Untangling 2 important change tools

By Learning Forward
October 2018
Vol. 39 No. 5
Q: What is the difference between a logic model and a theory of change? In their role as coaches for the Learning Forward Academy, Joe McFarland and Nikki Mouton encounter this question a lot. Both logic models and theories of change help us plan, implement, and evaluate programs and initiatives. They are useful for targeting problems of practice like the ones Academy members identify and for a host of other goals. McFarland and Mouton weigh in on the difference between the two, how they can complement one another, and why we shouldn’t get too hung up on terminology. A: Theory of change and logic models have many commonalities, and it’s understandable that people often confuse them. Yet there are significant differences in how they are

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Joe McFarland and Nikki Mouton

Joe McFarland ( is superintendent of schools in Derry Township School District in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nikki Mouton ( is deputy chief academic officer in the Dallas (Texas) ISD. They are coaches for the Learning Forward Academy Class of 2020.

Joe McFarland and Nikki Mouton are coaches of Learning Forward Academy Class of 2020, whose theme is “To infinity and beyond” — a saying from the movie Toy Story. McFarland and Mouton stand with cutouts of two of the movie’s main characters during the Learning Forward Institutes in Portland, Oregon, in July.

Additional Resources

For more information about logic models and theory of change, including examples, check out these resources.
Assessing Impact: Evaluating Professional Learning (3rd edition) by Joellen Killion. Available at the Learning Forward bookstore, or 800-727-7288.

Logic Models for Selecting, Designing, and Implementing Evidence-Based School Leadership Interventions, published by the RAND Corporation. Available at

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

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