Strategy guide:
Orientation to improve

A few notes before getting started

Your team’s structure
This document is intended to be used by teams working to design and implement collective leadership. It is imperative that the team model collective leadership during the design and implementation process. We suggest forming a leadership team of educators to work through the big questions and important tasks below. The team should be comprised of educators in various roles with diverse perspectives. The group must be transparent and regularly consider ways to scale collective leadership beyond the leadership team and include an increasing number of people in the process. 

The framework’s structure
The framework is divided into three parts: Understanding why, Designing how, and Implementing the plan. Each part has two areas of focus: “Big questions” and “Important tasks.” Answering the “Big questions” will involve intense study and open discussion. We recommend that you or your team come to decision points on each big question before moving to “Important tasks.” You can download these resources by clicking on the button below each part of the strategy framework. Scroll further to access additional background resources and research to support your work.

Resources and guides
The “Big questions” and “Important tasks” include valuable resources or guides. We have annotated these resources and guides to save you time selecting the best information for your context. Remember, these resources are intended as a starting point. Part of the process will be adaptation to meet your local needs, context, and goals.

Strategy Guide

1. Understanding your team’s why


Nearly all educators possess an orientation to improve. It is the nature of the work. Even when an entire class does well, questions linger about how this student or that student might be able to do just that much better. Or if everyone grasped a concept, educators consider how they might have pushed the learners that much further along. Just as educators ask themselves how students might go further with their learning, so too must we ask these questions of the adult learners in our schools. Collective leadership is a different way to approach the work of schooling. Even those schools that have implemented some degree of collective leadership likely have ways in which they can improve. Let’s explore where your team is with orientation to improve and how you might move forward from where you are to where you would like to be.


Goal: Establish a theory of action

What do you need to learn from the staff at the school about their orientation to improve? What questions do you have about how orientation to improve looks, and how will answers to those questions help you create a plan for how to increase your school’s orientation to improve?


Big Questions
  • Think of a time when you did something really well yet continued to adjust so that you could do even better.
    • How did you know that the work went well?
    • Think about particular kinds of evidence: perceptions from students or colleagues, observed shifts in behavior, or more traditional data like records of attendance, disciplinary action, or achievement scores. How did you acknowledge or celebrate what you did well?
    • What mindsets or questions were in place that made you think you could do better?
    • How did you approach creating a plan for improvement?
    • What risks did you take?
    • What was done to create a safe space to try new things and learn from “failure”?
    • To what degree are the current climate and structures at your school comparable to the situations described in questions a–f above?
  • What would an even safer environment for inquiry and risk-taking look like? What might administrators and teachers need to know and do to make it safe to take even more risks?
  • How might strengthening orientation to improve at your school support your efforts to address issues of diversity, equity, and cultural competence?
  • What is your team’s theory of action for how your team can develop or strengthen the orientation to improve at your school?

Important Tasks

Discuss why it is important to your team and for your context to develop or strengthen the orientation to improve at your school. 

Collect and discuss information about the questions above with your team. From that data determine what the biggest challenge or barrier is to developing or strengthening your school’s orientation to improve. Be sure to focus on challenges and barriers that are within your realm of control.

Discuss why that barrier exists. Brainstorm ideas for how your team might address that barrier. Select one approach to addressing the barrier. Your team will use this to create a theory of action about how addressing that barrier will impact the school.

Develop your team’s theory of action about how to address the barrier and take your schools from where you are to where you would like to be relative to orientation to improve.



Connect and collaborate
Teams frequently struggle with developing a theory of action. Remember to articulate your goal and identify the problem of practice before developing the theory of action.

Need help crafting a theory of action?


2. Designing your team’s how


Are you ready to create a plan for how your team will strengthen your orientation to improve? Remember that ensuring the presence of an orientation to improve will help avoid maintaining the status quo.


Goal: Prepare to lead action

Are you ready to create a plan for how your team will strengthen the orientation to improve at your school? Remember that having an orientation to improve will help your team move beyond the status quo.

What will you take on first? Who should be involved? What is the timeline?  How will you measure success?


Big Questions
  1. What does the information your team collected and your theory of action about the ideal state of orientation to improve tell you about what your best next step might be? 
  2. How might your team be explicit and transparent about the shifts your team is making to increase orientation to improve?
  3. How will the team support teachers and administrators as they become vulnerable and work towards increasing their orientation to improve?
  4. What is your timeline for this first effort?
  5. How will your team know when we have made progress?

Important Tasks

Read Inquiry-Based Teaching and host a discussion. How might the concepts covered in this research brief apply to educator (administrator and teacher) learning? How do we create the same type of learning conditions that are described in the brief for educators?

Based on what your team learned from the article choose a specific idea to test. The idea that your team chooses should either amplify a currently-existing strength or address a specific challenge. Use data from one of the self-assessments in his guide to inform your team’s choice.

Complete the Purpose Map to set the vision, identify the people who should be involved, and create the initial action plan for testing your team’s idea. For ideas about how to design and implement a pilot, check out the structure and resources in this micro-credential or contact CTQ.

Complete and use an action timeline tool like the one below to clearly articulate what will get done by whom and how the team will know that you have been successful.

Is your team interested in support for using these tools? Do you need hard copies?




3. Implementing your team’s plan


Now that the team has articulated the why and how for the orientation to improve, it is time to implement your team’s plan. 

What does your team need to do to implement and learn from the plan?

The implementation phase of the work is about much more than carrying out the components of your team’s plan. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of the plan, data must be collected for evaluation. It’s helpful to remind yourself of your original goals as you prepare to gather the feedback needed.


Goal: Launch your team’s test, gather data, and study the results

Once the test is underway, gather the data needed to answer your burning questions. Analyze the data and results of your test. Decide whether your team wants to revisit orientation to improve or move on to another condition.


Big Questions
  • How will your team create and maintain a safe environment for those involved to provide honest feedback?
  • What feedback is needed from those involved in this effort?
  • How will that feedback be used to make adjustments along the way?
  • How will your team know when it is making progress?



Important Tasks

Implement the plan for how your school will develop or strengthen your orientation to improve. 

Collect data from participants about progress made relative to developing or strengthening the orientation to improve in your school.

Create a process for how your team will respond to the data/feedback provided.



Want assistance measuring the impact of your efforts?



CTQ’s tools

Understanding your teams’s why
1. Establishing a Theory of Action

Designing your team’s how
2. Purpose map
3. Action timeline

Implementing your team’s plan
5. Impact assessment