Why Innovation Matters in Education?

“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”William Butler Yeats

Being in education stream for more than 20 years, teaching and learning has been very close to my heart. Over the years, what I have observed is that being open to new ideas, being flexible and innovative in one’s approach not only helps in enriching the students learning experience but  also enhances the teaching experience.

Often educators ask; Why innovate? When the traditional way of teaching and learning has been going on so well, giving good results? Well, to share some examples; Amazon with its unique concept of online selling of books brought the shutters down on number of book stores in USA.Dominos brought the demise of number of pizza parlors,whose managers thought they could continue doing what they had been doing for years. Or, Dainik Bhaskar ,a vernacular state based newspaper, went on to become the third largest newspaper in the world in terms of circulation just by challenging the conventional way of doing business. So the underlying theme is either innovate, master the art of change and continuous improvement or become extinct. And, this is applicable to all industries including education.

The traditional way of teaching across the globe has been the chalk and the board one where teacher is the source of information. However,a growing body of research over the years has shown that this is not the most effective method. What is required is an innovative approach in teaching, learning and assessment. Innovation is not creating something new but doing things a new way. It involves improving the existing teaching and learning process to make it more effective for both student and teacher .

Innovation in education happens when educators design the learning experiences around the five components; making the topic real, relevant, interesting, student-centric and personalized. It is important to relate course material to real life situation. When students relate to a topic, they recognize its importance and are more interested in learning about it. Our teaching strategies should consider that no two students and no two subjects are alike and therefore, need to incorporate an expansive range of academic methods, approaches, and experiences. Whether we consider the Learning pyramid model or Harvard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory or Blooms taxonomy all highlight the importance of using  variety of instructional strategies, learning activities and ways of assessing students .Teachers, rather than focusing on blanket strategy should present the same information in several modes (lecture, reading, audiovisual materials,  hands-on activities), give students opportunities to do group work as well as to work alone and provide multiple options for assignments ( written papers, oral reports , videotapes etc ). Change is required in the traditional way of assessing students also. Students need more than the skills to pass the exams  at the end of the academic year. They need an assessment strategy which is, flexible and leads to learning, by providing critical feedback to improve. This would create a learning environment that leads to success and impact.

The new education policy of India, appreciating the importance of innovation in education  ,proposes to revise and revamp all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance, to create a new system so that India as a nation can shift towards “New Age Learning”. It envisages a new system of teaching and learning which would pique the curiosity of students, get them to think and ask questions, actively engage them  in higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation and  make them lifelong learners and  agents of change . The quote by William Butler Yeats : “Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” gives a fitting parallel for the role of innovation in education.

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