One of the pillars of continuous improvement is to learn from variation.
One way to learn from variation is to identify the organizations or specific people whose outcomes are significantly different than their peers (often referred to as “bright spots” or “positive deviants”). This learning is not to enter into harmful practices like ranking or comparing performance based on data. Learning from “bright spots” is an opportunity to learn the nuances of how they accomplish results and what other factors are present so that others might learn faster how to improve their own outcomes.
The Student Experience Project (SEP) is an improvement network of university leaders, faculty, researchers and national education and improvement organizations committed to innovative, evidence-based practices that increase degree attainment by transforming the college student experience and creating equitable learning environments. Shift and other partners who facilitate the SEP network worked collaboratively to learn from variation to better understand which combination of changes or practices – or specific ways of implementing them - are most powerful.
Starting in the Fall 2020 term, we began looking for “bright spot” data that showed significant improvement in student experience. We convened faculty and instructors from the six SEP campuses with bright spots in their data to share the changes and practices that contributed to these improvements as well as resources for others to use. This was an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate just a few of the many instructor voices across our growing Student Experience Project (SEP) community. We compiled the learning into this Fall 2020 Bright Spots publication to disseminate the knowledge more widely.
While we hope that these highlights can be used to help other instructors build on or adapt their own practices to support students, no single change in a classroom will be a “silver bullet” for improving student experience. The most impactful approach often includes a diverse range of classroom practices that work together to create a learning environment where all students feel valued and supported to succeed.
We are inspired by the energy, creativity and dedication of the SEP university teams and instructors to create equitable learning environments - both in the classroom and beyond!