About Innovation Configuration Maps
Learning Forward continues to respond to evolving research in the field of education and an ever-changing educational landscape by developing the Standards for Professional Learning which describe the content, processes, and conditions for professional learning that leads to high-quality leading, teaching, and learning for educators.
Educators at all levels require high-quality professional learning specific to their roles and responsibilities within schools and school systems. Yet, translating the vision of the standards to daily practice can be challenging. Innovation configuration (IC) maps (Hall & Hord, 2010; Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 2006) help answer the question of what the Standards for Professional Learning look like in practice.
WHAT IS AN INNOVATION CONFIGURATION MAP?
Studies of the implementation of policies, programs, and processes have shown that innovations are typically implemented in a variety of ways. Just because authorities mandate, experts request, or colleagues agree to adopt innovations does not guarantee fidelity of implementation. Because individual users adapt or modify the parts of new practices as they implement them, the concept of innovation configuration was born. This concept of adaptation of innovation led to the development of IC maps that describe an innovation’s major components when the innovation is in use. The IC also describe how users vary these components while implementing them.
IC Maps are multi-functional by design. They can be used to guide the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of professional learning. IC Maps describe what the standards look like when enacted in systems and schools and provide clear pictures of Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning in practice by bringing detail and specificity to the concepts presented in the standards. By clarifying the attributes of professional learning, the maps guide educators toward meeting the ultimate goal of positively impacting student outcomes. When used collaboratively, IC maps foster dialogue around best practices and provide direction for growth related to professional learning.
The IC maps are not intended to prescribe every move educators should make to ensure high-quality professional learning, but present high-leverage actions and behaviors that lead to improved outcomes. Furthermore, these behaviors are associated with professional learning and not all the professional responsibilities of any given role. For example, the Principal IC Map describes the behaviors of principals in relation to professional learning, but do not comprehensively address the role of a principal.
Descriptive vs. Prescriptive
Though inherently descriptive, IC maps are not designed to be prescriptive. This intentional design acknowledges differences in system contexts, structures, needs, and resources and allows for flexibility and creativity in reaching the desired outcomes of the maps. For example, one school system may use experienced classroom teachers to fulfill the roles and responsibilities put forth in the Coach IC map, while another system relies on dedicated school-based coaches to perform the same role. In both cases, the vision of the Standards for Professional Learning is fulfilled despite the difference in approaches. This built-in flexibility increases opportunities for systems and schools to pursue high-quality professional learning in authentic ways.
IC Maps and policy
Several desired outcomes and behaviors throughout the IC maps reference the establishment of policy. At first glance, establishing policy may seem misaligned with professional learning. This inclusion, however, is reflective of one of the foundations of the Standards for Professional Learning; policy drives practice.
- While Standards for Professional Learning describe actions that educators take, policymakers are responsible for establishing policies and providing resources to support the meaningful and sustained implementation of standards.
- Effective policy informs effective practice. As with educator practice, policy that impacts educators is grounded in research, evidence, and the experiences of educators.
- Learning Forward promotes the adoption of Standards for Professional Learning into policy at local, state, regional, provincial, and national levels. To date, 35 U.S. states have adopted or adapted previous versions of Standards for Professional Learning, and numerous other entities have incorporated or used them in guiding practice. (Learning Forward, 2022)
When policies called for by the IC maps already exist, the preferred action would be to revisit that policy for alignment to the Standards and determine opportunities to continue, refine or modify the policy.
PATTERNS WITHIN IC MAPS
Each map presents behaviors across four categories of descending impact from left to right. The leftmost column represents exemplary/ideal actions, those which most fully embody the intent of the correlated standard and emphasize the following attributes to maximize systemic impact:
- Diversity of representation and engagement
To maximize systemic impact, these attributes are captured/woven into the IC maps using the following phrases:
- Degree of Collaboration - "in collaboration with …"
- Diversity in decision making - "with diverse stakeholders…" Diverse stakeholders represent a diversity of perspectives including but not limited to race, ability, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, lived experiences, and other aspects of identity
- Reach - "…all staff vs. select staff vs. leaders”
- Sustainability - "Builds own and others capacity…"
- Frequency – “quarterly, once per semester, annually”
Terminology within IC maps
An internal stakeholder refers to any stakeholder relevant to the action of the map. This category can include any staff or community member related to the school and ranges from leaders to educators to librarians and counselors as well as families, caretakers, businesses, churches, and any other organization within the school community.
An external stakeholder refers to any individual, group, or organization connected to the school via contract, interest, or support. This group may be engaged with the school system but is not inherently connected to or impacted by the health of the school system.
Professional learning designers and facilitators are educators who at any time and for any length of time design or facilitate professional learning.
A system or school leader refers to any person serving as part of the administrative team, including executive leadership, supervisors, directors, coordinators, principals, heads of schools, assistant principals, deans of students, etc, as well as any staff member who regularly participates in making decisions that affect the entire staff and student body, including deans of students, academy leaders, and members of school leadership teams.
School-based, school-level, and schoolwide. Any policy or guidance created at the school level should be aligned with policies, guidance, and practices at the system level. Many places throughout the IC maps prompt school leaders to establish, create, and develop schoolwide, school-level, or school-based policy, guidance, and practices. In the absence of system-level guidance, IC maps not only create space for school leaders to begin meeting the Standards for
Professional Learning but also charge them with the responsibility of developing and implementing school-based policies, guidance, and practices that reflect high-impact professional learning to best support the educators, students, and families within their communities.
