealed greater variation between the classrooms in an Australian school than between Australian schools. Defining the theory that will guide teaching and learning across your school is a way to reduce this variation.
The assessment dimensions of Approach-Deployment-Results-Improvement (ADRI) can be very helpful for self-assessment. ADRI provides a structure under which the activities and results of an organisation can be broken down to identify, quite specifically, where the strengths and opportunities for improvement may lie.
ADRI provides a structured approach to organisational self-assessment. The ADRI dimensions help you to analyse how your organisation goes about: thinking and planning (Approach); implementing and doing (Deployment); monitoring and evaluating (Results); and reviewing and improving (Improvement).
It is a feature of the Australian Business Excellence framework and underpins many other performance excellence frameworks around the world.
Source: Adapted by QLA from the Australian Business Excellence Framework, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards Criteria and the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model.
The ADRI assessment dimensions
Approach relates to the thinking and planning behind the area of endeavour – how it has been designed.
Considering an Approach leads to an examination of:
clarity of purpose
clients, key stakeholders and their respective needs
desired outcomes – the vision of excellence
design of strategies, structures and processes to meet the desired outcomes
identification of measures of success.
In most organisations the senior leaders, sometimes with the support of content specialists, determine the approach.
For example, senior leaders of a school, frequently with the help of a specialist curriculum committee, usually lead the approach to curriculum. It is the responsibility of these leaders to identify and make clear the purpose of curriculum in the school, the desired curriculum outcomes for the school, and to understand the needs of key stakeholders (including teachers, families and curriculum regulatory bodies). Armed with this understanding, the structures and processes (including documentation) necessary to meet the intentions of the school can be designed. It is during the design stage that the measures of success are also determined from the desired outcomes (the vision of excellence): what data will be used to monitor progress over time? Senior leaders do the thinking and planning – the design.
Deployment relates to implementing and doing – how the design is put into effect.
Considering Deployment leads to an examination of:
the degree to which the designed strategies, structures and processes have been implemented across the organisation and down through the organisation
the extent to which staff understand and have embraced the organisation’s approach
how well the strategies, structures and processes have been integrated into the day-to-day operation of the organisation.
Those doing the daily work know most about how the daily work is done. Those that are expected to implement an organisation’s approach know most about it has been deployed. The school curriculum committee may have designed an excellent approach, but it is up to each classroom teacher to implement it. If classroom teachers are not adhering to the agreed school curriculum approach, it has not been deployed well.
Results relates to monitoring and evaluating – how success is gauged.
Considering the Results dimension leads to an examination of:
how performance is monitored
how the data relating to the measures of success (determined as part of the Approach) are collected, collated and reported
the degree to which trends of improvement are evident in these data.
Monitoring and evaluating is a management responsibility. School leaders are responsible for monitoring and evaluating the data used as measures of success for their approach to curriculum. Unless these data are collected, collated and reported, the effectiveness of the approach and its deployment will be unknown.
Improvement relates to the processes of reviewing and improving the approach and its deployment.
Considering the Improvement dimension leads to an examination of:
the process by which the appropriateness and effectiveness of the approach and its deployment are reviewed
how these reviews have led to improvement
how the lessons learned are captured and shared.
Improvement is a management responsibility. Continuing the school curriculum example, a school’s senior leaders are expected to regularly review and refine the school’s curriculum. This assessment dimension examines the process by which that is undertaken, the improvements that have resulted and how these improvements are documented and shared with staff and other key stakeholders.
Why ADRI is useful
The assessment dimensions are useful for two purposes: diagnosis and design.
When something is not working well in an organisation, ADRI provides a lens for examining activities and results to determine why it isn’t working and then to determine what to do about it.
When things aren’t going well, it could be because:
the Approach is weak
the Deployment is poor.
If the approach is weak, attention must be paid to reviewing and improving the design. Deploying a poor approach will not deliver good results.
A sound approach, poorly deployed, will not deliver good results either. If the approach is well thought through but is not being applied, then attention needs to be paid to ensuring people know about and implement the agreed approach.
Note that these two causes – a weak approach and poor deployment – have the same effect: disappointing results. Yet the actions required to address the disappointing results are quite different. ADRI can assist in determining which cause is more significant.
For example, a school may identify parent dissatisfaction with student reports. Firstly, knowledge of ADRI would lead the school leadership team to seek clarity and reflect upon the school’s design for assessment and reporting. Which assessments are to be undertaken? What is the schedule? What is the agreed process for reporting? Is the approach appropriate? These are questions regarding the approach. Secondly, they would explore the extent to which the approach is being applied in practice. Do staff understand and follow the agreed procedures? Are timelines being met? These are questions regarding deployment. Actions required to address parent dissatisfaction will be quite different depending where the opportunities for improvement lie: in the approach, or more to do with deployment.
