A toolkit for change – user needs analysis

Co-design activities within the ACT project were run in September 2020 to glean an insight into what our stakeholders want out of a toolkit for change. The below diagram summarises the issues, barriers, and solutions presented by the teachers, educational leadership, policy experts, game-based learning experts, and researchers that attended Workshop 1 and Seminar 2. These findings are presented in detail below.

Participants were presented with a draft toolkit process diagram comprising 5 steps for driving change in local contexts. They were asked to provide examples of problems, needs, challenges, and solutions which were then categorised according to which step in the process they were most associated with. Clicking the image below will allow you to inspect it in more detail.

User needs capture from Workshop 1 and Seminar 2.
User needs analysis for a toolkit for change.

The purpose of this activity was to identify the types of issues being faced by change agents in schools and to establish both those areas of greatest needs for support from the toolkit and also to gain insight into how these issues can be most effectively addressed. This insight feeds into the remainder of the project and will allow us to design a toolkit that directly fulfils the needs of our various stakeholder communities.

Summary findings

Draft toolkit process diagram

The image below presents the toolkit process and is designed to guide teachers and school leaders through the stages of planning, implementing and evaluating change in their schools, in five steps. Although the five steps are presented as distinct stages of change activity, it is important to keep in mind that change is an iterative process that may involve several cycles as well as moving back and forth between the different stages, and raising questions along the way.

STEP 1 – Check the purpose: Establishing a need for change is a key step in starting off a change process. This can happen in response to a bigger external change agenda or strategy, or as an attempt to address an issue or any kind of internally identified scope for improvement in practice. 

STEP 2 – Agree desired outcomes: Change is a messy process. Different players will have different understanding of what the desired outcomes should be or how they could be achieved. Agreeing a shared vision of what an improved practice may look like is critical for actors’ commitment to enact change.

STEP 3 – Negotiate action plan: Planning a course of action that those involved will undertake together to achieve the agreed desired outcomes is central to the change process. Different players will have different roles and will need to negotiate and coordinate collective action.

STEP 4 – Get going: Implementing the plan is what gets the change process going. It does not mean that everything will go according to the plan, or that everything that was planned will be possible. Actors might identify new issues or additional players that need to be involved.

STEP 5 – Evaluate the impact: Evaluation and reflection on the impact is essential for identifying both intended and unintended outcomes of change activity. The extent to which the desired change has been achieved may involve different perspectives and use research and inform further planning.

Major needs, issues, and opportunities identified

Overall issues (applicable to all stages of the change process)

  • Major considerations:
    • Communication
    • Trust
    • Collaboration
  • Cyclical approach highly appropriate
    • Toolkit should support iterative change
  • Toolkit should support online and offline interactions (digital and non-digital)
    • Visual and interactive, “something you can scribble on”
    • Opportunity for sharing change successes also via the toolkit
  • Change can be top down or bottom up – both are useful approaches
    • Agents of change at every level: pupils, parents, teachers, leadership, etc.
  • Opportunity for ‘frugal education’ approaches

STEP 1 – Check the purpose

  • Major considerations:
    • Diversity of aims
    • Problems created by the pandemic
    • Change as risk
  • Capturing diverse perspectives
    • Two-way dialogue with kids
    • Practicalities of communication during a pandemic, IT gaps, etc
    • Finding a way to allow all voices to be heard
    • Need a process to reach agreement
  • Building relationships
    • Change requires trust and confidence, how to develop this
    • Building/finding supportive communities
  • Too much to do already
  • Addressing the ‘loss’ (educational, emotional) caused by lockdown

STEP 2 – Agree desired outcomes

  • Major considerations:
    • Clarity of communication
    • Diversity of views
    • Building relationships
  • Building relationships
    • Must involve parents in agreement process, parent-centred outcomes
    • Agreement between all the diverse parties involved
    • Improved relationships can be an outcome in itself
  • Clarity in the purpose and value of the change being proposed
    • Common understanding of definitions/terminology, use the same language
    • Use existing frameworks where possible e.g. GIRFEC, myworld triangle

STEP 3 – Negotiate action plan

  • Major considerations:
    • Tools & training
    • Communication
  • Tools for remote working/communication during the pandemic
    • Tools used should be agreed collaboratively and their use and evaluation shared
    • Do teachers have the skills they need to use these tools? Or to produce the evidence being asked for?
    • Use of tools that people are already familiar with
  • Teachers aware of need to develop creative/innovative practices but restricted by time pressure/workload
    • Time for dialogue & reflection

STEP 4 – Get going

  • Major considerations:
    • Communication
    • Professional development
  • Use of toolkit for professional development
    • Solihull approach as scaffold to develop professional relationships and facilitate their own change
  • How to connect with the broader learning community?
    • How to handle personalisation at scale?
    • How to communicated with people who can’t respond during working hours?
    • ‘Hard to reach’ vs ‘hardly reached’ people, need different approaches

STEP 5 – Evaluate the impact

  • Major considerations:
    • Evaluation frameworks and how to use them
  • Capture emotional impacts as well as other metrics
  • Potential disconnect between metrics required by different organisations e.g. local authorities and parents, can lead to tension, outcomes need to be clearly relevant
  • Toolkit should support existing evaluation frameworks, toolkits, and improvement methodologies
  • Capturing evidence of effectively reaching parents

The next stage of the Agents of Change project will be to continue developing the toolkit to address the most pressing of the above identified needs and challenges.

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