By Eric Kalenze, Director of Education Solutions
Based on the kind notes so many readers have sent over the past couple of months, it’s becoming clear that (1) there’s some strong interest in how to effectively improve young people’s academic motivation and (2) REACH’s way of breaking down and addressing motivation’s complex nature is providing some useful starting points and insights.
We’re especially glad that this blog space is providing useful information–both about how REACH works and about how educators (and administrators) are currently using REACH in their schools. Thanks, all, for reading and for engaging!
As school leaders are increasingly considering whether REACH fits into their school-improvement efforts, today’s post will shift away from REACH’s what and why to concentrate more specifically on REACH’s how.
That how is an important aspect to be realistic about. Enthusiastic as educators may be to use research-supported strategies toward strengthening students’ academic motivation, the devil of the job is very much in the details of implementation.
REACH, after all, is built to change practices, meaning that schools should plan for a good deal more than ‘assigning some activities’ or ‘giving a survey’ if they hope to achieve the optimal impact on teachers’ practices and students’ motivation. To make it happen, schools should commit to planning for practitioners’ initial and continual learning, practitioners’ in-class execution, and leaders’ ongoing monitoring and coordination.
First, though, a few reminders and caveats to keep in mind when considering implementation: REACH isn’t a program of ‘plug-and-play’ curricular resources and materials, and it’s not a series of training sessions for practitioners’ growth and understanding. It’s a balanced both-and, then plus some.
In full, REACH is a system of components (i.e., student activities, PD resources & workshops, suggested practical techniques, surveys with reports, etc.) that work together as a research-to-practice improvement strategy. Accordingly, ‘doing’ REACH so it can optimally impact kids–using the research insights to consistently inform classroom practices –will require some wider-angle decision-making and practical planning.
In working with our partnering schools, that wider view has included dividing all decision-making and action-planning into two basic categories, ‘vitals’ and ‘logistics’. To illustrate, here are a few examples of each:
VITAL CONSIDERATION: Are REACH activities and practices to be used school-wide, or with a select school population (one grade level, for instance, or select program)? And, importantly, why?
LOGISTIC CONSIDERATION: How will time be arranged for staff working with REACH to acquire necessary learning (initial and continual) and plan adjustments or enhancements?
VITAL CONSIDERATION: Does your school have the proper bandwidth and capacity to incorporate REACH as an improvement initiative? Is a focus on students’ academic motivation a key priority area at this time?
LOGISTIC CONSIDERATION: What method would you use to monitor the REACH initiative’s effectiveness over time? Who do you see as responsible for this monitoring (and subsequent adjustments to plan)?
It’s a lot to think about, for sure. Also, it’s probably pretty clear that these kinds of questions aren’t the best kinds to be considered and answered by one leader working alone. No matter which group of leaders takes them on, however, we know from our field experience that they are all important to consider thoroughly before attempting to implement REACH (or any improvement initiative, really).
We know very well, after all, how schools run once the kids arrive, as well as how priorities can begin sliding around as the year progresses. We also know how rigid (and limiting) things like PD days, substitute teacher needs, budgets, and the like have to be during the instructional months. And because these are the realities, a sound implementation plan up front is a school’s best chance at building the practices they hope to see.
The main objective with such pre-planning, basically, is to avoid the ever-popular ‘building the plane as we fly it’. If you’ve ever been a part of such an effort, you can likely attest to the many ways (e.g., participating teachers’ buy-in and enthusiasm, consistency of execution, overall unifying objectives, etc.) can be damaged. Planning ahead can reduce the risk of these issues arising during implementation.
To get schools interested in implementing REACH’s research and resources on the right foot toward success, Search Institute will be offering a REACH Implementation Institute this summer, August 2 – 4 in Minneapolis (learn more here or contact Search Institute directly if you have questions).
Informed by our field experience and based in principles of improvement science, the REACH Implementation Institute will provide guidance, structure, and supported planning space for teams of school leaders so they can process vital and logistic matters like those above. Our hope with this offering is that we can help schools build a strong foundation for their implementation of REACH, and that schools can realize their improvement aspirations related to strengthening student motivation.
Please be in touch if you have questions or other feedback. Leave them in the comment space below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.