Friday, 29 March 2013

Innovation Project

At the beginning of term four last year, I approached my Principal with a 'proposal' regarding facilitating the development of more innovative teaching approaches within our school.
The underlying principles of this proposal included:

  • The way children learn is changing.
  • Education is [needs to be] changing.
  • Schools and teachers need to be constantly evolving their practice in order to effectively meet the needs of modern learners - We need to be learners, too.
  • Innovation is more likely to develop ‘at the margins’, rather than when applied from above en masse.
More of the 'why' included:
Whilst how we learn and our resultant views about education have been [gradually... ] evolving over time, the modern rate of change is greater than it has ever been before, due to the 'digital revolution' and, in particular, the rise of the Internet.
The resultant changes in society are increasing exponentially and are affecting a range of different aspects of our lives, including how we access information, how we communicate, what we do for leisure purposes, the jobs that we have [and will have], as well as how we learn.

As usual, my Principal was very supportive and willing to try something new in a bid to improve the capacity of our teachers.

In terms of the process we were looking to implement, the plan was to work with one or two teachers who were keen to try a new idea / initiative / approach / etc. in their teaching. A point that we wanted to stress was that it wasn't especially important 'what' the idea / initiative was, but more that the teacher was looking to take a risk, try something new and adopt an innovative mindset. 
To support and help facilitate this, we would schedule some extra release time [one hour per week] for the participating teacher/s, support relevant Professional Learning opportunities and provide ongoing coaching. 

When considering how to best 'sell' this idea to staff, I had worked on a hunch about how our school tended to be perceived... 
Our school is very organised, very structured and very detail-oriented. I was pretty confident that the perceptions held of our school [both internal and external] would reflect this notion, so we did a 'word association' asking for respondents to nominate five words that they most strongly associated with our school. The words available to choose from came from two categories, borrowing from some left-brain, right-brain theory:

Sure enough, we were clearly perceived to be 'safekeeping', rather than 'experimental':

Not sure if my analogy was the best... but I tried to explain it in the context of us having one 'wheel' spinning very well [the green, safekeeping one... ], but we needed to start paying some more attention to getting this other 'wheel' [the yellow, experimental one... ] spinning... 

Anyway, we had two enthusiastic teachers take the bait and decide that they wanted to be a part of this project. Both did a great job in researching and implementing two very different projects in their respective classrooms [one focusing on Learning Spaces and the other upon Yoga and Relaxation Strategies].
This week, the two teachers completed the final aspect of their 'projects' when they shared their learning journeys with our whole staff. Both were very pleased with the outcomes of their respective projects, sharing student surveys, photographs and their own observations.
We have now invited other people to nominate to participate in a similar process [one has already committed] and we are hoping this more future-oriented, innovative type of mindset will spread to more of our staff and that this sort of initiative will allow us to 'build in' a structure and process for innovation and continuous professional learning to be occurring at our school.

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