Round table: Building innovative learning environments.
Chairs: M. Carme Armengol, professor, Departament of Applied Pedagogy, UAB.
How are these innovative learning environments? What needs do they fill? Why are they innovative? What can be learnt from them?
Ramon Barlam, coordinator of Projecte Espurna, ICE-UAB
4 dimensions of educational innovation:
- Person: projects addressed to the individual.
- Group: projects addressed to groupbuilding.
- Centre: projects designed at the educational centre level.
When working in a network:
- it is mandatory to adapt the activities to the needs of everyone;
- sometimes adding is better than multiplying;
- consider new tools; consider emergent methodologies;
- vindicate the professionalization of innovation.
- consider innovation that is sustainable, and not necessarily state-of-the-art.
Roser Argemí, coordinator of the Magnet Programme, Alliances for educational success, Fundació Jaume Bofill.
The Magnet Programme is aimed at fighting imbalances within the educational system, identifying school segregation and, thus, improve its its quality and the success of schooling.
In the Magnet Programme, an educational centre partners with a referent organization to transform the centre and improve the perception of quality and approval of the centre so that families increase their attachment to it.
One of the main assets of the programme is that it gathers different types of people so that they can work together.
The programme heavily relies on a strong leader, but also on an engaged team, aware of the big challenges that their (“segregated”) centre faces, but positive on the possibilities of change. The key to success in innovation is collaborative work, communities of practice, engagement in everyone’s work.
Another requisite for such a project to have success is a certain degree of stability, especially stability of the components of the team, as its results only come in the medium term.
A (still) open question is whether quality and equity can happen together and not as a trade-off.
Carme Oriol, head of studies of Joan Maragall School from the Schools that Learn Network, ICE-UAB.
Did we innovate? If yes, why did we do that? We surely innovate to survive: standing still, sitting on a fence was not an option in a changing world. The school has always felt isolated: it lies 4km away from the urban area; it belongs to a marginalized quarter from the city; it has little relationship with parents, as students take the bus to the centre [note: not usual for urban schools in Spain]. The group of students is highly heterogeneous, with many different origins and mother languages. In his scenario, the traditional way of teaching just did not work.
So, what comes first is reflecting about the issues and getting some (or a lot of) training, to find out new ways to face the new challenges. Then comes imagining what tools will be required to go on with actual action. But how to maintain continuity and coherence of the actions undertaken? Or, on the contrary, how to prevent
accelerated activism? There is a need for creating a trust chain and to organize environments that enable reflection, sharing knowledge, training.
Q: how should organizational structures of the organizations be like to be able to implement such innovation projects. Carme Oriol: maybe the newest factor is creating environments where information flows in, reflection and learning happens, and decisions and priorities are made based on evidence. More than focussing on hierarchies and making direct decisions, the organization should aim at making debate happen so that everyone can make their own decisions.
Q: in the Magnet Project, what happens after the 4 years that the project usually lasts? Roser Argemí: it is obvious that after 4 years the centres and their environment will not be radically transformed. The focus of the project is changing the inner structure of the centre so that, when the project is officially over, it actually lasts grounded on the organizational change that the centre underwent.
Q: will the “normal” school ever innovate and transform itself? Ramon Barlam: the most difficult thing is maintaining the pace of innovation. And the problem is not usually the inner structure, but the educational, social and regulatory environment. This is especially relevant in secondary education. The dimension of the centre is, nowadays, the one that causes most failures.
- Innovar en 4D, by Ramon Barlam.