- Amanda Lotz, a life sciences teacher at Southside Middle School in New Hampshire, writes for EdSurge that creating a classroom based entirely around learning centers can be effective in engaging hard-to-reach students.
- Lotz set up five learning centers — lab, science skills, reading, technology and a makerspace — that students would explore over a two-week period, alternating each day between exploring a center and participating in direct instruction.
- She has found that this approach, which included the creation of student portfolios and reflections, increased student engagement, helped students take more responsibility for their own work, and allowed them to connect with the learning process on a more personal level.
Because every classroom situation is different, and needs and resources are constantly evolving, teaching often requires innovation and adaption in order to produce good results. Some teachers are less flexible than others, but teachers who have a good track record of success should be encouraged to explore innovative approaches to education. Both students and teachers are bored by education that is stale and stagnant. School leaders can certainly suggest innovative approaches to explore, but since they are on the front lines of education, teachers tend to drive innovation if administrators allow them the opportunity.
In a blog post, Centennial School District (PA) Director of Technology and Innovation AJ Juliani shared his own “10 Commandments of Innovative Teaching.” The chief among these is offering choice to students. “Choice gives students the ability to go above and beyond our curricular limitations…try to give as much choice as possible and watch your students innovate,” Juliani said.
Student-centered learning approaches that give the students power over their own education within reasonable bounds are often more effective in the long run. Students, like adults, desire having a voice and a choice in the educational process. .
While innovation is often touted as a desirable aspect of education, in some ways, high-stakes testing tends to stifle innovation. Teachers fear that new ideas will take time away from exposing students to specific elements of testing by which both the student and teacher are judged. However, any approach to education that excites curiosity, ignites a passion for learning, and engages student attention is sure to pay dividends in the long run. Exposing students to facts and information matters little if no one is listening. But engaged students will keep them learning even when the school day ends.