The Center on Continuous Instructional Improvement (CCII) engaged in research and development on tools, processes, and policies intended to promote the continuous improvement of instructional practice. The Center, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2006-2016) also aspired to be a forum for sharing, discussing, and strengthening the work of leading researchers, developers and practitioners, both in the United States and across the globe.

Four Ideas Central to Instructional Improvement

Learning Progressions
The Center evaluated the idea that education standards, curricula, and formative and summative assessment will be more effective if they all are rooted in coherent and well specified conceptions of how students’ knowledge and skill in particular subjects should develop over the school years. We call these conceptions “learning progressions,” but the concept has had other labels—“trajectories” and so on. The concept includes specification at the level of growth at the day to day instructional level and at the level of the “big ideas and landmarks” in the subject as students acquire them over the school years.

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment involves a range of processes used by educators (along with their students) to gather evidence during instruction of whether progress is being made toward instructional goals and using that evidence to inform modifications of teachers’ and students’ efforts. Some would limit this definition to day to day or short term units of instruction, others would include the formative use of information about progress gathered at longer intervals. In any case, the Center thinks it is likely that educators will be best able to use such processes if they are tied to clear conceptions of learning progressions.

Adaptive Instruction
Adaptive instruction refers to the idea that it is teachers’ and the schools’ responsibility to modify instruction as necessary to address students’ particular needs and difficulties rather than simply delivering the content and letting the chips fall where they may. This adaptation would be supported by formative assessment processes rooted in coherent conceptions of students’ progress and likely problems.

Knowledge Management in Support of Continuous Improvement
As educators engage in formative assessment to track their students’ progress and adapt their teaching, and their students reflect on their learning and adapt their efforts in response to feedback, it is crucial to develop ways of capturing which responses to particular problems and needs actually are helpful and effective, and there should be mechanisms—for instance through information systems, professional development and other support—through which what is learned about effective responses is continually fed back to improve subsequent instruction.

Research Team: Tom Corcoran (PI), Fritz Mosher

Sponsoring Agencies: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


Research Reports from 2011


Learning Trajectories in Mathematics: A Foundation for Standards, Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, Phil Daro, Frederic A. Mosher, and Thomas B. Corcoran


Developing Learning Progressions in Support of the New Science Standards: A RAPID Workshop Series, Aaron Rogat

Research Reports from 2009


Learning Progressions in Science: An Evidence-Based Approach to Reform, Thomas B. Corcoran, Frederic A. Mosher, and Aaron Rogat