How do you Support Teaching and Learning Innovation where you Work? #ELTchat Summary
by Lucy Blakemore
‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ (Albert Einstein)I was pretty excited to see my topic chosen for #ELTchat this week. Learning and teaching innovation is my job and my passion (lucky me!) and it’s incredibly useful to be able to listen in to what teachers all over the world think, if only for an hour. In my experience, teachers are naturally a very innovative bunch, so I was looking forward to hearing how creativity and ideas are captured and supported in different contexts.
I (accidentally) didn’t take part in the chat itself, which turned out well as it meant I couldn’t steer the conversation to fit my assumptions or influence emerging themes. Having pored over the Twitter transcript a couple of times, the summary below attempts to bring together some of the key themes for those interested in exploring more about this fascinating subject.
What does innovation mean for us?
Participants were quick to get to the crux of articulating innovation in ELT – and it’s definitely not just shiny new technology, even if that’s what tends to grab headlines. Definitions were beautifully simple:
‘it’s any novel way of trying to improve methods and outcomes’ @ELTchat
Some pointed out that innovation is always relative, or as @theteacherjames said, ‘What’s innovative in one place is nothing new somewhere else’. Methodologies taken for granted in one context (e.g. the communicative approach, or student-centred learning) may be a revelation for those who have taught or learned in very different environments.
Whatever the context, innovation was considered here from a number of perspectives:
Although the main ELTchat question here was about how innovation is supported, there was naturally some discussion of innovation examples such as digital materials replacing paper, or new approaches to improve student outcomes such as engagement or motivation. There was some frustration with the fact that innovation is too often equated with technology, but also a lot of commentary on innovation approaches in general.
How do you support innovation?
This is where things got really interesting, and this was an ELTchat with much less sharing of links than normal, and a lot of anecdotal exchange about experiences. This might suggest that there’s not a lot of literature out there on supporting innovation in learning and teaching, or least that it’s not at our fingertips in the same way as more ‘tangible’ educational topics are.
@Marisa_C kicked off this section by asking ‘Is there a system to follow – like identify need-try out-evaluate or should we innovate any which way?’ but there didn’t appear to be any single tried-and-tested approach from our tweeters. There were lots of suggestions about what was helpful in supporting innovation, including:
A very common theme was about ‘top-down’ versus ‘bottom-up’ innovation (and support), with a strong sense in the conversation that ‘bottom-up’ (from the teachers) seemed particularly well received in the staffroom:
‘I’ve seen some great ideas presented by colleagues at PD sessions that really convinced others – not imposed from ‘on high’’ @lexicojules
Along similar lines, there was also a lot of positivity about informal innovation and experimentation:
There was of course more detail covered in the chat, from the importance of ‘selling’ innovative ideas to inviting feedback at different stages of innovation and understanding people’s fear of change. Thetranscript is well worth a browse to see more on this.
As always with ELTchat, the debate was varied, vigorous and showed how much enthusiasm there is in the ELT profession for continued self-reflection and innovation. There were no cure-all solutions or simple winning formulas for supporting innovation, but lots of emphasis on the importance of effective communication, and in particular between teaching and management staff.
For those interested in exploring more about innovation in teaching and learning, the links below are a good start both from an educational and more general perspective:
Sir Ken Robinson:
‘Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks’ (Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist)
New to ELTchat?
ELTchat is a freely available social network for ELT professionals offering mutual support and opportunities for Continuous Professional Development. Every Wednesday at 12pm or 21.00pm GMT, ELT teachers from all over the world log into their Twitter account and for one hour hold an online discussion on a topic they have selected. You can find out more here.