Promoting Transformative Innovation in Schools

Tim Rudd, Dan Sutch, Keri Facer

01 January 2008

This handbook aims to offer evidence, insights, ideas and recommendations that can be built upon to support and nurture a culture of transformative innovation within education.

Increasingly it is recognised that there is a need to innovate to enable greater creativity, flexibility, learner input and so forth, and to deliver a more personalised educational system and foster new skills amongst learners. There is a need for transformative innovation in order to develop new relationships and ways of working, to update approaches, and to harness the collective social capital and skills of school communities to deliver better learning and teaching. This means challenging accepted practice and prevailing logic, which can place practitioners outside their comfort zone, as many changes that innovations may bring can often be disruptive and challenging in the short term. However, evidence suggests that innovation is not only necessary but can be exciting and rewarding and result in a whole range of benefits.

Numerous resistances or barriers to innovation have been highlighted, but many of these are perceptual, and with effective strategies, support and the right culture in place, many others can be overcome. Driving innovation requires imaginative use of resources, including the skills and abilities of learners, wider networks and innovators in other fields.

A range of tools and techniques also exist that can help foster creative thinking, problem solving and innovative practices, and emerging digital technologies also present new opportunities and social practices that can lead to more diverse and dynamic learning experiences by harnessing the potential of a networked society. A broader culture of innovation must be established, so that practice and skills can be shared and suited to local contexts and needs, and so that the development of networks and hubs of innovation can emerge to help disseminate and diffuse practice.

Innovations require a focus on new practice in line with broader educational visions, and there is a need for subsequent policy changes to facilitate greater innovation; however, there needs to be a shift of focus to a model of bottom-up innovation emanating from practitioners themselves to ensure a sustainable culture of change and development. A more open approach to the development, sharing and refinement of materials and resources also needs to develop, as this is more likely to encourage a set of localised solutions to educational challenges suited to particular contexts.

Innovation can be challenging and hard work, yet the rewards are plentiful. To innovate requires willingness to try new approaches, and this can lead to ‘failures’, but if innovation is seen as an iterative and ongoing process rather than a one-off activity, much can be learnt and shared from these setbacks. Ultimately the consequences of failing to innovate are far more serious: an education system that becomes outdated and fails to provide relevant educational experiences for learners.

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