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The PDSA Cycle - A Coaching Re-Tool

Thursday, December 15, 2022

A Decision Support Data System (DSDS) is a system for identifying, collecting, and analyzing data for decision-making by program administrators and practitioners. These systems enable organizations to make informed and intentional decisions about critical implementation supports. Teams use data to communicate impact, successes, and challenges. They use data in Plan-Do-Study-Act Improvement Cycles. Informed by data, teams rapidly detect, prevent, and address barriers through action plans. The result - practitioners have the implementation supports required to produce socially significant & equitable outcomes.

All this sounds really technical. And, coaches bring an adaptive lens to many conversations… So, what is the role of a coach when it comes to data? Coaches are change agents. Data informs change. So, where do coaches fit in?

Coaches ask questions to support a move to action. Coaches can support teams in establishing or strengthening a common approach for the consistent use of data in decision-making and improvement. A coach could ask questions such as: (source: National Implementation Research Network)

  • Do we have clear areas of focus around specific improvement efforts?
  • Do we use appropriate data effectively to monitor progress and make timely adjustments?
  • Have we identified and established action steps to address facilitators and barriers to implementation and improvement?
  • Can we provide the necessary information to support feedback loops with other interested parties?

Coaches bring an equity mindset. Sometimes there is a tendency to jump right into the data without considering gaps. Coaches can find opportunities to facilitate important pauses before jumping right into data conversations. A coach could ask questions such as: (source: HCH Graduate School of Education - Data for Equity Protocol)

  • What data do we need to look at? Who decides?
  • How can we display the data to illuminate and understand disproportionate experiences and/or outcomes?
  • Who might this data make uncomfortable?
  • What is the purpose of looking at this data? (to identify gaps, to check progress, to identify bright spots, etc.)
  • What are the data’s blind spots? What/whose perspectives are missing?
  • Who needs to be in the room to ensure multiple perspectives are considered and movement is made?

Coaches can retool the PDSA process. Coaches can bring humanity to the data in unique ways. A coach could ask questions such as: (source: Street Data, A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation, 2021)

  • Listen to the data. What stands out? What’s painful to hear? What new questions have come up? Based on what we did or how things are going, what do we notice about trends and patterns in our data? What data is missing or what questions are we not able to answer with current data?
  • Pay attention to what the data uncovers. What surprises or challenges show up? As a result of what we’re seeing in the data, what decisions are we making relative to training, coaching, other adjustments to supports, or action items?
  • Look to reimagine based on the data. Did the adjustments made have the intended impact? If adjustments are new, what will we look at to know whether they had the intended impact? Are we on track to meet goals? If not, why not, and what adjustments will we make?
  • Make a call to action and commit to stay the course. Do we continue with supports as they are or are other adjustments needed? What is the next best step to strengthen and sustain the work moving forward?

When a coach strategically looks at data with their clients and considers possibilities by collecting information from multiple sources and diverse perspectives they support equitable continuous systemic improvements. The coach supports the client to leverage change by identifying strengths, barriers, and opportunities within systems that benefit some and not others. Facilitating change based on both student and systems-level data improves access to quality learning opportunities, redresses systemic inequities, increases the likelihood of adaptive change, and builds capacity with the organization.

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