Engaging Both Hearts and Minds in Design, Development, and Evaluation: A Conversation with Vanessa Coleman

January 25, 2024 | By Kerry Friedman

Pencils balancing a brain and a heart

LEARN Network advisor Vanessa Coleman chatted with host of The SRI Homeroom podcast Kori Hamilton Biagas to discuss her vision for supporting change in the education system. Coleman’s insights remind us that people bring their lived experiences to decision-making in education and that to impact change we must engage the hearts, minds, and lived experiences of people at the core of the system: teachers, administrators, families, and communities. Coleman says:

We bring our whole selves to the work that we do. In education, people have real deep philosophies that drive their beliefs about how things should be and that very much so undergirds the decisions that they’re making on a daily basis.

Similarly, she notes, as researchers we often fool ourselves into believing that who we are doesn’t somehow seep into this very rigorous work that we do because we’re so well trained.

This is why in design, development, and evaluation, Coleman encourages researchers to start from a place of reflection. She encourages the use of frameworks to help with level-setting by ensuring everyone is clear on the important components or considerations in the work and establishing common language and goals. In implementation, Coleman encourages establishing a process for learning that is intentional, iterative, and allows time to reflect and adjust.

Oftentimes when it comes to educational improvements, we lean into big wholesale ‘boom’ changes. Here, this year we’re going to do ‘boom,’ this big thing. And then we wait and see at the end of the year or the beginning of the next year, what the summative data tells us about whether or not it worked… And boy, do we miss opportunities to learn along the way.

Listen to the full episode of the SRI Homeroom podcast here:

Tags: Education technology Evidence-based Literacy Research & Developers