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FORUM: What does innovation look like in your school? | An Enabling e-Learning event

Started by Nathaniel Louwrens 16 Mar 2016 9:24am () Replies (81)

Innovation in schools of any type needs to start with the idea that the goal is not to force kids to abandon their passions and interests for our curriculum.

- Will Richardson, Stop innovating in schools. Please.

blue orange Dictionary.com defines innovation as:

  1. Something new or different introduced

  2. The act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

There is so much innovation going on in our schools. Leaders and teachers are coming up with new ideas, and new ways of doing things all the time. But what innovation looks like to one school could be completely different for another as each school has different goals and philosophies.

George Couros states in Innovation and best practice, that his “belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve.” He expands on this to say that it’s “not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process”.

As with all things in schools, we need to ensure that student learning is foremost on our mind. This includes in how we innovate. Will Richardson made this very clear when he says,

To put it simply, innovation in schools today is far too focused on improving teaching, not amplifying learning.


Join the discussion

  • What does innovation look like to you?

  • What does innovation in your school look like?

  • Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?

  • How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school?

  • Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?


Image source: Thom Lunasea - Flickr CC BY-2.0



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 11 Apr 2018 12:31pm ()

  • Yvonne Catherwood (View all users posts) 16 Jan 2017 3:00pm ()

    Innovation in a small school can be quite daunting as the number of staff is small and it can be challenging motivating one another and trying to come up with new ways to do things in your class especially if you are the only teacher teaching a particular year level. I have found that reading what other people are doing in their classroom helps enormously to make me more aware of what is going on out there in the big wide world. 

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 02 Feb 2017 5:20pm ()

    I'm glad this platform has provided you with a lens on developments across the country Yvonne. That's exactly what this space was set up for - teachers and educators to come together share ideas, experiences, wonderings - wherever, whenever.

    Have any ideas ignited/inspired different ways of working/innovating/disrupting for you in your school? smiley

  • Kay Stephenson (View all users posts) 05 Oct 2016 9:07pm ()

    Thanks for the interesting posts and discussion regarding innovations.  i teach in a small rural school which does not have the physical environment that can be called MLE, but we ( senior school teaching team) have been tying out some different ways we can encourage our students to become self directed learners, which will help them to transition to MLE if and when this happens.  We have introduced Self directed Licenses - whereby students begin with a Learners Licence and can move through the restricted, then to a full licence. The full license enables them to choose their works space within  the school and allows them to have more control over their learning.  We see this as innovation in our school that is focused on pedagogy rather than physical buildings, and will allow our students to develop the key competencies needed to be self directed learners.

  • Bill Godbout (View all users posts) 06 Oct 2016 8:57am ()

    Hello Kaye,

    That sounds very interesting. How is the self direction aspect of this going? How is this working in conjuction with NCEA requirements? Can you give me an examples of what a happens at each stage of the licenses?

    Thank you

  • RachelleMoors (View all users posts) 03 Oct 2016 3:42pm ()

    Innovation can be  varied at school this can be  based on our own abilities and pedagogy or our own confidence in taking risks.  Although we are risk takers and have the creative freedom to be as innovative as we want we sometimes can be restricted by the mindset of our students. This has been further explored by ‘Making Thinking Visible’ by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison.  We are hoping to really open our students to the wonderful environment in which we work and be able to encourage them to identify and grow within their own learning by challenging themselves and working with a cross reference of groups.  We are inclusive and encourage our students to question each other with an awareness of each other and what we can all have to offer.  I have enjoyed the open discussion, the rephrasing of questions and the amazing experiences our students have created for themselves. This is ongoing and as we further explore our possibilities we are also mindful that not everything works and we have to be open to the path that our students will take us down.

  • Anita Yarwood (View all users posts) 04 Sep 2016 3:19pm ()

    Kia ora 

    I work at a 'traditional' secondary school, so innovation for us has been a move away from 'one size fits all' assessment models to working with students to enable them to make choices around NCEA assessment that best suits their strengths, interests and future pathways. I am the HOLA of English and we are lucky that our conditions of assessment for English standards promote flexibility and assessment when the student is ready, not when the teacher decides it is time to assess a particular skill set. We started this approach last year with English staff using goal setting and individual plans with students and the results were considerably improved at the end of the year. Even more importantly, student voice indicated a boost in confidence levels and engagement in the subject. We used Carol Dweck's work around growth mindsets when explaining to students why we weren't assessing everyone in the same manner at the same time.

    Interestingly the lower achieving students embraced this flexible approach, but our successful students struggled with the lack of teacher directed deadlines and felt that they were being unfairly disadvantaged against by our allowing other students to take a longer time to complete a standard, or opt out of a standard altogether. We have discovered that we do now need to work with our year nine students to support the development of competencies that enable students to be successful learners in a flexible programme (and build on the great work that is happening in primary and intermediate around competencies). This is probably our biggest takeaway - innovation in schools is valuable, but students need scaffolded support and teaching to develop the skills to embrace whatever innovation a school is undertaking. I know this sounds like common sense - but it is something that has taken us by surprise and something that we are now working on addressing. 

