What Is Improvement Planning?

image of student at computer

Improvement Planning Through Strategic Processes and Improvement Science

Strategic planning is a process used to establish direction and develop short-term and long-term plans for an organization. The strategic plan documents and spells-out where the organization is heading and how to get there. Strategic plans typically include an executive summary of the organization, the vision, mission, shared beliefs of those within the organization, the results or products of the organization, long-term goals, shared outcomes, and aligned action plans that are then used to reach goals. Strategic plans are plans collaboratively made from stakeholder input and encompass all aspects of a school. Strategic planning processes are used to:

  • revise the vision or mission or shared goals as shifts occur within communities and needs,
  • create cascading action plans for each goal and shared responsibilities for each goal, and
  • create alignment between processes, practices, and routines within the school and the vision, mission, and core beliefs.

Once strategic plans are made with goals and outcomes clearly defined, strategies and activities within action plans are implemented. The strategies and activities within each action plan are ideally evidence-based and best-practices. Within action plans are sometimes drivers called change ideas to additionally pilot or execute as well-researched attempts toward impact to further the goals and meeting the vision. 

Action plans that include change ideas are maximized through improvement science. Improvement science is a problem-solving approach centered on continuous inquiry and learning for the purpose of organizational improvement. In this problem-solving approach, change ideas are tested in rapid cycles, primarily through the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA inquiry cycle), and on a small-scale resulting in efficient and useful feedback to inform system improvements.

CSIP Image - Plan, Do, Study, Act

Practitioners use this process to test changes, document the results, and revise theories about how to achieve their goals for student-centered outcomes. Over time, a school can identify ways to achieve positive results and at scale. For more information on improvement science, please visit the linked article from The Harvard Educational Review.


Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (n.d.). Using improvement science to accelerate learning and address problems of practice. Retrieved from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/our-ideas/

Lewis, C. (2015). What is improvement science? Do we need it in education? Educational Researcher, 44(1), 54–61.