The TES reports that innovation is crucial to improving practice, but teachers must approach new ideas with a pinch of salt, says one head of English.
There’s always a risk to bringing something new into the classroom – it might fail and be a complete waste of time. However, there’s also a risk with just sticking with what we know: stagnation. The best thing we can do is be critical about innovations and evaluate the impact of what we’re doing in the classroom.
I’d recommend asking these four questions when you come across a shiny new idea:
1. How sound is the evidence?If something you’ve trialled for a period of time has had no impact, or a negative impact, then however much you’ve invested in it and however much you like it you need to have the confidence to ditch it and find something new.
2. Will it work in my context?Education is a complex business; there are no silver bullets. We can’t assume that a successful innovation in one school will easily translate to our school or our classroom or, indeed, a specific class – there are too many variables. Context is king and therefore we need to use what we know about our own context to assess whether something will likely work for us.
3. Has it worked?Once we’ve implemented something new in the classroom, we need to evaluate whether or not it has worked. Too often we try something without really reflecting on what the impact has been. This leaves us open to ditching effective innovations that we’re a bit bored of and replacing them with something new which might not be as effective.
4. What next?If an innovation has had an impact on students’ learning then not only should we stick with it but we should be asking how generalizable it is. Would it work with other year groups? Teachers? Subjects? If so, share it!
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