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Harvard SAI Liberal Arts Education Workshop

At our Workshop, we expect to stop at the end of Step 4. We are providing you, below, with information regarding Steps 5-13 for your consideration in the future:

Step 5. Design a prototype to better align existing curriculum to the competencies framework.

There are multiple ways to initiate a process of liberal arts education in an institution, and what makes most sense in each case should be based on what is already in place (identified in the audit) and on local conditions, resources and areas of strength. The initiative designed should build on existing strengths but also challenge the guiding coalition to significantly advance the institution towards greater ambition, coherence and depth in the opportunities for students to gain liberal arts competencies. Examples of such prototype may include a core curriculum, or distribution requirements, multiple pathways for students to learn how to learn, or an innovation challenge to incentivize students to design solutions to challenges, or incentives to encourage faculty to innovate in their courses, etc.

Step 6. Communicate vision, framework and prototype to the extended community in the school, seek feedback and iterate.

The prototype developed in step 5 is only a concept to elicit feedback and suggestions from a wider group of faculty, those who will be involved in executing the strategy –which would likely extend outside the members of the guiding coalition. Most change efforts in organizations fail because they under-communicate.

Step 7. Decide on a revised prototype to be implemented and develop an implementation plan to execute the liberal arts education prototype.

The feedback and suggestions obtained in step 6 should be processed and used to develop a revised version of the prototype, which could constitute the program to be implemented in year 1. This program should be translated into a project management chart, with key milestones, deliverables and individuals responsible.

Step 8. Identify resources necessary and available to implement the liberal arts education prototype.

What resources are necessary to execute the prototype? This includes instructional resources, resources to support students, to support the development of capacity of the faculty. In identifying such necessary resources, the guiding coalition will also map available resources, a likely source of resources include parents and institutions in the community.

Step 9. Develop a framework to monitor implementation of the prototype and obtain formative feedback.

The implementation strategy should identify a small set of indicators to help the guiding coalition to keep track of execution, continuously learn from the process of implementation, help identify and troubleshoot problems as they arise, and provide necessary support to the individuals responsible for the achievement of specific tasks.

Step 10. Develop a communication strategy to build and maintain support from key stakeholders.

Implementation of the strategy is, to a great extent, about continuous communication. This is a core responsibility of the guiding coalition, to devise and execute a communication strategy that allows all key stakeholders to understand with clarity the intended goals, and what success looks like, and that helps them know how they can support the implementation of the strategy.

Step 11. Develop a professional development strategy.

If the prototype is sufficiently ambitious, it is likely to require professional development for faculty and staff so they can adequately support students in gaining liberal arts competencies. How will they be supported? The guiding coalition should devise a plan that provides ongoing support for professional development. Much of this support should be available in real time, and be school based, and should combine team based professional development, with individual study and coaching. The guiding coalition may consider developing partnerships with other schools and with external organizations to augment their capacity for professional development.

Step 12. Execute the prototype with oversight and support of the leadership team.

Execution of the prototype should be approached with a learning mindset, understanding that the goal is to improve the strategy. The leadership team creates a culture to encourage risk taking, experimentation, and open communication among all teachers and key stakeholders involved in implementation.

During execution the leadership team will oversee the process depending on the monitoring system, provide support as necessary and manage the communication strategy. They should meet periodically to assess implementation, provide formative feedback and make any necessary adjustments.

Step 13. Evaluate the execution of the prototype, adjust as necessary, and go back to step 4.

Once a first cycle of implementation of the prototype has been completed, the leadership team will take stock of what has been learned, systematically obtain formative feedback from all faculty and students involved in implementing it, assess any student work and student views that can help discern the results of the prototype and make any necessary revisions to develop a revised version, or to extend the prototype in new directions.