Try-Measure-Learn (TML): The Heart of Continuous Improvement

Change teaching and learning one step at a time using the BetterLesson coaching model
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About This Strategy

The Try - Measure - Learn (TML) cycle is the foundation of the BetterLesson coaching model. TML creates change in teachers' classroom practice one step at a time, by identifying a high-impact strategy specifically related to a teacher's classroom needs, supporting the teacher in implementing that strategy, and immediately measuring its impact to determine next steps. This cycle makes significant shifts in practice actionable using a change-over-time method.

The BetterLesson TML cycle is highly effective because it is student-centered. This student-centered approach empowers the trust needed to make educational coaching effective because the coaching of the teacher's actions is framed in reference to desired changes to the student learning experience.

Implementation Steps

  1. Identify the desired change/outcome: At the start of coaching, this focus begins by determining a desired domain or growth area, specifically related to the teacher's vision and/or the district or school's initiatives. When determining the desired outcome, take note of the teacher's desire and capacity for change, as this will help you identify the supports you need to provide.

  2. Narrow the growth area to identify a starting point. For example, if the desired growth area is "I want my students to seek and use feedback," consider where the students and teacher are starting. Do students regularly give and receive feedback with their peers? Do they have partner talk protocols and norms in place? Can students navigate between social and academic talk? The starting point should begin at an appropriate place to build student capacity so that they can become successful at seeking and using feedback.

  3. Identify a Strategy to Try

    • What strategy would move students towards the desired growth area?

    • What resources can you create or provide the teacher with to support their implementation of this strategy? 

    • What would success look like? Does this align with the growth area?

  4. Prepare for implementation:

    • What does the teacher need to know in order to implement this strategy?

    • What should be in place to support this strategy?

    • How will the teacher know if students are getting it or if the strategy is working? What evidence of change should the teacher observe or collect?

  5. Measure: collect artifacts or evidence of the strategy implementation. This evidence might include: 

    • student work samples 

    • videos of students in action

    • student assessment data (i.e., quiz, test scores, exit tickets)

    • planning documents 

    • anything used to support the strategy (i.e., anchor charts, graphic organizer, guided notes, etc.) 

    • anecdotal notes

  6. Next Steps: what was learned from the evidence?

    • What does the evidence show relative to the desired outcome?

    • What are possible next steps to tweak the strategy to continue progress toward the growth area? Or, is it time to shift to another grow area?

Coach Tips

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  1. Don't overlook the power of identifying, with the teacher, the evidence they will collect. This step, added to the implementation planning process, not only narrows the scope of change but also creates clear expectations for teachers. This is the step where teachers often fully realize what they are being asked to try.

  2. In supporting change using TML, you are also supporting the development of a student-centered approach to thinking about teaching. This has coaching ramifications:

    • Teachers may feel they are losing control. This is often the case for new teachers, or teachers in schools that struggle with student behavior structures. Ask the teacher to consider what could possibly happen if they try the strategy. For example, if students are already off-task, than what is there to lose in trying a new strategy to grow/support on-task behaviors?

    • Teachers may have difficulty identifying what "they" are doing because the strategy focus is on what students are doing. A critical part of this coaching discussion is the part that comes after what we want students "to do" differently. Taking the teacher through an if-then process clarifies the shifts. For example, if you want students to develop and reflect on their personal learning goals, then what do you think your first step to support that change might be? What are you doing right now in your classroom that enables students to know what they are learning?

    • Teachers may fear failure, and so may coaches. Coaches should celebrate what we learn from "failure" and find the "small wins." If not all students set meaningful goals, did some students? How do we grow from what we've learned to move more students towards the desired growth area?

Tech Tools

BetterLesson Lab

  1. The BetterLesson Lab provides an online structure to document the coaching journey.
  2. The BetterLesson lab provides a bank of strategies that can serve as models or as ideas, it provides a place to capture what was tried, and why, and it supports the uploading of the evidence of this learning journey.

Google Docs

  1. Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.
  2. A shared Google Doc allows the coach and teacher to capture, in a transparent way, the Try-Measure-Learn Cycle. An example of this use is the T-M-L Collaborative Log, which can be used as-is or edited.

Additional Reading

See a variety of related research from BetterLesson in the resources below.