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!)


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