Schools value innovation but often find it difficult to develop a culture of innovation. Why is this so?
A school’s culture is represented by the values which it truly lives by, not just by the words that it chooses to showcase on a wall somewhere.
This takes vision, time and sacrifice. Its easy to understand the need for vision and time – they are terms all educators are familiar with, however sacrifice may be an element not previously considered. At the school level (macro level) espouses a vision and the leaders promote this but if the teachers (micro level) are not actually empowered and expected to fulfill this vision, it falls flat. Culture is continually changing and this enablement of change allows creativity to thrive which in turn develops innovative thinking. What is valued in your school? Does each teacher in the school exemplify the core values every day?
So how can a school develop an innovative culture?
It starts with the leaders who influence what happens at the macro level but equally inspire openness of thinking and the permission to take risks at the micro level.
- Are teachers encouraged to take risks and look at how they teach to find new ways of doing this? Are they acknowledged for innovative practices that are successful and improve student learning? Eg Support teachers to take risks by allowing a new idea to be trialled by each teacher at least once each year. If the new idea is successful, enable the teacher to present at a state / national / international conference.
- How is creativity injected into teacher and student learning? Eg. Start with students and allow them to provide ideas as to how a subject or curriculum could be taught / learnt that was more suited to their learning needs. Start a creative lab in the library and allow anything from STEM through to Arts or humanities to be trialled in this lab and ensure that student creativity is acknowledged and celebrated.
- Google’s 20% time – how can time be flexible to encourage creativity and innovation? Eg Make 10 mins of each staff meeting an ideas generation time; Make 1 period of each term in each subject a time when staff and students can work on their own projects (for students there needs to be a relationship to the subject)
- Increase dialogue – not just communication, but active conversation
- Suspend assumptions and accept ideas for continued dialogue
- Actively listen – respect everyone’s ideas and allow them to be discussed
- Try to remove bureaucratic barriers for new ideas to be trialled.
A process to consider for your school :
- Ideas generation
- Curation – research the idea, talk about the idea with stakeholders (more often than not, this will be students and parents). This will help to decide on the best value ideas and which ones are worth moving on to the next phase.
- Use a tool such as McKinseys Three Horizons Model. For schools this could be re-phrased as:
- Continuous innovation in relation to learning. Maintain student learning outcomes and ensure the general capabilities are embedded in each subject explicitly
- Expand learning opportunities for students. This could be achieved through a flipped or blended learning model or a different approach to timetabling etc
- Take advantage of the digital disruption cycle to develop totally new ways of learning or managing. Incorporate entrepreneurial skills.
If you are interested in following this learning path, then perhaps you may be interested in attending sessions at the Leading a Digital School conference:
- Entrepreneurship in education – inspiring the next generation of creators
- The journey from communication to collaboration and everything in between
- Digital transformation: Servite College – a case study
- Lessons from 5 years and 8 million views
- Leading change
- Developing a culture of innovation
- How curiosity allows for everybody to approach difficult conversations
- Safe leadership