Framing a Problem of Practice


    Key Method

    The school leader uses a consultancy protocol process to effectively frame a school-level problem of practice that provides the foundation for a further developed theory of action/logic model.

    Method Components

    Consultancy Protocol Process

    Too often, leaders jump immediately to action without fully examining what is happening for students and adults. As a result, sometimes, there is an investment of considerable time, funding, and other resources in particular activities before the realization that what has been planned won’t actually generate the desired results.

    When trying to identify a problem of practice that will be the foundation for a strategic plan for improvement, correctly identifying a problem of practice is critical. School leaders can utilize a consultancy protocol process to more effectively frame a problem of practice. Using the consultancy protocol identified below, the presenter and at least two partners—who might be colleagues, experts, or peers—engage in a step-by-step protocol to further define and effectively frame a problem of practice.

    Components of a Consultancy Protocol Process

    Step 1: Presentation of Problem of Practice
    (Approximately three minutes)

    • Articulate overview of the problem/challenge/dilemma
    • Present artifacts and data summary to further explain the problem
    • Frame a question for the partners to consider

    Step 2: Clarifying Questions
    (Approximately three to five minutes)

    These are “who, what, where, when, and how” questions that can be quickly answered to better help the partner and presenter understand the dilemma.

    • Partners ask questions for clarification and deeper understanding
    • Partners ask questions to understand the content and context
    • Presenter responds directly to the questions with factual, brief answers
    • Some questions might include:
      • How much time does…?
      • Who is the…?
      • What resources did…?
      • When does the system…?

    Step 3: Probing Questions
    (Approximately eight to ten minutes)

    These are “why” questions that are open-ended and intended to help the presenter think more deeply about the dilemma.

    • Partners ask questions for clarification and deeper understanding
    • Presenter answers when appropriate but makes note of the questions for further consideration
    • Some questions might include:
      • What’s another way you might…?
      • What do you think would happen if…?
      • What sort of impact do you think…?
      • What is the connection between…and…?
      • What would have to change in order for…?

    Step 4: Discussion of the Problem
    (Approximately eight to ten minutes)

    Partners discuss and brainstorm about the problem/solution, and Presenter listens and takes additional notes. Some questions might include:

    • What did we hear?
    • What didn’t we hear that might be relevant?
    • What assumptions seem to be operating?
    • What questions does the dilemma raise for us?
    • What might we try if faced with a similar dilemma?
    • What have we seen in similar situations?

    Step 5: Debrief
    (Approximately three to five minutes)

    • Presenter reflects on what was heard
    • Presenter shares what he or she is now thinking
    • Presenter highlights specific ideas/comments that resonated
    • Partners contribute additional takeaways for their own learning


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