How do teachers best decide which learning and teaching innovations to pursue?

We at New Era believe technology is increasingly driving many innovative educational opportunities. But are they all good innovations? How do schools decide which ones to pursue?

New Era is proudly sponsoring the upcoming education conference IOI Weekend Melbourne. IOI Weekend is an intensive hands on workshop over an entire weekend where educators learn how to design innovative learning and teaching models that maximise pedagogical capacity, effectiveness, and quality.

The following blog post is from one of the weekends organisers, Richard Olsen.

One of the biggest challenges for teacher innovators is deciding which compelling opportunities to pursue.

For some the low hanging fruit, the opportunities that present quick, relatively easy wins are the most appealing. A decision to pursue the quick win of low hanging fruit often arises from a need to bring others on side, to prove to them the importance of pursuing innovation. Quick wins are quick wins, because they usually don’t need much effort to convince others that they will lead to benefits for student learning, they’re also quick wins because they’re almost certainly guaranteed to work. Of course, focussing on the quick wins can be counter productive in the long term, especially if the focus is solely on pleasing school leaders and other teachers rather than increasing student learning outcomes.

Still the question must be asked, if you’re not focussed on quick wins, how do you decide what learning and teaching innovations to pursue? Given the never ending invention of new technologies, new apps, and new websites, not to mention the different learning and teaching approaches… challenge-based learning, project-based learning, problem based learning, game based learning, this and that based learning (there is even zombie based learning, look it up) how do teachers make the best decisions about which innovations to pursue?

Lately, I’ve been increasingly seeing the usefulness of teacher innovators developing an innovation thesis. Borrowed from Trevor Owens and Obie Fernandez’s book The Lean Enterprise, an innovation thesis is a short statement describing the types innovations that a teacher innovator recognises as worth pursuing.

Great, but how do teacher innovators write an innovation thesis?

The answer lies in our definition of pedagogical quality, a definition of pedagogical quality that is unique to our individual setting. If our definition of pedagogical quality is appropriate of understanding and measuring the impact of learning and teaching, then by implication it is also useful for setting the scope for learning and teaching innovation. Basing your innovation thesis on your definition of quality pedagogy also makes it very easy to articulate the importance and power of the innovation.

If you haven’t read the post on Defining Pedagogical Quality, now is a good time to do so.

A good innovation thesis therefore considers the four dimensions of pedagogical quality, educational goals, teacher role and moral purpose, student needs, and compelling opportunities. A bad innovation thesis is usually bad because it doesn’t consider all four dimensions. A bad innovation thesis, for example, might focus solely on the compelling opportunity such as a new technological device without considering how it fits with the educational goals, teacher role, or student needs. A bad innovation thesis might focus solely on the educational goal without considering the impact on students and teachers.

Once teacher innovators have developed a clear and concise innovation thesis, deciding on which innovation opportunities to explore and pursue becomes much easier as they can use their thesis to evaluate the merit of new technologies, new learning and teaching approaches, and other innovations.

Of course, this approach to evaluating innovation opportunities should still have flexibility. If a compelling opportunity outside the scope of the innovation thesis presents itself, you should still go for it. However, if this is happening too often your innovation thesis probably needs re-evaluating.

Teams at the IOI Weekend will create their own innovation thesis which they will use to guide their innovation across the weekend.

We’re offering a $15 discount up until April 30th, use the discount code vicpln on the ticket purchasing page here, this link applies the discount automatically. If you need a purchase order for your school email Lou Bowe at


Photo credit: Directions taken by Peat Bakke CC By 2.0

Richard Olsen