While most policies are implemented schoolwide, many practices are most effective when contextualized by the needs of teams of educators, content areas, grade levels, etc. Therefore, within the IC Maps some behaviors are defined as school-based while others are defined as school-level and others, schoolwide. This is not meant to bring inconsistency, but rather acknowledge the specificity and nuanced work occurring within schools.
The phrase “builds capacity” is used to indicate the sharing of research and knowledge-building resources and providing time and multiple opportunities to practice with coaching and feedback in ways that support the development of skills, attitudes, aspirations, and behaviors over time. This is broader than facilitating a single learning event on a topic, but rather approaches professional learning as a process, requiring ongoing, job-embedded support, differentiated in timing and presentation based on educator needs.
Analyzing data for equity refers to examining, disaggregating, and analyzing data in ways that consider outcomes for smaller groups of educators and students based on characteristics such as years of experience, content area, role, school placement, race, gender, age, and other identifying characteristics.
Schools are the primary center of learning for educators and students; thus, principals and coaches are among the first roles addressed by IC maps. School system staff, however, are responsible for coordinating systemwide programs, professional learning, and resources needed to help each school achieve its goals for student achievement. Therefore, the System/Central Office IC map accompanies the principal and coach maps. Finally, educators receive support for professional learning beyond local school and school system personnel. These external partners provide resources and technical assistance and prepare and support professional learning leaders so that professional learning achieves its goal of increasing educator effectiveness and improving outcomes for students.
Schools and school systems have a wide variety of structures and resources at their disposal. Consequently, many educators perform multiple roles that may not be captured by their official job title or description. With that understanding, IC maps address the roles that educators perform as much as the titles they hold. For example, a professional learning designer or facilitator may be an administrator, coach, or team leader who designs or facilitates learning for their colleagues. In these moments, they are functioning as professional learning designers and facilitators.
The System/Central Office IC map is designed to be used by the director of professional learning or any person at the system level who will plan, implement, or evaluate any type of professional learning for educators, regardless of department, team, or tier.
Directors of professional learning are educators who have primary responsibility for all aspects of professional learning within the school system. The director of professional learning is the person who serves as the leader of professional learning and leadership development for the entire education workforce. Depending on the school system’s structure and size, the director of professional learning may be an assistant superintendent or other central office administrator who leads a department of professional learning with several employees, a central office administrator who has responsibility for professional learning along with other areas such as curriculum or human resources, or one or more central office leaders who have several areas of responsibility, one of which is professional learning.
Directors of professional learning work directly with all staff within a school system, with other staff members within the professional learning department, if one exists, or central office staff members who share responsibilities for professional learning, such as curriculum coordinators, human resource department staff, assistant superintendents and superintendent, and school leaders including teacher leaders and school administrators.
Educators who fall within the role of principal include those with primary leadership responsibility and authority within a place-based or online school or cluster of schools. This role includes principals, assistant principals, grade-level or house principals, deans, and others who are responsible for the overall success of the school, its staff, and its students. The role of principal may also apply to a school’s administrative team. In some education systems, principals may have both district and school responsibilities. In these situations, principals might also refer to the System/Central Office IC map.
The term coach is used to describe all instructional support staff who work with teachers in schools or with other coaches throughout the system. Some who fall into the role of coach might be district-based and serve multiple schools while others may be school-based and serve a single school. Some might be called instructional facilitators, literacy specialists, math or numeracy coaches, teacher leaders, instructional specialists, department or grade-level lead teachers, master teachers, mentors, and so on. Those who are coaches hold some responsibility for providing support for implementation of professional learning within schools and classrooms. They work closely with principals to plan, facilitate, and support implementation of professional learning to achieve individual, team, school, and district goals.
External partners include vendors, technical assistance providers, regional centers, public and private agency staff, higher ed faculty, individuals, and others that provide professional learning to support educators at all levels of the educational system. Many providers work with schools, system, and other stakeholders to identify professional learning needs; develop or provide programs or resources to address professional learning needs; and assess the implementation of programs, strategies, or tools. External partners design and implement professional learning aligned with the standards and education agency policies, specifications, and local system, school, and individual improvement plans. Their professional learning services focus on developing system structures and support as well as educator knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions for increasing educator and system effectiveness and results for all students. Institutions of higher education faculty and others, when providing professional learning services, are considered external providers. Clients of external partners are those who benefit from the services and who participate in professional learning provided by external partners. Clients may include schools, school systems, and other education agencies as well as individual educators. External partner staff includes those who work for the organization and provide services on behalf of the partner organization. Others with whom education partners interact include their professional colleagues, thought leaders, and decision and policymakers.
Hall, G. & Hord, S. (2010). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes (3rd ed.). Prentice Hall.
Hord, S., Rutherford, W., Huling-Austin, L., & Hall, G. (2006). Taking charge of change. SEDL.
This overview is adapted from Learning Forward. (2012). Standards into practice: School-based roles. Innovation Configuration maps for Standards for Professional Learning. Author.