Thompson, M., & Wiliam, D. (2007). Tight but loose: A conceptual framework for scaling up school reform. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), April 9 - April 13, 2007, Chicago, IL. *Reprinted by permission of Educational Testing Service, the copyright owner. No endorsement of this web site or publication by Educational Testing Service should be inferred.
This report discusses a potential approach to improve formative assessment practices called the Keeping Learning on Track (KLT) program, a sustained professional development program for teachers. KLT is based on three components: A content component (i.e., minute-to-minute and day-by-day assessment for learning), a process component (i.e., an ongoing program of school-based collaborative professional learning), and an empirical/theoretical component (i.e., the intervention's theory of action supported by empirical research). In addition to describing these components in greater detail, the authors present a theoretical framework called "Tight but Loose" to support the implementation of classroom-based interventions. This framework emphasizes the balance between strict principles or a theory of action vs. local opportunities, needs, and constraints. The authors use this framework to discuss the challenges of implementing an intervention in diverse and complex contexts, focusing specifically on the KLT program. The authors conclude that because of the diversity in school contexts, flexibility is needed when implementing or operating any standard intervention program. With that flexibility, however, comes a need for a thorough understanding of the theory behind the intervention so that key components and principles are not lost.