• Therese

A temple on sand...

Updated: Jan 7

Evaluation of the outcomes of a digital and collaborative innovation in practice from an educational research perspective

When it came to the deadline, the innovation hadn’t got off the ground, providing very little to evaluate. In my attempt to reconcile this, the following is my reflection.

Osborne (2016) claims “The last decade or so has profoundly disrupted Western education. Changes in society; globalisation; low-cost mobile devices; information storage; retrieval and storage networks; and, advances in our understanding of the way the human brain learns” (p.2). Maybe Osborne can add pandemics to his list of the many factors that have meant that long-established practices in education are coming under increased scrutiny!

The extraordinary events of 2020 certainly had an impact! Since the first Covid lockdown, I was appointed as the Assistant Principal in a special needs school which exposed me to a context that I wasn’t familiar with. It seems the Covid experience magnified what was already happening in our lives. The community grief with the death of two students seemed greater. My husband’s cancer diagnosis, more scary. My teenage son’s decision to leave school because the ball had been cancelled, more valid. This made for an interesting and challenging year!

Was the innovation do-able given these circumstances. Are excuses enough to explain the failure of the innovation or should we discuss the barriers to learning and question what learning in this new millennium is?

Was engagement a barrier?

The more we learn about how the human brain works, the more we focus on a persons’ innate wisdom. The distinction between engagement and willing engagement seems lost among some teachers. If students are willingly engaged in an authentic context, the educator trusts in the wisdom of the learner and guides their curiosity. Learning becomes inevitable and relies on the natural ability to learn, it ignores motivation and manipulation and depends on invitation and inspiration. With less of the controls and familiar resources that school provides, Covid has highlighted just how willingly engaged students are.

Or was it belligerence?

Are we teaching more and more challenging students or are more and more students challenging the way we teach? Increasingly, people need to know the why. People in the industry are quick to say that you must have tasks and assignments, they package them in criteria, mark them accordingly, then dangle a certificate to prove it’s worth, yet people can and do learn without them. With greater emphasis on teacher burnout and mental health, where do tasks and assignments fit in our time-poor workload?

Are competing priorities a barrier?

The barriers to completing the innovation piled up as other priorities interrupted the process. Is delighting in pedagogical discussions with people we learn from and a hunger for finding out, not enough? Must we switch off from what we have left at work and what we arrive to at home, so as to learn?

Is it false beliefs?

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly” OR, “Cs get degrees”. Could I have completed this task and felt pleased with the results knowing that I did it at the expense of the needs of students and whanau? Is “okay” good enough when considering results of innovation and considering the results of an assessment?

“You can’t build a temple on sand” seems a fitting adage. I find myself reflecting on what makes a good foundation for innovation or for learning. Taken from their blog “Boots-on-the-Roof”, Leonard Thorne describes sustainable living practices. It explains that a good foundation must follow several principles.

  • Permanence - Any shift in the environment can weaken the structure making it more inefficient, it needs to be future-proofed.

  • Stability and Cohesion - The foundation must be able to be transferred without breaking or warping under strain.

  • Depth - Careful analysis is important. Interestingly, depth allows bigger and taller buildings to be built to withstand additional elements.

  • Consistency - Foundations must have a rigid base in order to fully support the entire weight of the building, without it, it can weaken the internal structure.

So what?

Educators are charged with highlighting students' actions without judgment so that students can reflect on, and learn from the consequences of them. We assess situations, challenge ideas, and ask questions that help us to understand. By raising awareness we can affect change.

Because schools and universities are synonymous with learning, I find myself lacking. The best way to break down barriers to learning is to figure out who is creating them and why, then ask "now what?" Within the context of this innovation, critical thinking requires me to ask what could have been done differently? Critical reflection requires me to ask what I might do next time. I can only control what I create.


Future Classroom Lab. (n.d.). Tool 5.1 – Classroom pilot and evaluation guide. Retrieved from https://fcl.eun.org/tool5p1

Osborne, M. (2016). Innovative Learning Environments. Core Education Tatai Aho Rau. https://core-ed.org/assets/PDFs/Innovative-Learning-Environments.

Shulman, R. D. (2018, November 20). 10 Ways Educators Can Make Classrooms More Innovative. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robynshulman/2018/11/19/10-ways-educators-can-make-classrooms-more-innovative/?sh=113f09607f87

Thorne, L. (2019, March 28). What Makes a Good, Solid Building Foundation. Boots On the Roof. https://www.bootsontheroof.com/what-are-the-requirements-of-a-good-foundation/

Tiven, M. E., Fuchs, E., Bazari, A., & MacQuarrie, A. (2018). Evaluating global digital education: Student outcomes framework. New York, NY: Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/Evaluating-Global-Digital-Education-Student-Outcomes-Framework.pdf

Victoria State Government. (2007). A “Critical” Reflection Framework. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/childhood/professionals/support/reffram.pdf

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