Finding ways to bring constructive, progressive change to your school or college can be crucial to its success. From looking at SEO for colleges to ensuring your website is representative of your institution, the most important place to start changing your school or college is through innovation in the classroom. Changing things for the better is vital for improving results and helping pupils remember the things they’ve learned, not just one week later, but years later. In this article, we are going to look at what it means to be innovative in the classroom, as well as some examples of innovation in teaching and learning.
What is innovation in teaching and learning?
An innovation is an idea that creates change. Within the context of teaching and learning, it is a new pedagogical technique, tool or strategy that improves learning. This could be as simple as the application of an existing strategy in a new context, or the creation of something new that becomes commonplace because it increases engagement, improves pupil retention and improves a teacher’s efficiency.
What are some examples of innovation in teaching and learning?
While metacognition means ‘thinking about thinking’, in teaching and learning, it is about making students aware of how they got to the answer, how they learn and giving them the tools to be independent learning.
This then allows them to regulate their thinking and learning. This means they can monitor their learning in a far more effective way and take responsibility for asking questions about topics they struggle with. Metacognitive strategies, including asking questions about pupils’ thought processes and the reasoning behind them, give them the tools they need to understand their own learning, where their strengths and weaknesses lie and what they can do to progress.
2. Technology in the classroom
Technology isn’t just limited to interactive whiteboards and computers. There’s a huge range of technology that can be useful for innovating your classroom, including apps like Kahoot!, which reinforce learning in a fun, engaging way, to visualisers, which let you show students exactly what they need to do to solve the problem.
Finding technological solutions to classroom problems will innovate your teaching, giving pupils a greater chance of truly understanding the topic you are teaching them. With technology becoming an increasingly important part of our everyday lives, it’s vital we can integrate that with our pedagogy, and give students the skills they will need when they move on from the classroom and into the world of work.
Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to revolutionise the classroom, with practical applications across a broad range of subjects. From exploring the past to seeing the impact of science experiments, VR can show students the implications of what they’re learning, and keep them engaged.
Not only is VR a great way to keep pupils engaged, you can also monitor and control the experience, and it’s safer than many of its equivalents, as you don’t even need to leave the classroom.
Beyond the classroom, VR can innovate training outside of school, from on-the-job learning to driving lessons, giving students a chance to try dangerous or complicated techniques in a safe environment. This reduces risks, costs and gives students more confidence in their abilities before trying these techniques in the real world.
3. Hybrid Learning
Hybrid, or blended, learning combines online learning at home with classroom-based techniques. Hybrid learning is a recent innovation that has been pushed to the forefront due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools across the world were shut during national lockdowns.
Upon the return to the classroom, teachers may have had to deal with lessons where some pupils were absent due to self-isolation or classes which are staggered. Hybrid learning strategies allow pupils to stay up to date with topics and take control of their own learning.
Hybrid learning doesn’t just mean moving the classroom to Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or even giving a lesson and setting lots of homework to be down online, however. It means you can be creative with online resources and the structure of your lessons. This could mean reversing it so that the homework is the explanation, and classroom activities are focused on practice. Hybrid learning is what you make of it, and you can tailor that to your classroom and classes in creative, imaginative and innovative ways.
4. Reverse classroom roles
Giving pupils an opportunity to be the teacher – whether to the whole class or smaller groups – is a great way to bring innovation into your classroom. You may find that pupils explain things to each other in ways you wouldn’t have considered – perhaps they use analogies that you hadn’t thought of.
This also gives the additional benefit of letting pupils correct each other in a safe space, a vital part of learning. Being able to make mistakes and learn from them is crucial to any student’s development. Flipping classroom roles allows you as a teacher to see what kind of misconceptions your pupils might have, and where they might all be stuck. This lets you correct them, and help them understand where the problem was.
An additional advantage of this comes from giving pupils control and input in their learning. It also means that you’re not spending the whole lesson in front of your pupils and lecturing them, which can mean that they learn nothing due to not being engaged in the lesson.
5. Cross-curricular communication
There are a lot of different styles of teaching that try and implement cross-curricular learning, such as Project-Based Learning. Even if you don’t teach with those techniques, bringing other subjects into your classroom can reinforce the importance of making links and show your pupils that no one subject is more important than any other subject.
It also helps with dealing with any questions about where pupils might use your subject in the future, as they’ll be able to see applications of it beyond the obvious right from the beginning.
Learning to make these links can also help pupils to think critically about what they’re learning, and knowing how to apply both the skills and the knowledge will help them in all their subjects. You might also find that if they know the applications of a subject they’re less enthusiastic about to one they love, they may engage more in the subject they enjoy less.
Gamification is primarily a way of increasing engagement in teaching and learning, but it also opens a door to the innovation of teaching as a whole. Early years pupils in many schools and curriculums already follow paths that encourage learning through play, and gamification can take this concept to the next level.
Regardless of the subject or age group you teach, games that students enjoy will not only keep them engaged but help them with the retention of knowledge. When it comes to softer skills, games can also improve communication and cooperation, building students into well-rounded individuals.
Gamification is innovative in that it gives motivation to those students who don’t necessarily value learning for the sake of learning. Often competition and games give people a positive feeling associated with the activity, thus associating learning with games and that positive feeling. This means that students will care more about learning and look forward to it.
Education is a vital part of our society, and making sure that our teachers are challenging their pupils and themselves is key to innovating and improving education. While gamification, cross-curricular activities, metacognition, technology and reversing the classroom roles are all excellent examples of innovation in teaching and learning, innovation in your classroom or school might not include these things.
Innovating your teaching and your pupils’ learning is dependent on your school, your pupils and yourself. Reflect on your practice, think of new ways to improve your teaching methods and pay attention to the needs of your pupils. Innovate in your classroom first, experiment and see what works. Once you have done that, you can innovate the whole field of education.