Finding Time To Innovate

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
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Are you too busy to innovate?

I hate the word busy, but for the purpose of this blog I will run with it. I believe that you are too busy not to innovate and that innovation in the classroom will be the key to solving your busy life.

Innovation. What does that word mean to you? Have you been innovative before, or maybe never before? Innovating is all about making changes, changes in the established parts of our lives. It’s about new methods, new approaches and new ideas. As teachers we can easily avoid such things.

We can get comfortable, stagnant and reluctant to change. And that’s when we get busy. The old way of doing something isn’t necessarily the best or the most efficient. So you need to innovate.

Teacher As Transformer

Innovation is a rather grand word and can be seen as something that is reserved for the great business minds in the worlds. But we all have the power to come up with new ideas and approaches. Let me help you look at how.

1. Identify

The first thing you need to do is work out what areas of your teaching need a dose of innovation. It might be the things that you find hardest or the most time consuming. It might be the areas of your job that you find the most annoying or frustrating. You need to innovate in those areas.

Have you considered your approach to planning and marking and considered if you need some fresh ideas? I would recommend reading Mark, Plan, Teach for some excellent tips on marking. It also includes planning which is another area that might benefit from innovations.

2. Unpack

Once identified, those areas need to become your focus for a couple of weeks in order to really unpack the key issues. You can’t dive into a new approach without really considering the issues.

Some ideas will work well and others won’t. Keep an eye on the learners in front of you and keep a check that the innovations are having a positive effect on your own well being. There is no point trying something new for the sake of it.

3. Believe

Then you need to believe in your new approach and keep going until it is habit and until it has had the desired impact. It might take a while for the students to adapt and you might need ideas to settle in. But give them time and they will. If not, then re-innovate!

Teacher As Change Agent

One innovation that has worked for me this term is linked to getting students to be more metacognitive. I am Director of Music for a group of schools and so I have a very full schedule. What I need from my students is for them to “Think about their Thinking”, they need to be more Metacognitive.

It occurred to me that I can often talk too much in lessons and I need to hand the learning over to the students more. If they can cover more in the lessons then we can make more efficient progress over time.

I have been reading a fantastic book on the topic of metacognition and it has really helped me with this innovation. Has it worked? Yes it has. Students are now more aware of the term ‘metacognition‘ and they are starting to think more about what they need for their own learning.

Another approach is to speak to the students and ask them where they feel innovation needs to take place. Is there a process that isn’t working, or taking too long. Would they appreciate a new strategy for marking and feedback?

You just get your students to think about where they need to innovate in their own practise. What isn’t working for them and where can they make changes that lead to progress.

Students are busy and they need to be constantly reviewing their work load and their behaviours for learning. Metacognition is an important area to develop with students and as mentioned above it is something that can really change the way they learn.

So if you are feeling too busy then you have no choice but to innovate and change something. It isn’t always about giving something up but it can be about changing your practise and changing the way your students work.

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