So, what DOES that look like in the classroom?
Last week, I bumped into a blog written by Matthew Lynch entitled 10 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom. It was published on Education Week’s online blog (Education Futures), on July 16, 2018. Education Week is a publication I happen to respect and given that Learning Forward PA is focusing on the topic of Intentional Innovation at our Fall Institute on November 1, I read this blog with eager anticipation!
Lynch’s 10 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom are:
- Constant learning
- Principles and routines
- Goal-Setting, and
- Opportunities for revision.
Sigh. I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Sorry, Matthew. The list and his explanations of each characteristic sound more like the characteristics of a well-run classroom to me. Even when I compare it to Webster’s definition, Lynch barely dips the tip of his ink pen into that definition of innovation.
As I was taking my morning walk, I began thinking… maybe I shouldn’t be disappointed with the author (or even Education Week for posting a blog that wasn’t as deep as I would have liked—I mean it is all about me, right? haha!) All kidding aside, could it be that my point of view needs to be adjusted and perhaps the state of the majority of our classrooms is worse than I thought? Maybe, the practices Lynch listed really ARE innovative to the majority of teachers across the nation. And so, I sigh again and add in a little wince.
When I look at his list, here’s what I’m wondering:
I am wondering who is directing the learning in the classroom because frankly, most of his list sounds a little teacher-centered to me. The only exception to this is when Lynch addresses the characteristic of “collaboration.”
If you read the full blog (I’m not sure if the link will work for you; you may need to have a subscription to EdWeek), Lynch suggests that collaboration encourages innovation when students “work with others who may be different from them, either in their beliefs, behavior, or background.” He explains the importance of discussion being the “father of innovation.” I agree that working with students whose background is different from our own is important. I do, however, believe that this should be the norm and not an innovative practice.
I disagree that discussion is the “father of innovation.” Discussion should be occurring in our classrooms all the time and again, should be the norm. Even Madeline Hunter taught us “turn to your neighbor” as a structure to begin conversations between students (and that was in the 80’s!) This has now morphed into the “turn and talk” structure so frequently and successfully used in classrooms today to spark conversation. Again, I'm hoping this is the norm and as I now work as a national consultant, I DO see this in the majority of the classrooms in which I serve.
I believe cognitive tension or productive struggle within a team conversation is the father of innovation.
This is where innovative practice thrives and where the messiness of the problem gets solved (while the teacher is a silently facilitates and tracks who is learning and contributing to the learning and who needs a little more assistance).
For example, when students are at the point where they just can’t figure out the solution to a problem and they are diving into all sorts of resources (such as their peers, technology, books, subject matter experts, etc) in order to find the answer and they are still coming up empty only to realize that maybe they’ve been asking the wrong question all along!
Then, they (the students, not the teacher) ask another question and dive into those resources again with passion. (And yes, all of this is aligned with the Standard and Learning Objective/Target)
That’s innovation to me. Maybe Matthew Lynch was describing that somewhere in his 10 characteristics and I missed it somehow or maybe I am expecting too much.
All I know is that I can’t wait to hear what AJ Juiliani has to say about implementing innovative strategies with intention at Learning Forward PA’s Fall Institute on November 1 at Spooky Nook in Manheim. I want to see if I what I am picturing can really happen. I WANT this to happen in our classrooms because I believe our schools can become places where our students won’t want to leave after they walk through our doors!
Do you want to hear what AJ has to say, too? Join me in finding out! Register by clicking here!
Frances A Miller, Ed.D.
Learning Forward Institute