Big Picture Learning – Hollerin’ About a Hedgehog


When Big Picture Learning’s regional directors recently gathered, we worked with Michael Soguero and Sarah Bertucci, from Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center. To aid us in our work, Sarah and Michael took us through a process of developing our “hedgehogs.” The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Though we often need to be nimble, responsive and knowledgeable about a large number of topics and developments in education (foxes), we also need to be crystal-clear about what we’re doing, as individuals (hedgehogs). Our hedgehog is our main focus.

My hedgehog is ‘Research to Practice.’ As Big Picture Learning’s Regional Director of Network Support & Research, it’s my job to connect the often disparate worlds of research and practice. So many of the researchers I’ve connected with express frustration that there is this seeming divide between the world of schools and the world of research. The ivory tower of academic research, so to speak, is so separate from the work of practitioners in the field.

But it’s not just academics; I think that with the rise of accountability, of big data and the ramp-up of testing, practitioners are finding themselves in a bind around measures. It’s challenging to approach research, evaluation or measures as a practitioner, when you’re already subject to the measures of accountability systems. Sometimes it feels like evaluation fatigue.

But this past week, I was able to participate in a summit around practical measurement, offered by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Improvement science is what the Carnegie Foundation offers as a solution to bridging the divide between research and practice. Schools focusing on creating their own approaches to improvement, and developing their own drivers for change, and their own measures along the way—practitioners becoming researchers of their own work. It’s an elegant solution. It’s empowering. It’s my hedgehog.

This fall, I’ll be bringing together some of our Big Picture Learning schools to create a Networked Improvement Community. We’ll tackle one aspect of practice and dig in deeply to create drivers for change and improvement around that practice. The work combines the art of practice with the science of improvement. A Networked Improvement Community gives practitioners a chance to build their own systems for improvement, to design solutions to the challenges they choose, and to build measures along the way. It gives us a chance to work together around shared values and to learn from each other.

I’ll be running a workshop at Big Bang this August about taking back research and measures called “Every Datum Tells a Story, Don’t it.” In the workshop, I’ll be presenting findings from Big Picture Learning’s Longitudinal Study, and also talking about how, as experts in practice, we can make our work, our learning, and our fantastic schools part of the education research dialogue. Come join me in celebrating my hedgehog– Research to Practice—as we continue to tell the story of our work to the world.