I recently shared a blog that reviewed the preparation I had done to assist a staff in looking at how to build innovation into the opening of a new high school. As I explored the topic further I found a video of Tony Wagner that examined five elements he identified as crucial for teachers to build into learning environments that create a culture of innovation:
#1 A Culture of Innovation is all about collaboration.
Teachers need to build accountable teamwork into the learning tasks they provide for students.
In a blog posted on Berkeley UC Teaching and Learning, Building Teamwork Process Skills in Students, Shannon Ciston identifies five characteristics to consider in designing for building effective teamwork:
Promotive Interaction: Members do real work, usually face to face
Positive Interdependence: Members focus on a common goal, with complementary contributions
Individual and Group Accountability: Everyone takes responsibility for their own work and the overall work of the team
Teamwork Skills: Each member practices effective communication, decision making, problem solving, conflict management, leadership
Group Processing: Team periodically reflects on how well the team is working
#2 Problems- Based Learning in Multiple Disciplines— problems won’t be identified or solved in discrete disciplines.
Amber Griffiths, a lecturer in Natural Environment at University of Exeter, wrote Multi-discipline courses will help solve emerging global problems.
“Problem-based learning is already at the heart of many medical and law degrees. It provides the opportunity to practice broad thinking under real-world situations. Problem based learning also encourages self-directed and explorative learning. This approach could be used more broadly to encourage the ability to adapt that students need in the current climate.
For example, students could be faced with a local farmer who is experiencing crop failures, or a small business which is struggling due to the increasing cost of raw materials. The students then research the underlying problems and potential solutions. Both scenarios are broadly related to climate change, but the first might require pulling together subjects such as ecology, soil science, engineering, and economics. The second scenario might require research on climate forecasting, ecosystem services, and business.”
#3 Learning to make mistakes, reflect on them, and learn from them—there is no innovation without trial and error… replace the concept of failure with iteration.
A Stanford Business School blog describes mindsets that schools should be examining:
“The type 1 mindset is fearful of making mistakes. It characterizes most individuals, managers, and corporations today. In this mindset, to fail is shameful and painful. Because the brain becomes very risk averse under this line of thinking, innovation is generally nothing more than incremental. You don’t get off-the-charts results.
The type 2 mindset is fearful of losing out on opportunities. Places like Silicon Valley and Stanford GSB are full of type 2s. What is shameful to these people is sitting on the sidelines while someone else runs away with a great idea. Failure is not bad; it can actually be exciting. From so-called “failures” emerge those valuable gold nuggets — the “aha!” moments of insight that guide you toward your next innovation.
We generally start out with the type 2 adventurous spirit as children. But then somewhere along the line, often in school, we are squelched. Failure is not allowed. We become type 1s.”
#4 Learning innovation is an active process, creating real products to solve real problems.
The Buck Institute for Education specializes in developing problem-based learning in schools. Their website answers the question, “Why problem based?” Here are a few of the reasons:
PBL makes school more engaging for students. Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
PBL improves learning. After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world. Projects provide students with empowering opportunities to make a difference, by solving real problems and addressing real issues. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and community members can be involved in projects.
#5 Intrinsic motivation is key.
“In the lives of young innovators whom I interviewed, I discovered a consistent link and developmental arc in their progression from play to passion to purpose. They played a great deal — but their play was frequently far less structured than most children’s, and they had opportunities to explore, experiment, and discover through trial and error — to take risks and to fall down. Through this kind of more creative play as children, these young innovators discovered a passion. As they pursued their passions, their interests changed and took surprising turns. They developed new passions, which, over time, evolved into a deeper and more mature sense of purpose — a kind of shared adult play.”
How often are students in your school engaged in learning tasks that reflect these five elements? How often are teachers finding that professional development, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching build these elements?