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Structures & Cultures that Support Improvement

“Change Happens at the Speed of Trust” — Stephen Covey

If you’re planning to use Ascend, you probably already understand that students engage and learn best when certain conditions are in place. The same is true for educators, especially when participating in something as novel and vulnerable as collecting and acting on student feedback. 

With the right context and support, instructors report that participating in an Ascend community of practice is insightful and even transformative (see videos). However, educators are far less likely to engage, improve, and thrive if they feel judged, coerced, or unappreciated—or if they simply don’t have enough time to reflect on, learn from, and act in response to students’ feedback. 

In order to have a productive community of practice that engages and empowers educators to learn and improve, do your best to establish these conditions.

Build Trust and Community

Collaborative improvement happens on teams that trust and respect each other enough to take and provide honest feedback. Invest the requisite time and effort to develop respectful, collaborative relationships in which everyone feels valued and has meaningful opportunities to be heard. Here are some tips.

Keep the Purpose at the Center

Continuous improvement is a creative, effortful process that requires active learning, adaptation, and persistence. To keep educators engaged, help them articulate and reconnect with their why—the reasons why they believe this work is important to them personally and to the college/university more broadly.  

Diffuse Evaluation Anxiety

Clearly communicate that Ascend results are formative and that they will be used only to support learning and improvement, not to evaluate instructors.

Establish Growth Oriented Norms

Resist the tendency to blame others when something is wrong. Instead, focus yourself and others on the things you can do to make things better. Leaders can model a growth mindset by being open about challenges and mistakes, curious about potential solutions, willing to test solutions, and striving for growth not perfection.

Align Priorities for Coherence and Synergy

Instructors won’t have the time or mental bandwidth for Ascend if they see it as “another initiative” that competes with their other priorities.

  • Articulate how Ascend supports and complements college/university priorities.

  • Reserve time for instructors to collect, reflect on, and intentionally respond to their Ascend data. For example, leverage existing meetings and teams and/or, if possible, compensate teachers with professional development funds.

  • If possible, provide instructors with continuing education credits.

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