OER4Schools/Introduction to the Most Significant Change Technique

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Resource details
Title Introduction to the Most Significant Change Technique
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Acknowledgement

This resource is part of the OER4Schools programme.

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Educator note

In this section, we introduce participants to the “Most Significant Change technique”. We would like participants to formulate their own goals, and to identify what change(s) they might like to make.

A useful addition to a SC story is a headline or title similar to what might be used in a newspaper article. This can be a convenient handle for participants to use to refer to the story when comparing it to others. It can also help the writer distil and communicate the essence of what happened.

Background reading

The most significant change (MSC) technique


MSC is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved both in deciding the sorts of change to be recorded and in analysing the data. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the program cycle and provides information to help people manage the program. It contributes to evaluation because it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of the program as a whole.

Essentially, the process involves ‘searching’ for project impact through:

  • collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field level
  • systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of designated stakeholders or staff
  • collective reading of the stories aloud and regular and often in-depth discussions about the value of reported changes

When the technique is implemented successfully, whole teams of people begin to focus their attention on programme impact. You can find out more about the MSC technique here: http://www.mande.co.uk/docs/MSCGuide.pdf

We now consider what the biggest changes might be as a consequence of being involved in this programme - for yourselves, for your teaching, for your students, for the school, or in whatever other area.

Activity icon.png Whole class brainstorm (5 min) on newspaper analogy for recording MSC . Think about how a newspaper works. A newspaper presents news stories about interesting events. Newspapers are structured into different sections (subject areas, such as foreign news, domestic news, financial news, sport, leisure). The most important stories go on the front page and the most important of these is usually at the top of the front page.

Information to be documented should include:

  1. Information about who collected the story and when the events occurred
  2. Description of the story itself – what happened
  3. Significance (to the storyteller) of events described in the story.

Documenting who collected the story and when helps the reader put the story in context and enables any follow-up inquiries to be made about the story, if needed. The SC story itself should be documented as it is told. The description of the change identified as the most significant should include factual information that makes it clear who was involved, what happened, where and when.

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Whole group discussion on MSC stories . Now imagine that later on you will be putting together a whole newspaper issue about how this whole programme affects your thinking and classroom practice: What kinds of stories will be the most important? Who and what will the stories be about? Who will be affected by those stories, who would listen, and who will be they of interest to? What different sections would the newspaper have? What kind of change would you like to make?

The storyteller is also asked to explain the significance of the story from their point of view. This is a key part of MSC. Some storytellers will naturally end their stories this way, but others will need to be prompted. Without this section, people reading and discussing the story may not understand why the story was significant to the storyteller. For example, a woman may tell a story about going to a community meeting and sitting at the back and asking a question. ‘So what?’ you may think. She then tells you that this story was significant because she had not previously had the confidence to go to a community meeting, and that the program helped her gain the confidence to express her views in front of the village elders for the first time.

Where possible, a story should be written as a simple narrative describing the sequence of events that took place.


Educator note

Do the participants agree on how things might be different as a result of the programme? How will we know when these significant changes have happened? What kinds of evidence do our stories need to refer to? They can also be revised as time goes on. If participants mention ICT use and skills, ask them to focus on changes in pedagogy too.

Record what participants say in a permanent form - in writing or electronically so we can refer to them later on. Make sure it is recorded on video / audio.