Social service program stakeholders need timely evidence to inform ongoing program decisions. Rapid learning methods, defined broadly as a set of approaches designed to quickly and/or iteratively test program improvements and evaluate program implementation or impact, can help inform such decisions.
There are numerous approaches to help support rapid learning (i.e. Rapid Cycle Evaluation and Continuous Quality Improvement, including specific strategies like Plan Do Study Act cycles). All use data, some employ methods to determine causality, and some incorporate advanced statistical methods to make predictions. However, stakeholders may be unsure which rapid learning methods are most appropriate for a program’s specific challenges and how best to apply the methods. Additionally, they may be unsure how to cultivate a culture of continuous, iterative learning.
Through its work in this area, OPRE has explored best practices for using rapid learning methods, particularly within the federal setting. Its portfolio includes a meeting focused on rapid learning methods and a diverse group of research projects employing a range of approaches. More information about these efforts can be found below.
On October 25 and 26, 2018, OPRE convened a meeting for participants from Federal agencies, research firms, academia, and other organizations to discuss topics related to rapid learning methods. The meeting website contains detailed information about the event, including the agenda, an overview of the topic, and copies of speaker presentations.
OPRE’s rapid learning methods projects cover a range of social service programs and topics, including Head Start, child care, home visiting, and child welfare. A list of projects, along with selected project reports and resources, are listed below:
- Strengthening the Implementation of Marriage and Relationship Services (SIMR), 2019 – 2022
- Strengthening the Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs (SIRF), 2019 - 2022
- Human-centered Design for Human Services (HCD4HS), 2018 – 2021
- Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS), 2015-2020
- Self-Regulation training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth (SARHM), 2017-2019
- Culture of Continuous Learning (CCL) Project: A Breakthrough Series Collaborative for Improving Child Care and Head Start Quality, 2016 - 2019
- Design Options for Home Visiting Evaluation (DOHVE 2), 2016-2021
- Design Options for the Assessment of Head Start Quality Enhancements: Final Report Volume I
- Head Start Leadership, Excellence, and Data Systems (HS LEADS), 2012-2014
- Tribal Home Visiting Evaluation Institute, 2010-2016 & 2015-2019
- Engaging Fathers and Paternal Relatives: A Continuous Quality Improvement Approach in the Child Welfare System, 2017 - 2020
- Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis Project, 2005-2018
- Learn, Innovate, Improve
- The Learn Phase: Creating Sustainable Change in Human Services Programs
- The Innovate Phase: Co-creating Evidence-informed Solutions to Improve Human Services Programs
- Using a “Road Test” to Improve Human Services Programs
- Mobile Coaching: Innovation and Small-scale Experimentation to Better Engage Program Participants in Rural Colorado
Other resources and materials related to rapid learning can be found below.
- INQUIRE Data Toolkit (from the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis Project, 2005-2018)
- Validation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems for Early Care and Education and School-age Care (from the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis Project, 2005-2018)
The point of contact for OPRE’s innovative methods meetings, including the 2018 meeting on rapid learning methods, is Kriti Jain. For more information about OPRE’s work on rapid cycle evaluation and continuous quality improvement projects, the points of contact are Jenessa Malin and Kriti Jain.