Guiding Principles and Resources

Our guiding principles - how we work

We use systems-based and collaborative approaches to help our clients - state departments of education, districts, and schools - identify factors that are influencing their ability to engage in effective and sustainable improvement efforts. Through a collaborative and intensive process of information analysis, data exploration and collective sense-making, we jointly identify innovative strategies for improving public education and construct an implementation road map for translating those strategies into practical and meaningful actions. Our work ranges from designing and conducting rigorous evaluations of policies and strategies to facilitating intensive and ongoing strategic planning sessions focused on collective sense-making and developing actionable strategies to meet client needs and goals.

In our work, we carefully analyze and consider individual, organizational, and contextual factors as they lead to and open windows of opportunity for mobilizing and enacting innovative change. 

  • We access and leverage individuals' perspectives and knowledge as a key source of the expertise and energy needed to advance innovative change.
  • We strive to develop a coherent policy environment that enables districts and schools to engage in sustainable improvement. 
  • We examine and consider how different levels of the education system interact with each other and in relation to client goals and objectives.
  • We consider how existing relationships with the surrounding community influence efforts to engage in sustainable improvement.
  • We explore and use emerging technologies and networks as means to support innovative and transformational change.

An overview of the research base that provides the foundation for our work

Our consultative approach, tools, protocols, and strategies are based upon a wide range of education and policy oriented literature. Some of the key research, policy, and theoritical documents (all continiously evolving)  that informs and grounds our work are listed below.

Argyris, C., and Schon, D. A. Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective. Reading:MA: Addison-Wesley,1978

Coburn, C.E. (2001). Collective sense-making about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 145-170.

Childress, S., Elmore, R., and Grossman, A.  (2006).  How to manage urban school districts.  Harvard Business Review, 84(11), 55-68. 

Corcoran, T., Fuhrman, S. H., & Belcher, C. L. (2001). The district role in instructional improvement. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(1), 78-84.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2003). Enhancing Teaching. In William Owings and Leslie Kaplan (Eds.), Best Practices, Best Thinking, and Emerging Issues in School Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dwyer, C. (2005). Leadership Capacities for a Changing Environment: State and District Responses to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University.

Elmore, R.F. (1980). Backward mapping: Implementation research and policy decision. Political Science Quarterly, 94(4), 601-609.

Elmore, R.F. (2000). Building a New Structure for School Leadership. Albert Shanker Institute

Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership and Sustainability: System Thinkers in Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Fuhrman, S., Clune, W.H., & Elmore, R.F. (1988). Research on education reform: Lessons on the implementation of policy. Teachers College Record, 90(2), 237-257.

Gigerenzer, G. & Selton, R. (2001). Rethinking rationality. In G. Gigerenzer & R. Selton (Eds.), Bounded rationality: The adaptive toolbox. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hannaway, J. & Woodroffe, N. (2004). Policy Instruments in Education. Review of Research in Education, 27, 1-24. 

Hargreaves, D. (2003). Working Laterally: How Innovation Networks Make an Education Epidemic.

Hatch, T.  (2001).  Incoherence in the system: Three perspectives on the implementation of multiple initiatives in one district. American Journal of Education, 109, 407–437.

Honig, M, & Hatch, T.  (2004).  Crafting coherence: How schools strategically manage multiple, external demands.  Educational Researcher, 33(8), 16-30.

Knapp, M.S., Copland, M.A., & Talbert, J.E. (2003). Leading for Learning: Reflective Tools for School and District Leaders. Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.  http://depts.washington.edu/ctpmail/PDFs/LforLSummary-02-03.pdf

Leedom, D. (2001). Final report: Sense-making symposium. Command and Control Research Program, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence. Vienna, VA: Evidence Based Research. Inc. (Link)

Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D., and McElheron-Hopkins, C.  (2006).  The development and testing of a school improvement model.  School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 17(4), 441-464.

Lusi, S. (1997). The role of state departments of education in complex school reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

Martin-Kniep, G. (2007). Developing Learning Communities that Learn Lead and Last: Building and Sustaining Educational Expertise: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Massell, D. (2000). The District Role in Building Capacity: Four Strategies. Policy Briefs. Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.  http://www.cpre.org/Publications/rb32.pdf

McLaughlin, M.W. (1987). Learning from experience: Lessons from policy implementation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 9, 171-178.

McLaughlin, M. & Talbert, J. (2003). Reforming Districts: How Districts Support School Reform. A Research Report. Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.  http://depts.washington.edu/ctpmail/PDFs/ReformingDistricts-09-2003.pdf

O’Day, J.  (2002).  Complexity, accountability, and school improvement.  Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 293-329.

Ogawa, R.T., & Bossert, S.T. (1995). Leadership as an organizational quality. Educational Administration Quarterly, 31(2), 224-243.

Rorrer, A., Skrla, L, & Scheurich, J.  (2008).  Districts as institutional actors in educational reform.  Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(3), 307-358

Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday. 

Spillane, J. Distributed Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006.

Spillane, J.P., Reiser, B. & Reimer, T. (2002) Policy Implementation and Cognition: Reframing and Refocusing Implementation Research. Review of Educational Research, 72(3), 387 431.

St. John, M. & Stokes, L. (2008). Lessons to be Learned from the National Writing Project, Inverness Research Inc. (Link)

Stone, D. (2002). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.  

Vera, D., & Crossan, M. (2004). Strategic Leadership and Organizational Learning. Academy of Management Review, 29(2), 222-240.

Weick, K. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Sage Publications

Wise, A. (1984). Why education policies often fail: The hyperrationalisation hypothesis. In J.J. Prunty (Ed.), A critical reformulation of education policy analysis. Geelong, Victoria, Australia: Deakin University Press.

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