ADRI is also useful when designing organisation’s systems, structures and processes. In thinking about how to pursue any area of endeavour, ADRI provides useful guidance to ensure key considerations are not overlooked. If you look back over the considerations associated with each of the dimensions, you can easily identify key questions to be answered when determining how to design processes that will achieve an organisation’s goals. These questions could include:
Have we clearly articulated our purpose, desired outcomes and a vision of excellence?
What are the needs of our clients and key stakeholders?
What strategies, structures and processes are required to achieve our aspirations?
What data do we need to measure effectiveness and track progress over time? How will these data be collected, collated and regularly reported?
How will we document, train and coach people to adopt the new approach?
How will we monitor the acceptance and application of the new approach?
How will ongoing performance data be monitored and evaluated?
What is the cycle of review and improvement for this approach and its deployment?
How to use ADRI
The assessment dimensions of ADRI can be used in many ways. Typically, they are used as:
a checklist for reflecting upon the activities and results of an organisation
a framework for describing the activities and results of an organisation
an assessment model to evaluate the activities and results of an organisation.
ADRI is commonly used as a checklist to think about what is happening in an organisation. For example, thinking about whether observed difficulties are due to a deficient approach or poor deployment is a common application.
ADRI can provide a structure for describing how an organisation goes about its business. This use of ADRI is common in performance excellence awards processes such as those based on the Australian Business Excellence Awards, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards in the USA, and those of the European Foundation for Quality Management. Organisations describe explicitly how they go about each assessment dimension for each area of endeavour. The areas described are usually the categories or items of these specific frameworks (for example, Leadership, Strategy and Planning, Customers and Other Stakeholders). The use of ADRI in this way is applicable to any area of organisational activity.
A school (or district) could use ADRI as a structure to describe any program, initiative, project or other area of endeavour. For example; a district could document its thinking and planning (approach) to community engagement, how that has been implemented across the district (deployment), how data demonstrate effectiveness in community engagement (results), and the process by which the district reviews and improves community engagement (improvement). The act of documenting the activities and results in this structure usually leads to the identification of strengths and areas of opportunity for improvement.
ADRI can also be used to evaluate or rate the organisation’s activities and results. The figureabove, ADRI Review Process Poster for Self-assessment, which you can download free of charge from our website, provides a structure for such an evaluation. Each of the four dimensions, ADRI, is evaluated and given a rating, which leads to identification of strengths and opportunities for improvement.
How does ADRI relate to PDSA?
The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle, provides a step-by-step process to bring about improvement over time. ADRI provides specific dimensions to reflect upon the activities and results of an organisation at a specific point in time.
Both PDSA and ADRI are based on the learning and improvement cycle, also known as scientific method and action research. PDSA provides a method for realising improvement. ADRI provides a structure for identifying where improvement may be required.
Do you need a step-by-step guide to targeting professional learning to develop your expert teaching team? Then follow these simple instructions to establish an evidence-based, structured process to plan, monitor and evaluate the professional development of staff in your school:
Agree with staff what they need to know, understand and be able to do to be effective in their school roles. Identify the specific skills and capacities as they relate to key concepts and methods. Insert them into the matrix template. Draw on preferred models and professional standards like the AITSL Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Be sure to also include the capacities unique to your school system (e.g. do you have a school-based data software people need to know how to use, a behaviour management policy, a role call process?). Also consult your Strategic and Annual Plans for new developmental needs and these capacities to the matrix. In this way the matrix is a dynamic (ever evolving) document subject to ongoing review and improvement.
Have each staff member undertake a regular self-assessment using the matrix. This self-assessment can be made an integral part of your school staff performance management/development process.
Staff (like younger learners) are required to provide evidence of their learning. Evidence is recorded in the evidence column of the matrix. Staff can use a portfolio to store their evidence (in the same way as students do). This can take many forms; video footage or podcasts of teachers demonstrating good teaching practice, photos, students articulating their learning. This evidence is an effective measure of the extent to which professional learning is ultimately applied in the classroom.
Use the capacity matrix to identify individual learning goals and monitor progress towards achieving them.
Use the matrix as a basis for the induction of new staff.
Use the matrix to plan ongoing professional development. Identify those areas where a majority of staff require professional development and plan the most cost-effective way for this to be facilitated. For example, those staff who have reached mastery (or are at the wisdom level) in specific capacities can teach, coach or mentor those at lower levels of learning.