Pre-Conference Courses

Nine hands-on, interactive pre-conference courses will be offered at the 2022 Carnegie Summit on Sunday, March 27. Each course will take place between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. PT.

Pre-Conference courses are optional and available only to in-person attendees. Pre-Conference courses require an additional registration fee.

PC1. Improvement Science Basics

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching works to build the capability of education leaders and practitioners to create the conditions that enable the effective application of improvement science in their schools, organizations, and networks.

Improvement science is an approach to making change that combines analytic discipline and practical on-the-ground tools to accelerate progress on pressing educational problems of performance and equity. The methods within improvement science support change agents in deeply understanding problems and their causes, testing ideas for change, and using data and measurement to inform practice and innovations. Through an improvement science approach and mindset, the “learning by doing” that occurs in individual clinical practice can culminate in robust, practical field knowledge capable of reliably producing quality outcomes across diverse contexts.

This pre-conference course is ideal for participants seeking an overview of the basic tenets, dispositions, and tools of improvement science. It will provide an introduction to the foundational concepts in improvement science, hands-on activities with key improvement tools and social processes, and a case study of how this approach has been applied in education.

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify key concepts and principles that underpin the improvement science approach to change
  • Understand how aim statements and theories of practice improvement discipline improvement efforts
  • Explore how measurement is used in an improvement context
  • Describe how change ideas are developed, iteratively tested, and spread to achieve quality results, reliably at scale

Manuelito Biag, Senior Associate, Networked Improvement Science; Managing Director, Center for Post-Secondary Innovation, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
LaRena Heath, Associate, Networked Improvement Science; Director, Professional Education Offerings, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Tinkhani White, Associate, Networked Improvement Science, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


PC2. Organizing to Lead a Networked Improvement Community

As scientific professional learning communities committed to achieving a shared aim, networked improvement communities (NICs) provide an organizational structure for mobilizing the diverse expertise needed to solve the most pressing and persistent problems that confront our nation’s colleges and schools. A high degree of coordination and leadership, however, is required to leverage the collective learning capacity of the network to accelerate progress toward the shared goal.

A network hub is a core leadership group that plays a critical role in supporting the network community to communicate and learn together. Research has shown that effective network leadership requires attention in four areas: (1) engaging in and supporting improvement activity, (2) developing and managing the network as an organization, (3) developing and managing the hub organization, and (4) managing environmental relationships.

This pre-conference course delves into the core work processes for developing and managing the network as an organization, and for managing a hub team that will coordinate and lead the network. It is designed for those with leadership roles in networks that have developed a working theory of improvement, are beginning to test—or are in the process of testing and refining—that theory, and who want to improve on the processes and structures they have in place to support social learning.

Participants will consider the role and functions of a NIC hub in building a collaborative learning culture across the network, the processes required to support those functions, and the ways a hub team can organize to support the activity of the network.

This course is ideal for teams of two or more people who have been engaged in initiating a NIC or who are currently leading a network. Participants who will get the most out of this pre-conference session have a solid understanding of improvement science and a specific network in mind to which they will apply their learning.

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the essential domains of work and operational processes of a network hub that are critical to the support and effective operation of a NIC
  • Reflect on and assess their own hub processes for supporting network learning
  • Reflect on and assess their own routines for managing the hub organization

Simone Palmer, Associate, Networked Improvement Science, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Barbara Shreve, Associate, Managing Director, Networked Improvement Science, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Patrice Dawkins-Jackson, Associate, Networked Improvement Science; Director, Organizational Learning and Development, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Marytza Gawlik, Associate, Networked Improvement Science, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


PC3. Using Data for Improvement

Schools have made significant headway in collecting data on student learning in the interest of informing change. But how do we embed data collection and use in ongoing processes to continuously improve practices and performance? The nature of the data and the processes in which they are used need to be shaped to support continuous quality improvement.

This pre-conference course explores how to develop and use measurement and data to support improvement. Participants will learn to link their improvement ideas to concrete measures in order to understand if and how their system is improving. They will also learn how to use data to examine variation and understand systems, create a system of measures to support improvement plans, and test and evaluate changes as potential improvements. They will also learn about the related resources and routines that underpin effective data use.

