I saw as a teacher how, if you take that spark of learning that those children have, and ignite it, you can take a child from any background to a lifetime of creativity and accomplishment. ~ Paul Wellstone
Teaching is hard work and it’s essential to support educators, so they can connect with their students and help the students, in turn, connect with what they’re learning. Professional development can and should be a key part of faculty support.
When it comes to innovation in the classroom, the solution is not to require innovation but rather, to encourage it by giving teachers the knowledge and tools they need to do their jobs well. Any school district can achieve this goal by prioritizing professional development. With that in mind, here are seven professional development topics that can encourage innovative teaching.
Table of Contents
- What Role Does Innovation Play in Teaching?
- 7 Professional Development Topics to Encourage Innovation
- Alludo's Take
What Role Does Innovation Play in Teaching?
Let’s start by looking at the role that innovation plays in teaching. Innovation allows teachers to use their knowledge and skills as building blocks to help students learn in new ways – ways that help them connect with what they’re learning. Here are four key ways in which innovative teaching strategies can improve student outcomes:
- Encourages creative thinking. When teachers are given the tools to innovate, students reap the benefits because adapting to any new way of learning requires creative thinking. Not surprisingly, teachers are more likely to get creative when they have the tools to innovate, too.
- Develops problem-solving skills. Learning new things in new ways is a good way to develop students’ problem-solving skills. Creativity and critical thinking should always go together and innovation encourages students to combine new skills and tools to arrive at solutions to any problem they’re facing.
- Incorporates the use of new tools. New tools are not innovative in and of themselves, but using them in the classroom can help both students and teachers. Some innovative classroom solutions incorporate technology and tools, allowing students to learn their uses both in and beyond the classroom.
- Empowers students to learn. When students aren’t enthusiastic about learning, it may be as a result of outdated teaching methods and tools. Teachers who are supported and encouraged to innovate are better able to encourage and empower students, getting them excited about learning.
When teachers are provided with professional development that gives them a choice in what they learn and provides them with new tools and allows them to learn new pedagogies, they’re most likely to innovate in the classroom. New ideas and methods will be there for them to draw on, and their students will benefit.
7 Professional Development Topics to Encourage Innovation
Now that you understand the role that innovation should play in your district’s classrooms, here are seven professional development topics that will ensure that you’re giving teachers what they need to innovate in the classroom.
#1: Classroom Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic and the embrace of distance learning certainly demonstrated how important technology can be in the classroom. However, technology is only as innovative as the ways in which it is used.
Teacher professional development should provide learners with the opportunity to learn how to use new technology and illustrate some of the ways it can be implemented in the classroom. After teachers learn how to use any new technology, the hope is that they will be inspired to introduce their students to it and incorporate it into innovative classroom activities.
#2: Social-Emotional Learning
Social-emotional learning is essential in any classroom and providing teachers with professional development to learn about it is one of the best ways we know to encourage innovation in the classroom. The idea behind SEL is to help teachers connect with their students by meeting them where they are emotionally and socially.
Specific SEL topics can help teachers connect with students who struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It can also help them reach students who have experienced trauma and set and maintain healthy boundaries in the classroom. Innovation as a result of SEL can take many forms and may encourage kids to think outside the box while honoring their emotional needs.
Self-care is essential for everybody. In a professional development framework, teaching self-care can take many forms. The first is helping teachers understand the importance of self-care. Teachers’ jobs can be emotionally exhausting at times and proper self-care can prevent burnout and reduce teacher turnover.
Self-care as a PD topic may also include information for teachers on how to ensure better self-care by and for their students. For example, they can help students recognize the signs of overwhelm and provide them with strategies to cope and rejuvenate. They can also incorporate self-care techniques in the classroom and in lessons.
#4: Play-Based Learning
Play is something that all children do – and all adults should do, at least some of the time. When we play, we use different parts of our brain. Adding a bit of fun to the learning environment can go a long way toward improving student engagement and outcomes, and it takes the burden off teachers, too.
We believe that including courses related to play-based learning is a must. When teachers bring a sense of fun and play to their lessons, students are more likely to participate enthusiastically and remember what they learn. According to a 2019 study published in the Early Childhood Education Journal, play-based learning provides an array of benefits to students. It’s also worth noting that play is often inspired by creativity, so it stands to reason that making play-based learning a topic of PD would inspire teachers to be more innovative in the classroom.
#5: Partnering with Parents
Parent relationships are just as important an element of social emotional learning as teachers’ relationships with students. Teachers may sometimes struggle to develop strong partnerships with parents, yet doing so can help them better understand and connect with their students.
Professional development courses can focus on how to connect with parents, solicit their feedback and help, and coordinate for the benefit of students. When teachers and parents work together, innovation is likely to follow.
#6: Gamified Learning
The Alludo PD platform is built around gamified learning, so it should come as no surprise that we’re big fans of gamification. Teachers can learn about gamification strategies and experience gamification first-hand to get an idea of how beneficial it can be in their teaching practice.
For the best results, we suggest using a gamified system of professional development and giving teachers the instruction and tools they need to incorporate gamification with their students. Students love games and using them to teach can help increase student engagement and knowledge retention.
#7: Summer Learning Strategies
Teachers everywhere dread the so-called “summer slide,” where students forget much of what they learned over the summer break and struggle when they return to school. Teachers can and do combat the slide but they need proper instruction and tools to encourage them to arrive at creative solutions for student learning.
For true innovation, teachers at different grade levels as well as administrators will need to collaborate. The best summer learning strategies provide something interesting and fun for students to do. Teacher-innovators can arrive at solutions that don’t feel like summer homework while still setting students up for success in the fall.
At Alludo, it’s our goal to give teachers the support, instruction, and tools they need to become true innovators in the classroom. We do it by providing a wide array of PD topics and teaching resources that school districts and teachers can mix and match to get what they need to connect with students and improve outcomes.
Here are five elements of Alludo’s platform that support and encourage faculty development and innovative teaching:
- Teacher voice and choice. Teachers are most likely to innovate when they can self-direct some of their PD and choose topics that are directly relevant to them and their students.
- Relevance and efficiency. We strive to provide topics that are relevant to teachers and courses that are easy to complete. The combination of relevance and efficiency gives teachers time to think about which teaching strategies and innovations will be most effective.
- Microlearning activities. Microlearning activities are quick and easy to complete, allowing teachers to incorporate PD into their daily lives without disrupting their routines.
- Gamified learning. Gamification encourages teacher participation and fosters healthy competition. It also makes learning fun, and as we have already noted, fun and innovation go hand in hand.
- Collaboration. When teachers collaborate and talk about their challenges in the classroom, innovation is a likely result.
We collaborate with school districts around the country to develop custom professional learning environments that support teachers and encourage innovation at every level.
Is Your Professional Development Program Encouraging Teacher Innovation?
Innovation is most likely to happen when teachers feel that their needs are being met and their feedback is encouraged. The Alludo platform encourages teacher feedback and collaboration, makes learning fun, and provides teachers with the tools and strategies they need to innovate in the classroom.
Are you ready to take your district’s innovation to the next level? Click here to schedule a demo of Alludo’s PD platform and content catalog today.
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