Activity Guide

This reading and accompanying activities address the need for principals, leadership teams, and faculty members to be intentional in identifying improvement priorities and creating and following a process that increases the likelihood of achieving successful outcomes. Participants will review the six-step NASSP Process Circle, first focusing on the process components, then reviewing a case study from a school that is working to improve literacy outcomes, and finally extending and applying what they have learned to a specific school initiative.


  • NASSP (2018). Innovation, strategy 2: Managing change and uncertainty. In Building ranks: A comprehensive framework for effective school leaders (pp. 178–180). Reston, VA: Author.
  • NASSP (2018). The NASSP Process Circle. In Building ranks: A comprehensive framework for effective school leaders (p. 206). Reston, VA: Author.



After participants have read the listed resources, debrief the reading in two parts:

Review the NASSP Process Circle. Lead a discussion of why process matters. What pitfalls are likely to occur if a process or protocol is not articulated and followed? Predict what might occur if any step in the process is omitted or incompletely or ineffectively implemented. Considering the steps in the circle and changes you have undergone, where can you identify successful practice? If a particular initiative was not effective, which step may not have been implemented effectively?

Strategy 2 of the Innovation dimension in Building Ranks™ follows two principals as they engage in the work of leading faculty in a school change initiative. The insights, thinking, and strategies for addressing barriers should help principals and teams who are embarking on similar journeys.

  1. Suggest that participants highlight or underline all the evidence they find of the importance of process and planning. Encourage team members to identify the components of the NASSP Process Circle in the margins of the text.
    1. Allow readers to share several observations from the text about the importance of process.
  2. Now consider a current change initiative you are working on. Can you walk your initiative through the steps in the NASSP Process Circle? What happens, for example, if data is not examined and used to set priorities? Ask participants to predict outcomes if any component of the plan is implemented incompletely or ineffectively. Based on the discussion, you may need to revise your plan to include new steps.

Extend and Apply

  • To gain more insight into the effectiveness of the changes happening at your school, consider involving teachers in the process. Divide the leadership team into groups and have them review the NASSP Process Circle with groups of teachers.
  • Ask teams of teachers to select from a list of previously identified improvement priorities for your school and have them walk the change initiative through the various steps in the circle.
  • Ask teams to use Discussion Guide Planning Template A to map an improvement protocol for addressing the selected priority. Provide teams with chart paper and ask them to walk the initiative through the steps in the template. Then, ask them to depict their findings in the format of the NASSP Process Circle on the chart paper for presentations. Have teams display the completed wheels.
  • After planning maps are posted, allow time for teams to review the work of each team using a carousel walk review process. Participants may use sticky notes to ask questions for clarity, suggest additions or omissions to a protocol, or challenge the accuracy, validity, or practicality of an item in a protocol.
  • Teams should review responses to their work to clarify, enhance, and provide a rationale for questioned items.
  • The contents of the completed table can provide the blueprints for next steps in school improvement efforts.