Implementation: A Tight-Loose Approach

29 04 2013

Initially my big question was a very simple ‘what works and how can I adapt it’.  I’ve subsequently added a few more:

  • What comes first technology or pedagogy?
  • How can we take the T out of TEL?
  • How can we measure and evaluate the effectiveness of planned changes / innovations?
  • How can we join up the pockets of good practice in a way that is ‘greater than the sum of its parts’
  • How do we get beyond just early adopters and enthusiasts?

Then I realized that the last question is equally applicable to learners and to colleagues.  I think that is why I like ‘digital residents / visitors’ over the original ‘digital natives / immigrants’.

That brings me to consider the subject of implementation (ocTEL activity 2.2.4) …Implementation will meet resistance…Change means bringing the majority along.

As earlier post ‘Reading & some thoughts collated’ I am tackling the HEA’s ‘Transforming Higher Education Through Technology Enhanced Learning’. I think the next chapter, Nichol & Draper  ‘A blueprint for transformational change in HE: REAP as a case study has much to offer.  The part I am going to extract here is the tight-loose approach.

The tight-loose approach is a management approach found particularly in consideration of enterprise and innovation and comes from Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence.  It is a flexible approach in recognition that complex situations do not benefit from either-or solutions.  It is about strong core values but allowing these to be adapted locally with creativity.  “Loose” does not mean sloppy.

Back to the book (page 200):

  • … the principles were not promoted as a fixed template or set of rules to be followed. Rather, course teams were encouraged to, and did, adapt the principles to their own disciplinary context. The implementation process might be described as ‘tight-loose’: course teams were encouraged to maintain fidelity to the pedagogy behind each principle (tight), but they were also encouraged to tailor the application of the principles to their own disciplinary context (loose). […]. The tight-loose strategy provided a way of accommodating salient differences across disciplines while using a common underlying educational framework.

This has helped me to recognize the need to carefully articulate the aspirations and purpose in terms of key principles or core values and to ensure the pedagogy underpinning each is clear – this then allows for interpretation in the implementation, rather than one-size fits all.


Perhaps this approach has an equal relevance for how we view engagement with course materials – tight on learning outcomes, loose on how these are met.



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