Rapid Learning Methods Portfolio

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.

2018 Innovative Methods Meeting — Rapid Learning: Methods for Testing and Evaluating Change in Social Service Programs

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:

Additional Resources

Other resources and materials related to rapid learning can be found below.

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.

Related Resources

Rapid learning methods aim to expedite program improvement and enhance program effectiveness. They use data to test implementation and improvement efforts in as close to real-time as possible. Many rapid learning methods leverage iterative cycles of learning, in which evaluators and implementers (and sometimes funders/policymakers) discuss findings, interpret them, and make adaptations to practice and measurement together. These methods can support data-driven decision-making in practice, in the spirit of ongoing improvement.

On October 25 and 26, 2018, OPRE brought together a diverse group of participants from Federal agencies, research firms, academia, and other organizations for a meeting titled, Rapid Learning Methods for Testing and Evaluating Change in Social Programs Visit disclaimer page . This brief is based on a presentation Visit disclaimer page at the meeting.