  • Neil Penfold (View all users posts) 26 Aug 2016 10:35am ()

    Sometimes our immediate response when discussing "innovation" in schools is to focus on MLE's or what BYOD programme is in place or the latest apps to use in the classroom.  Whilst all of these are interesting and important,  the real innovation should come from our pedagogy and the effect that it has on the student's learning.

    At Mission Heights Junior College,  innovation for us comes through collaborative planning and teaching between learning areas,  and strong student voice in helping to guide the direction that the student's learning takes.

    Innovation shouldn't be just for innovation's sake,  but surely the intent must be to have a positive effect on student learning.  True innovation is hard.  Sometimes there is a feeling that "it's all be done before" and also that practice can be cyclical.  What is seen as "new",  has sometimes been done before,  but has since fallen out of favour.

    As teachers we need to be open to sharing our practice with others,  sharing what has worked (and not). The best new ideas I have seen recently,  have come from the students themselves,  or where teachers have worked together - "bouncing ideas" off of each other.  Schools need to be truly collaborative.  Parents also have a role to play here,  but this can be a challenge and I still do not fully understand the different ways that this can work.




  • Sol Henare (View all users posts) 29 Sep 2016 10:50pm ()

    Kia ora Neil, 

    Tautoko your statement around innovation stemming from pedagogy and the effect or impact it has on student learning. Perhaps, when people responding to 'innovation' in schools focus on MLE's because these environments enable the pedagogies that make a difference. 

    Renowned educator Hattie mentions collective teacher efficacy as having one of the greatest influences on student learning. This is reinforced in your schools approach to collaborative planning & the intent to innovate being on the effect it has on student learning.  

    Collaboration is imperative. I too wonder what roles parents play in this, what it looks like and as Hattie would say, how to make student learning visible in collaboration with parents...

  • Bill Godbout (View all users posts) 06 Oct 2016 8:53am ()

    Hi Neil,

    You make a very good point about innovation and pedagogy. For you, innovation comes through collaborative planning and teaching between learning areas,  and strong student voice in helping to guide the direction that the student's learning takes.

    I am having a difficult time moving this up to the high school and dealing with NCEA. I know Graham growls at me when I bring it up but I just want to know how that would/could look at that level. Any suggestions.

  • Graham Young (View all users posts) 06 Oct 2016 11:19am ()

    Ha, ha Bill, I wouldn't call it growling!! Just pushing the boundaries too hard (Oops, now I am getting defensive). And your question is a good one! "I just want to know how that would/could look like at that level...." It is a good question because it is the same question the teachers you are leading will be asking of you! That is, I understand the theory... but tell me/show me what it actually looks like in a classroom.

    Simply, the theory is.. when we teach to NCEA, we stay in a narrow paradigm, which often requires students to prove they are competent.... we are achievement focussed and usually many of the assessment 'of' learning tools are stuck in the 20th century, eg; a 2 hour written test. When we shift the focus to learning, whereby students are constantly seeking to improve their competency, achievement will follow.... But, Bill, what does that look like in a senior school classroom? To help teachers with this there are numerous things that leaders can do... for example: 

    As a leader you need to help develop teacher’s ‘assessment of learning’ capabilities. For example: so that assessment drops out of what teachers are teaching rather than teaching to an assessment

    What else Could a leader do to support their teachers and help them to see "what it might look like/be like in a classroom"?

  • Viki (View all users posts) 17 Aug 2016 1:00pm ()

    Our school is certainly not physically designed to be an MLE, in fact quite the opposite. A couple of years ago we trialled vertically aligned syndicates (years 0-8) over 3 syndicates, but this was quite disastrous. Whilst we may not look like a modern learning environment we all strive for our students to have the very best possible learning opportunities and aim for them to be exposed to the latest best practice initiatives.  Therefore with this in mind all our teachers and leaders are focused on MLP (modern learning pedagogy). We have initiated BYOD from Years 4-8 and spent considerable time creating and instilling a very robust digital citizen policy for the whole community. Classrooms are slowly being revamped with a selection of furniture to cater for a variety of student learning styles. PD and support for teachers is a priority. Student voice has become the 'norm' at our school and is sought when all learning decisions are being made. Although in comparison to some schools, these changes are minimal, they are certainly having an effect. Firstly on the engagement of our students, also on the confidence of our students and it would appear at this early stage that our learning outcomes are looking hopeful particularly for our priority learners. A long way to go, but making steady progress in the right direction. 

  • Clare.Curry (View all users posts) 24 Jul 2016 7:10pm ()

    Hi Sarah,

    I was very interested to read your thoughts about personal/human skills continuing to be crucial in this time of rapid change.  (To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books of all time, so mentioning that got me hooked immediately on your post!).

