Innovation To Best Practice

February 7, 2016  Couros


This has been something dancing around my head on the notion and process of innovation in education, and how it connects to “best practice”.  This is a space to share that learning.

In “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I define the notion of innovation as the following:

…innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.

As I was working with a group of administrators, something stuck out to me.  Sharing a Google Doc that we could easily collaborate on, they had never seen this before, and were somewhat in a state of awe, yet to me, this was normal, or my “best practice”.  In the terms of teaching and learning, “innovation” can be a very personal practice. One’s “best practice” could be another’s “innovation”.

Discussing “The Innovator’s Mindset” in a Voxer group with educators, in what is becoming global bookclubLeigh Cassell made the comparison of this concept in literacy, which is a constant state of flux.  If literacy is ever-changing, do educators change alongside of it?  Others in the group made a unique comparison to the “decline of newspapers” and that some students are still tested on their ability to write a “news report” using the same format.  Does this “testing” include the ability to link articles, embed media, and source from different mediums (amongst other things), or is still your typical “newspaper” report?  The continuum could be from “innovation” to “best practice” to “dead practice”, if we are not trying to understand our current realities, let alone anticipate the future.

My belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve. Yet this is not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process.  Once the needs of the learner are defined, innovative practices may be developed, which if they truly are “better” as per the definition, will eventually become “best practice”. For them to stay as “best practice”, they will need to be constantly revisited and reflected upon, with reflection, tweaking, and recreating as part of the process, with the possibility of eventually discarding the process altogether.  Some things could always be considered “best practice” (applicable to individuals, not necessarily as standardized solutions), but could eventually become obsolete.  This is why reflection is crucial to the process of teaching and learning.

This is not about change for the sake of change; it is about constantly understanding and questioning why we do what we do1, not just taking it for granted.  Some practices in education from before I was born, could still be utilized in education if they work for learners, but we can’t simply rely on TTWWHADI (that’s the way we have always done it) as an effective answer when it comes to learners.  We must understand deeply why we do what we do to effectively serve the needs of learners.

(I am wanting to try different mediums so here is a short reflection I shared on Facebook.)