Have you ever had the experience of looking for one thing, and stumbling upon a gem of another? I was thumbing through my Becoming a Learning System book for the first time in quite a while looking for a definition, and realized that the entire last chapter of the book is entitled “Innovations in Adult Learning.” I’ve been reading and re-reading it ever since.
Each chapter of the book ends with a set of reflective questions. At the end of chapter 24, these were included:
- In what ways can we, as members of a leadership team, inspire innovation and creativity in our district and school community?
- Where are pockets of innovation in our district and school communities? In what ways are we nurturing creative approaches?
I’m going to try to tackle that first bullet in this post, and invite you to join the conversation specifically around the second bullet at the end.
One of my goals as a leader is to be a good steward of people and ideas, to positively impact student learning. In order to achieve that goal, not only do I have to inspire innovation and creativity, but I have to nurture and incubate it as well. One of the ways in which that will be accomplished is through our new Center for Innovators.
First, the choice of the word “innovators” rather than “innovation” was quite purposeful; we want to be about people, not things. Second, while the Center will have an actual physical location in Collins Elementary this year, the use of the word “center” is also a metaphor for a point of focus on adult learning and professional growth.
More about the inner workings of the Center is found below; the most immediate need or demand of teachers is “how do I get help with my idea?” Great question! We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. Through the use of a short Google form or an email to me that just:
- names the teacher or team with the idea;
- briefly describes the idea;
- links the idea to a goal or problem of practice in your school improvement plan;
- gives a general indication of your current thinking around how the idea will deepen teacher learning to result in deeper student learning; and
- your current thought as to how your hypothesis might be best evaluated or monitored for impact during implementation,
you will have a thinking partner and nurturer to help the idea take form. Think of this initial contact as a rough outline that might precede the first draft of an essay. It’s just a way to get your current thinking down on paper so we can move forward.
Another way in which you might access support is through application for and receipt of a Destination: Innovation grant. All grant recipients automatically receive support to measure the impact of grant dollars on the change in teacher practice and the resulting impact on student learning.
We want the Center for Innovators to be a hub – that focal point – for teachers and other stakeholders to engage in learning as they re-imagine how best to deliver education to all students. Leaders will work to cultivate and coordinate curriculum, communication, spaces, processes, tools, and systems, so that teachers and other stakeholders may create and cultivate learning experiences and environments that engage, motivate, and prepare all students for life, meaningful work, and civic responsibility.
Two of those systems are already in place. First, we will be intentional in our use of the Standards for Professional Learning to make sure we are engaging in professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students. Second, we will continue our integration of the Instructional Framework, and support teachers as they explore both the art and science of teaching.
We also have a plan to cultivate and coordinate curriculum, spaces, processes, and tools. As teams work to investigate educational challenges and opportunities, the Center will employ the methodology of design thinking when appropriate to promote the intentional design and development of learning experiences (curriculum), learning environments (spaces), and school programs and practices (processes and tools) that support school improvement goals and desired changes in teacher practice to deepen student learning.
The last piece, communication, will be an ongoing endeavor. In a district our size, it is doubtful that we can ever over-communicate. But, we need your help, and here is where the other bulleted inquiry comes into play.
Join the conversation…
Either by posting a comment below or sending me an email, please share with us where those pockets of innovation are located in our district. We know of many, but are confident that we don’t know of them all. Share the story of your team as innovators, or of a teaching team in your school. Or if you are a parent reading this, tell us the story of that teacher and that engaging lesson your learner can’t stop talking about.
As Becoming a Learning System states, “creativity, flexibility, innovation, respect, and resilience can open doors for educators to a different, more democratic way of engaging students and inspiring them to learn” (Hirsch, Psencik & Brown, p. 220, 2014). Let us know how we might support that for all educators in our district.