More Less New
Whilst working with our staff on our school’s strategic plan evaluation about three years ago, I became stuck on how we would move ahead.
Our staff had spent a lot of time across the previous six months, pulling apart our data in every conceivable way trying to effectively evaluate our impact. They had done a great job of getting their hands dirty with every type of data, and had developed an effective understanding of where we were going well and which interventions might have led us to this point.
We had reached the junction point of the strategic review process. After evaluating our impact for so long, we had to now move to the planning stage, and use our learning from the data we had gathered and analysed to make some decisions about where to go in the future. But how to move from the evaluation stage to the planning stage? How could we make evidence based decisions about what the next four-year plan for the school was going to look like?
I searched a range of thinking and planning resources for a tool that would assist with this, but nothing seemed to fit well enough for our context and the stage or process we were up to.
After discussing the dilemma with some of the leadership team, we decided that we needed a simple tool that allowed people to move from evaluation of data to the creation of new ideas.
I came up with a simple thinking tool, that came to be known as the More, Less, New tool. The tool asks people to consider three basic questions:
On the basis of the data you have seen:
- What should we be doing more of?
- What should we be doing less of?
- What are some new things we should consider?
These questions seemed almost too basic, but actually produced evidence based thinking from the group, not just opinion. Participants jotted down their own ideas on paper under each of the questions, before discussing with a small group at their table. Each table presented to the whole group, and ideas were easily collated and grouped according to similarity.
The More, Less, New also produced a diversity of ideas which when discussed more openly, were able to be challenged and debated in a much clearer, evidence based way than an open discussion would have. The quiet staff in the group ended up with as much of a say as the squeaky wheels, and in many cases, the squeaky wheels when challenged on evidence had to back down on their ideas. Once we had finished and analysed all of the ideas, a clear way forward was found.
Since then, I have used the More, Less, New in a range of staff forums and meetings, and have encouraged other leaders to do so. It has proven to be a great tool for moving from evaluative to creative thinking. The big warning of the More, Less, New, and where it has been less than useful, is when there is no evidence or data preparation beforehand. It is really important to ensure that when using the tool, people are drawing on some form of data, evidence or evaluation so that the planning session doesn’t devolve into an opinion session full of ‘I reckon’ statements.
Recently one of my senior teachers showed me how she had used the More, Less, New with her year 12 Legal Studies class, as a teacher reflection tool in getting feedback from her students. Once again, she framed the questions so the students had to justify their answer or draw on data to do so. “What things can I do more of that would support your learning?” “What things should I be doing less of in the classroom?” “What are some new things I could do that would help the whole class learn better?”
The teacher received a mountain of useful feedback from the class, some of which she was able to effectively action the next day, others she has stored away for future use.
We have found the More, Less, New tool to be particularly helpful at our school, hopefully it can be at yours too.