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Center Ideas: NIC of Time: Applying Implementation Science to Overcome Education Obstacles

Marvels Avengers. The Fellowship of the Ring. Coffee and chocolate. Sometimes significant challenges require a group response to bring about meaningful, persistent resolutions. This is particularly the case when we’re talking about efforts toward continuous improvement, a process through which barriers to improved learning outcomes are identified, responses are developed and tested, and—ultimately—solutions are implemented across settings and contexts.

If you’re going to make continuous improvement happen, you’re going to need a team of your own, a strong and dedicated core group to put forward difficult, sometimes uncomfortable questions and be able and ready to navigate what is often a process of fundamental change at the institutional level. A Networked Improvement Community—or NIC—is designed to support each of these tasks and more.

Okay, so that’s the what and why. Here’s the how: Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC) has developed a comprehensive interactive learning module on how to create and sustain your own NIC. Point by point. Task by task. Leading you and your core group through the steps of this process, beginning with an overview of the concept of continuous improvement, its common goals, and its most effective approaches. You’ll also have an opportunity to address three core questions of continuous improvement: “What problem are we trying to solve?” “What changes might we introduce and why?” and “How will we know that a change is an improvement?”

Module Step 2 covers precisely how to initiate that core team of educators, experts, researchers, and leaders, the ones who will help guide the NIC and keep everything on track. We refer to this team as the Improvement Hub, and here we offer advice and reflections on how you might go about assembling your own, including thoughts on how to make sure diverse voices are included and heard.

Module Step 3 offers some pointers on developing a well-specified problem statement. This is a crucial part of the process, so we take some time to explain why problem statements can often be difficult to write, what are some of the features of high-quality statements, and how you might go about composing your own statements.

Now that you’ve identified and stated the problem at hand, it’s time to take a deep breath and think about causes. That’s where Module Step 4 comes in. As people, we have a tendency to jump to conclusions, even when we have the best intentions. Step 4 is here to remind you to take some time to work together to get to the bottom of what really is creating the problem, causes and sub-causes, so that snap judgements and incomplete information don’t upend your NIC before it really even gets going.

And there’s more on the way, too. Specifically, Steps 5 through 8 will be posted throughout the remainder of 2022. We’ll let you know as soon as they’re available on the R5CC website. In the meantime, we have plenty more to keep you occupied, offer some food for thought, and inform your decision making going forward: