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Table of contents

Educational innovations emerge in various areas and in many forms. There are innovations in instructional techniques or delivery systems, such as the use of new technologies in the classroom. There are innovations in the way teachers are recruited, and prepared, and compensated. Innovation can be directed toward progress in one, several, or all aspects of the educational system: theory and practice, curriculum, teaching and learning, policy, technology, institutions and administration, institutional culture, and teacher education.

It can be applied in any aspect of education that can make a positive impact on learning and learners. In a similar way, educational innovation concerns all stakeholders: the learner, parents, teacher, educational administrators, researchers, and policy makers and requires their active involvement and support.

When considering the learners, we think of studying cognitive processes taking place in the the brain during learning — identifying and developing abilities, skills, and competencies. These include improving attitudes, dispositions, behaviors, motivation, self-assessment, self-efficacy, autonomy, as well as communication, collaboration, engagement, and learning productivity.

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To raise the quality of teaching, we want to enhance teacher education, professional development, and life-long learning to include attitudes, dispositions, teaching style, motivation, skills, competencies, self-assessment, self-efficacy, creativity, responsibility, autonomy to teach, capacity to innovate, freedom from administrative pressure, best conditions of work, and public sustenance.

As such, we expect educational institutions to provide an optimal academic environment, as well as materials and conditions for achieving excellence of the learning outcomes for every student program content, course format, institutional culture, research, funding, resources, infrastructure, administration, and support. Education is nourished by society and, in turn, nourishes society.

The national educational system relies on the dedication and responsibility of all society for its effective functioning, thus parental involvement, together with strong community and society backing, are crucial for success. A national education system is commonly the product of a distinctive set of historical, political, social, cultural, and economic effects. As it is a complete system, its different areas are not only interrelated and interdependent but act together.

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Subsequently, any change in one of them may generate a change in others. Though these innovations left a significant mark on education, which of them helped improve productivity and quality of learning? Under NCLB, we placed too much focus on accountability and assessment and lost sight of many other critical aspects of education. In drawing too much attention to technology innovations, we may neglect teachers and learners in the process. Reforming higher education without reforming secondary education is futile. Trying to change education while leaving disfunctional societal and cultural mechanisms intact is doomed.

Many of us educators naively believe grand reforms or powerful technologies will transform our education system. Did we not expect NCLB to change our schools for the better? Did we not hope that new information technologies would make education more effective and relieve teachers from tedious labor? However, again and again we realize that neither loud reforms nor wondrous technology will do the hard work demanded of teachers and learners.

Innovations can be categorized as evolutionary or revolutionary Osolind, , sustaining or disruptive Christensen and Overdorf, ; Yu and Hang, Sustaining innovation perpetuates the current dimensions of performance e. Innovations can also be tangible e.


Evolutionary and revolutionary innovations seem to have the same connotation as sustaining and disruptive innovations, respectively. When various innovations are being introduced in the conventional course of study, for instance Universal Design of Learning Meyer et al. This is an evolutionary change. It partially improves the existing instructional approach to result in better learning.

Such learning methods as inquiry based, problem based, case study, and collaborative and small group are evolutionary innovations because they change the way students learn. Applying educational technology ET in a conventional classroom using an overhead projector, video, or iPad, are evolutionary, sustaining innovations because they change only certain aspects of learning. National educational reforms, however, are always intended to be revolutionary innovations as they are aimed at complete system renovation.

This is also true for online learning because it produces a systemic change that drastically transforms the structure, format, and methods of teaching and learning. Along with types of innovation, the degree of impact can be identified on the following three levels: Adjustment or upgrading of the process: innovation can occur in daily performance and be seen as a way to make our job easier, more effective, more appealing, or less stressful. This kind of innovation, however, should be considered an improvement rather than innovation because it does not produce a new method or tool.

The term innovative, in keeping with the dictionary definition, applies only to something new and different, not just better, and it must be useful Okpara, The distinction between innovation and improvement is in novelty and originality, as well as in the significance of impact and scale of change. Modification of the process: innovation that significantly alters the process, performance, or quality of an existing product e. Transformation of the system: dramatic conversion e. Bologna process; Common Core; fully automated educational systems; autonomous or self-directed learning; online, networked, and mobile learning.

First-level innovations with a small i make reasonable improvements and are important ingredients of everyday life and work. They should be unequivocally enhanced, supported, and used.

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But we are more concerned with innovations of the third level with a capital I , which are both breakthrough and disruptive and can potentially make a revolutionary, systemic change. Innovation can be assessed by its novely, originality, and potential effect. As inventing is typically a time-consuming and cost-demanding experience, it is critical to calculate short-term and long-term expenses and consequences of an invention.

In education, we can estimate the effect of innovation via learning outcomes or exam results, teacher formative and summative, formal and informal assessments, and student self-assessment. Innovation can also be computed using such factors as productivity more learning outcomes in a given time , time efficiency shorter time on studying the same material , or cost efficiency less expense per student data.

Other evaluations can include the school academic data, college admissions and employment rate of school graduates, their work productivity and career growth. This gradation correlates with the three levels of innovation described above: adjustment, modification, and transformation.

To make a marked difference, educational innovation must be scalable and spread across the system or wide territory. Along with scale, the speed of adoption or diffusion, and cost are critical for maximizing the effect of innovation. Innovations are nowadays measured and compared internationally. This report singled out the use of student assessments for monitoring progress over time as the top organizational innovation, and the requirement that students were to explain and elaborate on their answers during science lessons as the top pedagogic innovation in the USA.

Overall, the list of innovations selected by OECD was disappointingly unimpressive. Innovations usually originate either from the bottom of the society individual inventors or small teams — bottom-up or grass root approach, or from the top business or government — top-down or administrative approach. Sometimes, innovations coming from the top get stalled on their way to the bottom if they do not accomplish their goal and are not appreciated or supported by the public.

Should they rise from the bottom, they may get stuck on the road to the top if they are misunderstood or found impractical or unpopular. They can also stop in the middle if there is no public, political, or administrative or financial backing.

Thus, innovations that start at the bottom, however good they are, may suffer too many roadblocks to be able to spread and be adopted on a large scale. Consequently, it is up to politicians, administrators, and society to drive or stifle the change. Education reforms have always been top-down and, as they near the bottom, typically become diverted, diluted, lose strength, or get rejected as ineffective or erroneous. Innovations enriching education can be homegrown come from within the system or be imported originate from outside education. Examples of imported innovations that result from revolution, trend, or new idea include the information technology revolution, social media, medical developments MRI , and cognitive psychology.

Innovations can also be borrowed from superior international theories and practices see Globalization of Education chapter. National reform may also be a route to innovation, for instance when a government decides to completely revamp the system via a national reform, or when an entire society embarks on a new road, as has happened recently in Singapore, South Korea, and Finland. In the first case, we can have a wide variety of ideas flowing around; in the second, we observe a ubiquitous spread of educational technologies across educational system at all levels; in the third, we witness a growth of non-public institutions, such as private and charter schools and private universities.

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Innovation in any area or aspect can make a change in education in a variety of ways. Ultimately, however, innovations are about quality and productivity of learning this does not mean we can forget about moral development, which prepares young people for life, work, and citizenship Camins, Every innovation must be tested for its potential efficiency. The roots of learning efficiency lie, however, not only in innovative technologies or teaching alone but even more in uncovering potential capacities for learning in our students, their intellectual, emotional, and psychological spheres.

Yet, while innovations in economics, business, technology, and engineering are always connected to the output of the process, innovation in education does not necessarily lead to improving the output i. Test results, degrees, and diplomas do not signify that a student is fully prepared for his or her career.

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Educational research is often disconnected from learning productivity and efficiency, school effectiveness, and quality output. Innovations in educational theories, textbooks, instructional tools, and teaching techniques do not always produce a desired change in the quality of teaching and learning.

What, then, is the problem with our innovations? Why do not we get more concerned with learning productivity and efficiency? As an example, let us look at technology applications in teaching and learning. When analyzing innovations of our time, we cannot fail to see that an overwhelming majority of them are tangible, being either technology tools laptops, iPads, smart phones or technology-based learning systems and materials, e. Technology has always served as both a driving force and instrument of innovation in any area of human activity.

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It is then natural for us to expect that innovations based on ET applications can improve teaching and learning. The rich history of ET innovations is filled with optimism. Just remember when tape recorders, video recorders, TV, educational films, linguaphone classes, overhead projectors, and multimedia first appeared in school. They brought so much excitement and hope into our classrooms!


New presentation formats catered to various learning styles. Visuals brought reality and liveliness into the classrooms. Information and computer technology ICT offered more ways to retrieve information and develop skills.