Derrick Willard writes:
I am not convinced that traditional schools are the environment in which innovations arise. Why?
One reason schools do not serve as hotbeds of innovation was made event by Josie Holford, Headmaster of Poughkeepsie Day School. Schools are conservative institutions- we tend to teach methods that have worked well in the past.
I agree that K-12 schools are conservative institutions; they need to be in order to provide stability and consistency to their students and families. I would, however, modify the explanation that follows: “We tend to teach methods that have worked well for us when we were students.” Teachers tend to default to the way they learn/-ed best, and it takes some combination of experience, reflection, feedback, and professional development to recognize it first and then adapt to newer and different strategies.
Do schools innovate? Yes, however in my limited experience and observation, I find isolated examples of innovative teachers or innovative classrooms within institutions rather than innovative schools. Independent schools need to clearly define what innovative teaching looks like in their environment and then align their evaluation system and use of professional development funds accordingly. In addition to the Portrait of an ACDS Graduate, the All-School Steering Committee also developed another document last spring: Characteristics of Professional Excellence. We still have a lot of work to do before I would identify us as an innovative school, however we have taken the first step, and our Curriculum Committee is now working on developing a teacher evaluation system that aligns feedback with this document. As Assistant Head, one of my responsibilities is overseeing the professional development budget and I am trying to be more discerning of the opportunities I share with my faculty to ensure that our funds and time are used to gain maximum benefit for our institutional goals.
Please share in the comments if your school has also taken such a step and defined innovative teaching!