Schooling Redesigned. Towards Innovative Learning Systems


Work data:

ISBN: 978-92-64-24591-4

Type of work: Report


Education | Innovation




What does redesigning schools and schooling through innovation mean in practice? How might it be brought about? These questions have inspired an influential international reflection on "Innovative Learning Environments" (ILE) led by the OECD. This reflection has already resulted in publications on core design principles and frameworks and on learning leadership. Now the focus extends from exceptional examples towards wider initiatives and system transformation. The report draws as core material on analyses of initiatives specially submitted by some 25 countries, regions and networks. It describes common strengths around a series of Cs: Culture change, Clarifying focus, Capacity creation, Collaboration & Co-operation, Communication technologies & platforms, and Change agents. It suggests that growing innovative learning at scale needs approaches rooted in the complexity of 21st century society and "learning eco-systems". It argues that a flourishing middle level of change around networks and learning communities provides the platform on which broader transformation can be built.

This report is not a compendium of "best practices" but a succinct analysis presenting original concepts and approaches, illustrated by concrete cases from around the world. It will be especially useful for those designing, researching or engaging in educational change, whether in schools, policy, communities or wider networks.

"The OECD’s ILE work has mobilised and generated profoundly important knowledge about the nature of learning and opened understandings of learning environments within and beyond school. The ILE Framework has already proved to be an invaluable tool for the emerging future of learning leadership and systems development."

Professor Michael Schratz, Dean, School of Education, University of Innsbruck, Austria; President of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI)

"Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of learning. Schooling Redesigned summarises beautifully one of the OECD's most fascinating projects - an attempt to look at the DNA of innovation in schools. Using a global range of actual examples it describes the conditions that education systems have to create if children and their parents, teachers and communities are to feel confident and optimistic about the future. For teachers, the messages are inspiring. Education systems have to focus on enhancing teachers' capacity and motivation. Standardisation cannot do that. Its messages to the profession and its organisations are profound. Teacher unions are, can and should be at the centre of creating the conditions for innovation."


From p.12:

In its third strand on “Implementation and Change”, the ILE study invited systems to participate through submitting particular strategies or initiatives for innovating learning beyond single schools or organisations. The design features running through them can be summarised as a series of “Cs”:

  • Culture change: Several of the strategies emphasise the importance of creating culture change in schools as more important than surface change but also much more difficult to realise.
  • Clarifying focus: Clear focus and prioritising are essential, as trying to cover everything all at once risks disjointed diffusion of effort and of missing all targets in the process.
  • Capacity creation – knowledge and professional learning: A common cornerstone is the need to generate knowledge about the learning that is taking place, and for that knowledge to be acted upon. This means widespread professional learning and thereby capacity creation.
  • Collaboration and co-operation: Collaborative professionalism is assumed in many of the strategies just as networks and professional learning communities are based on collaboration and co-operation.
  • Communication technologies and platforms: Platforms and digital communications have become a prominent part of strategies to grow and sustain innovative learning environments.
  • Change agents: A number of the strategies involve the creation of specific change agents; they may be supported by specialist institutes as well.

From p.12-13:

When these are in place, a meta learning eco-system that has thoroughly integrated the ILE framework will have:

  • high learning activity and motivation levels, with prominent learner agency and voice
  • educators who are active, collaborating and highly knowledgeable about learning
  • a rich mix and diversity of pedagogical practices with highly visible personalised approaches, active pedagogies and formative assessment
  • extensive inter-disciplinarity, curriculum development and new learning materials
  • widespread innovative applications of digital resources and social media
  • cultures of using learning evidence and evaluation, including sophisticated information systems
  • flourishing new evaluation and assessment metrics
  • highly visible, diverse partners involved in education
  • a thriving, vibrant meso level
  • dense global connections well beyond traditional system and geographical boundaries.

From OECD (2015) Schooling Redesigned. Towards Innovative Learning Systems, p.18-19.

The Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) “Learning Principles”:

The research-based learning principles state that, in order to be most effective, schools and other learning environments should attend to all of the following design principles:

  • Learning Principle One: Make learning central, encourage engagement, and be where learners come to understand themselves as learners.
  • Learning Principle Two: Ensure that learning is social and often collaborative.
  • Learning Principle Three: Be highly attuned to learners’ motivations and the importance of emotions.
  • Learning Principle Four: Be acutely sensitive to individual differences including in prior knowledge.
  • Learning Principle Five: Be demanding for each learner but without excessive overload.
  • Learning Principle Six: Use assessments consistent with these aims, with strong emphasis on formative feedback.
  • Learning Principle Seven: Promote horizontal connectedness across learning activities and subjects, in and out-of-school.

The follow-up ILE report Innovative Learning Environments (2013) maintained the learning principles as fundamental to all activities and organisation but then added three more dimensions to optimise the conditions for putting the principles into practice:

  • Innovate the pedagogical core. This is about ensuring that the core aims, practices and dynamics are innovated to match the ambition of the learning principles. It is about innovating both the core elements (learners, educators, content and learning resources) and the dynamics that connect those elements (pedagogy and formative evaluation, use of time, and the organisation of educators and learners).
  • Become “formative organisations” with strong learning leadership. Learning environments and systems do not just change by themselves but need strong design with vision and strategies. To be firmly focused on learning such leadership needs to be constantly informed by selfreview and evidence on learning achieved
  • Open up to partnerships. This recognises that isolation within a world of complex learning systems is to seriously limit potential. A powerful learning environment and learning system will constantly be creating synergies and finding new ways to enhance professional, social and cultural capital with others. They will do this with families and communities, higher education, cultural institutions, businesses, and especially other schools and learning environments.

Extending the ILE learning architecture.

The above ILE framework is “institution-neutral” as the learning environment as we have defined it may be found in a wide variety of different institutional forms. But in describing the architecture of learning eco-systems, we need to be able to distinguish different organisational arrangements and characterise the kind of learning system it is. This report extends the ILE framework to embrace the nature of networks and strategies at the meso level.

  • Learning focused: How learning focused is the network, and how far focused on innovative learning as defined in ILE work through the seven principles? This is about aims and the centrality of learning. The strategies and initiatives submitted to the ILE study by definition are already biased towards growing innovative learning but many different approaches can be seen. Several of the networked initiatives stand out by giving importance to scanning and identifying the learning challenge at the outset, rather than this being taken as known. They tend to privilege the role played by learners and their families in this process and adopt variants around 21st century competences to define their learning aims. But some also emphasise knowledge of traditional cultural values.
  • Balance of formal and non-formal: How much in evidence are non-formal learning providers, whether as alternatives to or in mixed combinations with schools? How networked are formal learning environments in non-formal ways? At one end of the spectrum are the formal clusters of schools. Less formal is when different schools or communities of practice come together in voluntary ways. There may be purely non-formal bodies or initiatives not operating through school institutions at all. Mapping all the different elements of the meta learning system means to capture its horizontality as well as the basic vertical structures of the school system.
  • The means of innovation “contagion”: How do the meso strategies and networks actually spread learning innovation? This is about the nature of the connections for diffusion within networked learning systems. The featured strategies rely on a wide variety of different methods to connect and diffuse innovation. One problem to be encountered is when strategies become “victims of their own success” and the desired volume of exchange outstrips capacity.

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