This pre-conference course is ideal for:

  • Educators and other district staff employing improvement science methods in their local contexts to address persistent problems of practice
  • Teachers, faculty, improvement partners, and researchers involved in networked improvement communities who have some basic knowledge/experience with improvement

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand how to use measures to see systems more clearly and understand problems more deeply
  • Consider what types of measures should be used to constitute a system of measures that can support improvement and how they practice improvement
  • Understand how to work with partners and within NICs to design, develop, refine, and implement common measures focused on a specific theory of improvement

Jon Norman, Managing Director and Senior Associate, Evidence & Analytics, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Kelly McMahon, Senior Associate, Evidence & Analytics, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
David Sherer, Senior Associate, Evidence & Analytics, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Angel Li, Associate, Evidence & Analytics, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Mai Anh Bui, Data Analyst, Evidence & Analytics, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Emily Supple, Communications & Content Strategist, Communications and Public Engagement, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


PC4. Coaching for Improvement

Improvement coaches support improvement teams by helping to design an improvement journey, providing technical expertise, and building the improvement capacity of the team. In this course, participants will learn about coaching practices that can be used to support improvement teams, practice coaching core improvement routines, and work with other coaches in identifying different ways to address the common struggle points that arise in supporting improvement teams to get results.

This pre-conference course is ideal for

  • People who are already familiar with improvement science
  • People who are actively involved in coaching improvement teams in a network or organizational setting

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the role of an improvement coach and how it is similar or different from other coaching roles in education
  • Understand the arc of an improvement project from development to end products
  • Be able to coach key improvement routines, such as knowing what to look for and how to analyze key products, determine next steps, and choose a stance)
  • Understand common dilemmas that arise on improvement teams and practice identifying responses to these dilemmas
  • Be able to select an appropriate improvement method or activity to answer a particular question

Alicia Grunow, Co-Founder and Improvement Specialist, Improvement Collective; Senior Fellow, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Sandra Park, Co-Founder and Improvement Specialist, Improvement Collective; Senior Fellow, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


PC5. Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Improvement

Improvement of U.S. education systems is imperative to building the organizational culture and skill required to transform complex, inequitable systems to consistently offer high-quality public education, especially for students situated furthest from opportunity. To do this, leaders and improvement practitioners need more than a technical understanding of how to do continuous improvement. They also need to move improvement from a separate program or philosophy to a sustained way of working in every role across their organizations.

This pre-conference course will condense decades of learning from large-scale improvement initiatives to identify common phases in building a sustained culture of improvement. Presenters will outline the specific elements and strategies that successfully create a culture of improvement, such as organizational policy, distributed leadership, core values, resources, staffing structures, capacity building, and communications. Participants will use the course time to assess their organizations’ current phase of development, identify opportunities and practical strategies for growth, and create a customized plan for their organization. To do this, participants will engage in peer-to-peer learning and sharing as well as small-group coaching.

This course is ideal for leaders and improvement practitioners from universities, schools, and school districts. Participants from intermediary organizations or improvement networks will also find this course helpful to develop approaches for coaching organizations. Participants who join as a team can leverage the time together for organizational planning, while solo participants will be grouped with others for peer-to-peer learning.

Whether your organization is early or advanced in its improvement journey, you will learn what elements grow a culture of improvement – from policy and core values to staffing structures – and take home a plan to develop and sustain a culture of improvement.

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate what aspects of improvement practice they aim to embed and grow within their organizational culture
  • Describe the phases and necessary elements to develop and sustain a culture of improvement
  • Create a customized plan for their organization with specific strategies to deepen and sustain improvement in their organization

Karen Zeribi, Founder and Chief Visionary, Shift
Shay Bluemer Miroite, Director of Improvement Advising, Shift
Theresa Todd, Improvement Advisor, Shift
Cori Davis, Improvement Advisor, Shift
Kara McElvaine, Senior Program Manager, Shift
Ryan McBride, Senior Program Manager, Shift
Kyle Moyer, Lead Improvement Advisor, Shift

This course has reached capacity. If you’d like to be put on the waitlist, please complete the waitlist form and we will notify you if a spot becomes available.


