Getting the Right Fit is Key to Successful Innovation!

Lessons Learned

Have you ever tried to wear a pair of shoes or pants for the day that didn’t quite fit? As the day wears on you find yourself in some discomfort. You may have initially liked the style (or the price) enough to ignore the fit in the dressing room, but now that you are wearing them eight to twelve hours a day that price/style doesn’t appeal as much. You may be able to break them in by enduring the early discomfort, or you may end up giving them away because of the pain and discomfort they cause you in the long run.

Innovative instructional approaches are like those shoes and pants. If the fit isn’t quite right from the beginning, you experience discomfort in the short run, and sometimes in the long run you find you have to abandon your efforts all together. How do you avoid this problem?

Early innovators have shared some of their lessons-learned with us. The four most important lessons they’ve learned may help you avoid discomfort down the road, and even prevent you from experiencing a derailed innovation!

  1. Figure out what, or whose, needs you are trying to meet with the innovation.
  2. Figure out your innovative learning solution before you select your technology.
  3. Consider student fit, teacher fit and leader fit—one size does not fit all!
  4. Monitor and measure your efforts and results.

Think and plan before you innovate to improve your fit! These four steps provide a recipe to improve your likelihood for success in innovating education in your school or classroom! Details for each step and reflection questions to jumpstart your thinking are provided below.

What needs are you trying to meet?

Foremost, figure out what or whose needs you are trying to meet with an innovative instructional approach or program. Innovating just to jump on the bandwagon could set you back, rather than move your forward—especially if you aren’t aligning your innovation with your school’s, teachers’, and students’ needs.

  • What do your data tell you about unmet or partially met needs in your school?
    • Do you have problems you are trying to solve to enhance conditions or routines that support instruction and student learning?
      • What conditions or routines tend to undermine your schools’ success?
        • Do you have chronic student or teacher absenteeism?
        • Do you have problems with accessible resources?
        • Does the traditional daily, weekly or annual schedule prevent you from meeting some students’ needs?
  • Do you have challenges meeting students’ instructional and learning needs?
    • Which students’ needs aren’t being met or are only partially met through your existing practices or programs?
      • Do you have students with self-motivation concerns?
      • Do you have teachers struggling with depth of content, strategies for particular learners, or student engagement?
      • Do you lack options and/or flexibility for some students?

Your data should help you identify specific needs or challenges within your school that may be met through innovation.

Which innovative programs or practices may help you meet those needs?

Once you have identified your needs, it is easier to investigate potential programs and practices. It is important to figure out the ‘what and how’ before you bring in technology as a tool for implementation. Technology is intended to be a tool for students and educators. Technology may make your innovation more affordable, more reliable, more available, and more customizable. Technology may provide you with rich data to support instructional and administrative decisions. Technology is not the solution or innovation in and of itself—it is a delivery method or tool for innovation.

  • Which innovative programs and practices are based on evidence for improving student learning conditions or improving student learning?
    • What conditions do you need to change in your school to improve the likelihood of our students’ success?
    • How might technology help your educators and students implement innovative programs and practices?
      • What limitations are associated with the technology solution? Consider these limitations in your plans.
      • What development and support will your teachers, students and parents need to use the technology as intended?
        • How will you differentiate your development and support for technology use?
        • How will you monitor for implementation issues related to the technology versus implementation issues related to your overall innovation?

Which students, teachers, and leaders are the best fit for this innovation?

Your traditional school structures, schedules and instruction may be meeting the needs of many or most of your students. If you are considering an innovative program or practice then it is paramount you consider which students may be served better through an innovative program or practice. For example, students interested in accelerating their learning by completing coursework through a blended learning approach may need to be assessed for their motivation to pursue a personalized, adaptive online program. Some students need the existing routines and structures you offer already. Likewise, not all teachers are predisposed to teaching under the changing conditions of some innovations.

  • Which students appear to be a good fit for your innovative program or practice?
  • What supports might they need to ensure their success in this approach? Using technology for social media is not the same as using technology for long term learning!
  • How and when will you monitor these students’ progress and success? The reports provided by a learning management system by student and by groups may be a critical component to investigate. Does the learning management system give you enough information to fully support students’ learning?
    • What will you do if students experience difficulty or fall behind in their progress? Having a system of intervention and steps that are clearly understood by teachers, students and parents are critical.
    • Which teachers are more likely to be able to support student instruction by acting as a facilitator and co-designer of student instruction? Tech-savvy teachers are not necessarily the best fit. Some blended learning models require teachers to serve in a tutor and small group instructor role. In these student-centered models teachers may need to be able to handle many different levels of instructional support for a content area, and they may need to manage multiple reporting systems to keep tabs on students’ progress.
    • Which leaders are more likely to support a student-centered instructional model? Leaders will need to think adaptively about student and teacher expectations, teacher evaluation, student progress and completion. Leaders may need to develop different communication channels and support for parents.

 

How will you know if you are making progress and improving student success?

Monitoring your efforts and measuring your results doesn’t happen unless you plan it! A simple set of expected changes and ways to measure or document those changes can make the difference between a successful innovation and an innovation that is abandoned at the first signs of difficulty.

Change is difficult for students, teachers, leaders, and parents. Planning for change, communicating about your plan, and monitoring/measuring your implementation and outcomes are time-tested actions for success.

  • What changes do you expect to see in what teachers do to support student learning?
    • How will you know these changes occurred? Observation? Lesson plans? Walk-throughs?
    • How soon and/or how often do you expect to see these changes? How frequently will you monitor and over how long of a time period?
    • What changes do you expect to see in what students do to learn?
      • How will you know these changes occurred? Observation? Will you monitor unit, lesson, and assessment completion on your learning management system?
      • How soon and/or how often do you expect to see these changes? How frequently will you monitor and over how long of a time period?
      • How will you know if changes occurred in students’ behaviors or dispositions for learning? What data will you collect to monitor this?
      • What changes do you expect to see in conditions for learning at the school level? Routines, schedules, etc.
        • How will you know these changes occurred?
        • How soon and/or how often do you expect to see these changes? How frequently will you monitor and over how long of a time period?
        • What changes do you expect to see in parent involvement with your students’ learning?
          • How will you know these changes occurred?
          • How soon and/or how often do you expect to see these changes? How frequently will you monitor and over how long of a time period?

These lessons learned provide four steps to improve your likelihood for success in innovating education in your school or classroom! Think and plan before you innovate to improve fit!

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