Thursday, 24 July 2014

Innovation in Education - how to measure it?

I am continuing to get my head around the recent OECD publication Measuring Innovation in Education: A New Perspective., partly in preparation for a unit that I am studying at Macquarie University this semester. In my last blog post I briefly summarised the authors' argument as to why innovation in education matters. In essence, it is about improvement - which therefore raises the issue of measurement. 

Of course, measurement is itself fraught with complexities. The two big questions are: How do you measure innovation? and How do you measure if your innovation brings improvement?

Before going to measurement, we need to identify what is being considered as 'innovation'. From the report, it seems to me that the most helpful ways to categorise areas of innovation for schools are:

  • Pedagogic innovation (e.g. changes in classroom practice, such as less lecturing and more student-centred inquiry learning etc.)
  • Assessment innovation (e.g. increased use of standardised tests; movement away from summative assessments; adoption of online assessment etc.)
  • Innovation in classroom resources (e.g. utilisation of ICT, provision of textbooks etc)
  • Organisational innovation (e.g. changed education offerings in special education or subjects; professional learning processes for teachers; cross-curricular learning etc.)
The report argues that the most effective way to measure innovation in schools will be through the development of a focused survey instrument approaching the topic from the perspective of organisational change. The data would be sourced and matched from school/teacher/student perspectives, comparing the present work environment and work-practices and comparing it with that of three years previously. There would also need to be the opportunity to collect data at the same time to do with improvements. Even though causality between innovation and improvement would be hard to establish with too many confounding factors, data on correlation would provide some areas for more focused study. The authors do a good job of making the case that such an instrument would be of value, particularly if utilised on a wide (international) cross-sectoral base. 

WIthout such an instrument to use, how does an individual school measure its level of innovation and gain a sense of whether it is enough or too much? Anecdotes and impressions only go so far. Change fatigue may signal too much, or poorly handled, change, but it may equally reflect low capacity for change in the individual or the organisation. I also have questions about the ebb and flow of innovation in an organisation; is innovation a constant, or is intensity of innovation followed by a period of consolidation and capacity-building.

I will keep thinking ... (and blogging!)


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Innovation in Education

At the moment I am plowing through a report from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (an unit within the OECD) called Measuring Innovation in Education: A New Perspective.

I anticipate making some blog posts by way of summary and comment over the next little while. My initial thoughts have to do with the case that is articulated as to why innovation in education matters. Four reasons are succinctly presented (p.23)
  • Education innovation can improve learning outcomes
  • Education innovation can improve equity of access and equality of outcome
  • Education innovation can improve efficiency
  • Education innovation can ensure that education remains relevant in a rapidly changing context.
Innovation is a necessary activity for improvement, although it is not sufficient to guarantee any of the above. Change does not guarantee improvement.

Conceptually, any discussion of improvement requires measurement; the question is 'How do we measure?' I am hoping that this report will provide some direction as to how innovation in education may be meaningfully measured.

(As a side-point, one of the great frustrations for educators is that the things most easily measured (test scores, for example) are not at the heart of education. How do we measure character formation?)

I look forward to the rest of the report.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The growth mindset - Carol Dweck

In 2007 Carol Dweck published Mindset, in which she posited the idea that we have one of two ways of thinking about intelligence.

Fixed Mindset: Intelligence is a fixed trait

Growth Mindset: Intelligence is a malleable quality; a potential that can be developed

If we have a fixed mindset, we are inclined to believe that intellectual achievement should come naturally and that it is important for this intellectual capacity to be recognised and documented. Mistakes and failures are to be avoided, minimised or concealed because they are understood to speak about our fundamental capacity.

On the other hand, the growth mindset perceives that learning and achievement are attained through effort and that obstacles, challenges and failures along the way are all part of the learning process. The person with a growth mindset will confront their deficiencies, rather than dodge them.

Much of Dweck's work and its subsequent application has focussed on the importance of developing a growth mindset in young people as they grow and learn. There is much here for parents and teachers to consider; the language that we use to praise young people may do more harm than good. The simple rule is, praise the effort, not the ability.

In our professional learning during the mid-year break, our staff reflected on the application of the fixed/growth mindset framework to the work of professional development. If we have a fixed mindset, then we will be more likely to avoid challenge and risk in our professional practice, being concerned that failures may represent a judgment on our capacity. If we have a growth mindset, then we will expect that our professional learning and development will be hard work, that we will encounter obstacles, challenges and failures along the way - and that this is exactly what learning involves.

It was a great joy to me to see the teachers embrace the challenge of being learners in their use of technology, their adoption of the Project-Based Learning pedagogy and in rethinking their approaches to assessment.