Overview of the 5 Phases 

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Phase 1: Analyzing a Problem

During Phase 1 your team will investigate a critical problem that stands in the way of student achievement and develop a deeper understanding of the complexity and nuance of the problem. Through analyzing the problem from multiple perspectives, you will define a specific problem statement that describes the improvement work you will be doing It should be used at the start of your improvement work.

  • Analysis Tool Selector
    Shares six questions to help your team determine which analysis tool to use to analyze your problem.
  • Activity: Fishbone Diagram
    Work with your team to turn experiences and expertise into a visual map of the problem you are trying to tackle.
  • Tool: Community Pulse
    Provides guidance on how to “take the pulse” of a school community through short, targeted surveys.
  • Tool: Empathy Mapping
    Provides guidance on a technique for deeply understanding the problem from the perspective of a “user”—usually a student—and using the insights that come from it to drive your work.
  • Tool: Problem Statement Readiness Check
    Provides support for deciding when you are ready to transition from analyzing a problem to strategize for solutions, and for capturing key findings from your analysis for later use.


Phase 2 : Creating a Theory of Improvement

Phase 2 will help your team develop a theory of improvement, which is your team’s collective hypothesis about what key factors and changes will be necessary for achieving your aim. Your working theory of improvement should answer the critical question: “What change can I introduce and why?” 

  • Activity: Driver Diagram
    Work with your team to map out a visual representation of your team’s theory for how you can create the improvement you want to see.
  • Tool: Crafting an Aim Statement
    Provides guidance on how to write and refine an aim statement, which will serve as a unifying goal of your team’s work.
  • Tool: Revising Your Driver Diagram
    Provides guidance on how to update your driver diagram to reflect your team’s learning and growing expertise.


Phase 3 : Testing Changes

This phase will provide guidance on using Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles to test, reflect on, and refine changes to practice. Testing changes should begin once the team has mapped out a working theory of improvement.


Phase 4: Measuring Your Progress

Phase 4 will help your team identify the types of measurement and data that best inform and support your improvement work. It should be used after gaining experience running a few initial tests, unless your improvement project can’t proceed without defining measures first.

  • Activity: Choosing Measures for Improvement
    Turn your theory of improvement into a short list of potential measures that you could use to gauge your success over time, and ultimately make decisions about what kinds of evidence collection to prioritize.
  • Tool: Data-Collection Planner
    Provides advice on how to “backwards plan” from key check-in points in the year to ensure you have the evidence you need to make critical decisions.


Phase 5: Scaling and Sharing 

This phase will help your team understand when and how to scale a successful change. It should be used after you have run two or more PDSA cycles and you have a change idea you are confident is ready to be tested across broader contexts.

  • Activity: Scaling Pre-Mortem
    Work with your team to preview the scaling process and anticipate potential challenges before they occur.
  • Tool: “What Next?” Leadership Reflection
    Provides support for navigating the nonlinear nature of improvement work by connecting common challenges and suggested next steps.
  • Tool: Storytelling Toolkit
    Provides guidance on turning the successes and insights from your work into a document or a narrative that can be used for sharing, spreading, and sustaining your success.