Peer to Peer Exchanges: Incubators for Educational Innovation

Google. Microsoft. U.S. Department of Transportation. What do they have in common? They all believe in the power of Peer to Peer Exchanges for sharing ideas and collaborating on products and strategies to revolutionize their industries and improve the world.

What is a Peer to Peer Exchange? Peer to Peer Exchanges are facilitated opportunities—in person or virtual—for State and district leaders to exchange ideas, struggles, and successes, and develop practical solutions to solve shared challenges. One key way that Peer to Peer Exchanges differ from traditional meetings or workshops is their focus on using the collective expertise of peers to solve specific problems rather than relying on an outside expert.

As State and district leaders plan to take advantage of their new flexibility through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), they have the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and look at the latest evidence-based practices for innovative solutions to problems and challenges. Ben Betts, CEO of HT2, says Peer to Peer Exchanges provide an opportunity for education leaders to experience what the most innovative companies and minds know and consistently practice and that Peer to Peer Exchanges represent how many of us most effectively learn and innovate.

Tony Bryk, Dan Duke, John Kotter, and others have highlighted the benefits of internal and external collaboration when planning for improvement. Peer to Peer Exchanges are designed to benefit participants in several ways, including opportunities to:

  • Collaborate with peers on common challenges;
  • Participate in professional learning and discussion that is relevant to current needs;
  • Join subject matter experts and peers in dialogue that connects research and effective practice; and
  • Share innovative and successful processes and programs.

In the fall of 2016, the State Support Network began providing technical assistance focused on helping State and district staff make connections and forge mutually beneficial partnerships for improving schools. Peer to Peer Exchanges play a key role in this support. 

As a State or district leader, you may find yourself looking for innovative solutions to questions like these:

  • What are my neighboring States doing to update their accountability plan to meet ESSA expectations? 
  • How are other States or districts planning to maximize the increased Title II set-aside?
  • How are other States building district capacity to find and use evidence for decision-making?
  • How are other States designing needs assessment tools and processes to support districts in data analysis and improvement planning?

If you have asked yourself questions like these, you should make participation in a State Support Network Peer to Peer Exchange a priority for you and your team. So, how can you as a State or district leader get involved in a Peer to Peer Exchange? Sign up to get more information.