    Our school has recently been working on including traits of learning in our innovations, and in my classroom I have linked these together with the idea of 'well-being', incorporating academic, emotional/mental/spiritual, physical, and community well-being.  I think the students enjoy knowing that their learning will be purposeful in some real way, and being able to see the bigger picture.

    I am looking forward to bringing up with them the real life needs for them (as mentioned by prospective employers) to be well practised in demonstrating personal/human skills - it gives another interesting slant on what we're doing.

  • Bridget (View all users posts) 23 Jul 2016 5:14pm ()

    From reading the posts above, there is a definite agreement that innovation involves change and that for every teacher and school, this is hugely dependant on your experiences both as a teacher and learner. For me this made me question the relationship between innovation and collaboration. As we are in the process of preparing to move into an ILE, one of our school priorities is collaboration. However, is this encouraging and fostering innovation? There are many cases in which the answer to the question would be yes, yet undoubtly, there are some cases that it could be argued the opposite is true. In some instances, when teachers begin to work together collaboratively in ILE’s, their innovation is hindered. This is not to say that they are not demonstrating effective teaching practice and that they are not doing things differently but there is not an introduction of new things or methods as the definition of innovation requires. Rachel (19th June) posted that the focus at their school, like ours, was on the pedagogy of working collaboratively and in innovative ways. Reading this did make me wonder about the relationship of these two factors. You can definitely be innovative without working collaboratively but is is possible to work collaboratively without bring innovative? 


    At our school one way that we foster innovation is through the Teaching as Inquiry (TAI) process. This focusing inquiry is personalised for each teacher. TAI begins by each teacher establishing a baseline and a direction using information to determine what is important given where their students are at, as well as the school priorities. Teachers then use evidence from research and from their own past practice and that of colleagues to plan teaching and learning opportunities aimed at achieving the outcomes prioritised in the focusing inquiry. Teachers investigate the success of the teaching in terms of the prioritised outcomes, using a range of assessment approaches. They do this both while learning activities are in progress and also as longer-term sequences or units of work come to an end. They then analyse and interpret the information to consider what they should do next. Our TAI finishes with each teacher sharing their findings, new learning and successes with other teachers.

    This year our new school wide innovation has been around assessment and reporting. We have introduced a new reporting system where we no longer send home a 'report'. Instead we have developed a visual, digital working space for students to record, assess, evaluate, and track goal achievement and next steps overtime. It is designed to support teachers, students and whānau as partners in the learning process, creating an openness and transparency around learning and engaging whānau. We are hoping that this workspace will prove to be more interactive, accessible and relevant to both students and parents. 

  • Daphne Papuni (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2016 5:46pm ()

    Kia ora Amy, my name is Daphne - I'm facilitator (sorry not a teacher) currently working in the LwDT PLD project. I thought I'd drop in and offer a response to your question about the e-Learning Planning Framework, and how we, together with schools I've worked with have used the tool. Actually the I work in Māori medium settings, and we use the other framework - Te Rangitukutuku/Māori medium e-Learning Planning Framework. Both frameworks are designed to support school-wide review processes etc etc - Karen tells the story better with regards to the eLPF - and Kathe gives an overview of MMeLPF if you're interested :)

    Why do the schools I work with use MMeLPF? - in the main, because I said so :-) First however, we take some time to grow some understanding of the tool, it's whakapapa - background, purpose, the way it's been put together. We then dive into the MMeLPF online tool play in a 'play-time' survey to generally have a look see. I'd like to think teachers are feeling pretty good about the purpose of the MMeLPF/eLPF by this time - and we dive straight in and complete an online survey smiley. Sorry, I'm omitting the tool admin sides in here - in order to 'play in' and 'dive in' to an online survey - schools do need to register to use the tool first (registering for eLPF), and and an online survey is automatically generated for your school to use. I make a separate 'play-time' survey for staff to tutu in - and we use the generated one to complete and analyse :) If you really want to know more about that - let me know.

    Essentially, we use of eLPF/MMeLPF online tool to gain a perspective of where the school is AT in terms of e-learning capability. Staff have their own perspective of their schools eLearning capability - the eLPF can provide a school-wide perspective, that is drawn together from all whom have completed the online survey. Its a non-biased, cumulative view.

    In my opinion, the magic begins to happen for a school at the analysis end of the process. The tool provides a starting point in the form of data. Unfortunately it doesn't tell you What to do, nor how to do it. The Enabling eLearning Website & the VLN Enabling eLearning group are a great resource in this regard.  The staff I work with use the results from MMeLPF, which we draw down, to talk about, pick apart, debate, negate, affirm, wonder about, ponder upon. Staff move forward select and prioritise area/s (dimensions) for development and or consolidation. They(staff) try and prioritise areas that can align to school wide strategic goals. From here, and where they exist - we follow school wide inquiry processes - developing a school-wide inquiry into practice. We use the tool again later on down the track to make a comparison - before and after, incorporating also other forms of evidence, school wide inquiry evidence/data, observational evidence.

    Oh dear, how I've gone on. That's all from me :-)



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