PC6. Introduction to Design Thinking: Designing for Belonging

In this pre-conference course, participants will learn about design thinking through a series of design-for-belonging exercises. Participants will use the liberatory design mindsets to feel, see, and shape an experiential moment for their own school, organization, or practice area. Using the process, participants will plan a design action to take after the conference. The course will include reflection on the intersection of design thinking and improvement science.

After this course, participants were able to:

  • Immerse in the design thinking process
  • Understand mindsets of design and how they relate to improvement science
  • Explore concrete application of design thinking to design for belonging

Relevant Websites

Morgan Vien, Deeper Learning Coach, Envision Learning Partners
Susie Wise, Adjunct Professor and Former Director, K12 Lab Network, Stanford


PC7. Leading for Equity: Liberatory Design and Distributed Leadership in Complex Systems

Many education leaders approach system challenges and change initiatives as complicated problems to solve. However, the complexity of equity challenges means that emergent solutions must be found through the dynamic social interactions that occur when diverse people and networks work together. Leaders in complex adaptive systems must be skilled at balancing the technical, relational, and adaptive approaches needed for equitable systems change.

This pre-conference course will highlight the National Equity Project’s Leading for Equity framework and its See, Engage, and Act methods as dynamic approaches to expand equity consciousness, complexity thinking, and liberatory design for problem solving, decision making and contextually appropriate action. Premised on the idea that solutions in complex systems are unknown, leaders learn to apply liberatory design principles—empathy, co-design, problem framing, system probes, prototyping and testing, reflection, and iteration—to find workable solutions to equity challenges. Participants will explore process and planning tools that can match the level of complexity of their problem by considering the similarities, differences, and bounded applicability of methodologies and tools such as the PDSA cycle and the National Equity Project’s Liberatory Design mindsets and modes.

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Develop a greater understanding of the inherent tensions, contradictions, and uncertainty in leading for equity in complex systems
  • Use a complex system and an equity lens to assess their system’s challenges and opportunities
  • Explore approaches for problem identification and decision making to be simultaneously disruptive and measured in influencing equitable systems change
  • Reflect on personal and collective leadership given that the identities, roles, and responsibilities as the foundation for generating ideas about possible next moves in addressing a current equity challenge

Victor Cary, Senior Director, National Equity Project
Tom Malarkey, Director, National Equity Project


PC8. Leadership for System Transformation: Putting Research into Practice

Wondering what improvement science looks like in school districts scaling results? In this pre-conference course, participants will learn how three school districts—Estacada School District in Oregon, Tea Area School District in South Dakota, and the School District of Menomonee Falls in Minnesota—are building the capacity to improve from the school board to the classroom. Leaders will guide participants through the lessons learned on the journey of developing leader capacity to scale improvement capability and applying improvement to accelerate system, school, and student learning. Participants will learn about the core principles underlying systemic improvement at a district level and be introduced to the transformational approach to build improvement at scale. Building upon this broad, system-level view, participants will learn how to grow and develop leaders who can effectively lead change, shift culture, and empower teachers. This approach is improving student and school results through cycles of improvement and developing students who can analyze their own challenges and make informed decisions to advocate for their own learning needs. This team of leaders and team members will offer specific examples from three districts that are connecting to hearts and minds to drive results and stimulate ongoing organizational learning.

After this course, participants were able to:

  • Engage an elected board to understand, appreciate, and drive improvement through resource allocation and policy adoption
  • Train and coach a collaborative leadership team to lead as a team through the continuous change of education institutions with both their hearts and minds
  • Build aligned scorecards of the key metrics and high-leverage actions that drive improvement at the district, school, and classroom level
  • Report scorecard progress using a simple 45-day cycle that supports improvement through agile adjustment to achieve results
  • Coach teachers to plan, do, study, and act with students so that each student knows and advocates for their own progress
  • Ensure that improvement is everyone’s job—from the superintendent to food service employee, from student to board member.

Patricia Greco, Superintendent Emeritus, School District of Menomonee Falls, MN; Senior Director of Thought Leadership, Studer Education
Ryan Carpenter, Superintendent, Estacada School District, OR
Jennifer Nebelsick Lowery, Superintendent, Tea Area School District, SD