Key Terms

Phase 1: Analyzing a Problem

Problem statement vs. problem area

Your problem focus area is a broad problem you have chosen to explore and learn more about. Your problem statement is a specific manifestation of that problem that you can influence and which you have chosen to solve.

Phase 2: Creating a Theory of Improvement

Working theory of improvement

Articulates a hypothesis which outlines exactly how you see changes in practice sparking improvement and providing a conceptual bridge from your analysis of the problem to action in the real world. It answers the critical question: “What change can I introduce and why?”

Driver diagram

A visual representation that turns a team’s understanding of a problem into a theory of the changes that must take place in order to accomplish the aim.


High-leverage areas you believe play an essential role in influencing your aim. Drivers cannot be controlled directly; each is influenced by dozens of smaller steps you can take over the next several months to achieve your aim.

Primary drivers

The essential, big-picture areas that drive progress toward the aim. They are “what” must happen to get to your aim. 

Secondary drivers

The sub-factors that influence each of the broader primary drivers. They are “where” you might change your practice to improvement in your primary driver.

Change ideas

The small tweaks to classroom practice or materials that can be tested over a short period of time. 

Aim statement

Defines the improvement your team is trying to accomplish written as a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

S.M.A.R.T. goal

A goal that is Specific, Measurable, Aspirational but attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Phase 3: Testing Changes

Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA)

Problem-solving model with four stages, used to improve a process and transfer your analysis of the problem to action in the real world.

Phase 4: Measuring Your Progress

Outcome measures

Provide big-picture feedback on your progress. They are a “north star” anchoring your aim and allowing you to assess whether your project is getting results.

Driver measures

Provide feedback on your particular approach to reaching your outcome measure. They should align directly with the primary and secondary drivers on your driver diagram.

“Short-term” PDSA measures

The pieces of “embedded evidence” that are easily available and help you define how your changes will occur.

Phase 5: Scaling and Sharing


The deliberate scaling up of a change idea.


Slowing down scaling to refine the change idea within a context or group of users it has been introduced to.


Expanding a change idea beyond your improvement team.