For the past five years, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has been pioneering a fundamentally new vision for the research and development enterprise in education. We seek to join the discipline of improvement science with the capabilities of networks to foster innovation and social learning. This approach is embodied in what Carnegie refers to as Networked Improvement!Communities (NICs). These NICs are scientific learning communities distinguished by four essential distinguishing characteristics:
- Focused on a well specified common aim,
- Guided by a deep understanding of the problem, the system that produces it, and a shared theory of practice improvement,
- Disciplined by the rigor of improvement science, and
- Coordinated to accelerate the development, testing and refinement of interventions, their more rapid diffusion out into the field, and their effective integration into varied educational contexts.
In seeking to move NIC ideas into action, Carnegie has been committed to a learning-by-doing strategy. This strategy now moves us to offer a NIC Design Learning Lab for a small number of STEM initiatives.