Innovation pedagogy is accurately depicted by the innovation process presented by the Innokas Network. The process is outlined in the picture below. The process aims at transitioning from teaching mere subject matter to a more active approach and to add to the pupils’ practical skills.
The goal of the innovation process is to move from defining the problem to presenting the potential final solution, the innovation. The iterative nature of the process is a key attribute. Each stage can be revisited, if the problem needs to be redefined, or if more ideas need to be generated, evaluated, and shared with other groups for additional feedback. Below is a short description of the stages of the innovation process.
Innovations are products of a creative process and it is thus vital to establish a creative, allowing atmosphere among the group. For this purpose it is a good idea to warm up in order to prepare for creative activities. When defining the problem, the group may choose an everyday issue from their own lives or the school environment, or they may opt for a much broader topic, such as climate change. To solve the problem it is necessary to generate a vast amount of different ideas, which can then be evaluated and defined according to the factors defining the problem and those restricting its execution.
Developing and testing the idea is an important stage in the process. The best way to test the viability of an idea is to try it out, and develop it further based on the result of the test. If improvements cannot be detected despite efforts made to develop the idea, it is also possible to go back and generate new ideas. Once the group has settled on an idea, it is time to present it to the others and give and receive feedback. Nothing should stop them from developing the idea even further after receiving feedback and seeing other groups’ ideas. Once they have finished developing the idea, the idea is once more edited, refined, and turned into a finished product, ready for testing, examining, and problem-solving. At the end, the final products are presented to the rest of the class.
Example of the Innovation Process
The video clips presented here include a documentary of an Inventions for circular economy in the classroom module carried out by two student teachers in the lower grades. The documentary follows closely one of the groups in the classroom. In this module, using theme-specific warm up exercises to create an atmosphere which allows for relevant invention-making, is of great importance.
It should be noted that the video clips do not depict an example of a model performance. Instead, they are meant to shed light on what working with children might be like during this teaching period. As you watch the videos, observe how circular economic thinking was introduced and how the pupils were supported during idea-generating and inventing.
Getting acquainted with the theme
The filmed module began with a warm-up exercise while slowly introducing the theme of circular economy. Notice, that the teacher students never actually mention the term circular economy, but all actions are in line with the theme.
The teacher hands out a piece of paper with a statement and two possible answers to every group. The group must pick one of the answers and give reasons for why they chose that particular one. During the exercise, the groups are given three different claims that describe situations relating to the transitions of circular economy and ways to solve them
The first statement is the following: “Three people wish to cut their hair. Is it better that they all buy scissors and cut their own hair, or that one of them learns how to cut hair and one pair of scissors is bought for that one person?” The pupils will choose the latter option which consumers less money and only one person has to learn a new skill.
The second statement is the following: “A student falls over in the playground and tears his trousers. Is it better for him to use his allowance to buy a new pair, or to sew and fix the trousers?” The pupils will again choose the latter option, as it makes more sense to mend the existing pair and save materials and money.
The last statement goes like this: “The pupils are bored during school breaks. Is it better to buy everyone their own football or to purchase a few footballs and organise a game that everyone can take part in?” The pupils will again choose the latter option, with similar reasoning as with the previous statements.
The innovation process itself started with another warm-up exercise, where the pupils were guided towards idea-making and inventing by using, for instance, improvisational games. In this particular teaching period, games called The Yes Game, The Mini Invention, and The Liars’ Club were used. It is a good idea to also begin slowly introducing the topic during the warm-up. Here, the student teachers also explained the purpose of each exercise at the end of the warm-up. In cases where the module is spread over a longer period of time, smaller warm-ups can be used to recap the themes studied earlier.
The Yes Game
The teachers use examples to present the Yes Game to the pupils. The game takes two people and it has two phases. In the first phase, the pupils take turns suggesting their partner something to do, to which the partner must always reply “no”. In the second phase, the partners continue suggesting things to do, but the other one must always answer “yes”, and make an additional suggestion.
The pupils found the first phase to be tedious, and thinking of suggestions felt difficult, knowing that their pair would always say no. The second phase, where their pair always said yes, with an additional contribution, they found much more fun. The teacher will then point out that, as in the game, it is generally easier to come up with new ideas, when others are prepared to accept them.
The Mini Invention
Each group is given colourful plastic blocks and they are instructed to develop a game using the blocks in a short span of time. They must also come up with rules for the game that they can explain to another group in a few minutes. In the video, the group begins inventing their game by first using the blocks to build something familiar: a Domino chain and a Jenga tower. Only after this does the group move on to consider possible new games involving building a tower and awarding points to how it looks.
One pupil from each group presents their game to another group. The group in the video is testing a game where the aim is to build a tower using 17 blocks as quickly as possible.
The Liars’ Club
Each group is given an unusual object and a piece of paper describing how is should be used. Their task is to think of new ways to use that object. At the end, the groups presents the object, its original purpose, and new uses to the rest of the class. The class must try and guess which one is the original purpose of the object.
The group in the video is given a bag of seeds that can be heated up in the microwave. The group members come up with these purposes: “old-fashioned travel pillow”, potpourri bag with cinnamon inside”, and “weight bag from a hot air balloon”.
Defining the problem
After warming up, the problem is defined. The problem can be generated by the pupils and can relate to problems in the school or in their day-to-day lives. The teacher can also offer the group a number of problems to choose from. In this module, not much time was spent on defining the problem, as the pupils were directed to look at problems that were already quite carefully defined.
The groups are instructed to write down problems they have noticed during their trips to school, during breaktime, and in the school cafeteria. The first group identifies the following issues: discrimination and bullying during breaktime and bigger pupils pushing the smaller ones when coming back inside. Pushing is identified as a problem also in the cafeteria. They cannot think of a problem occurring during their trips to school but they wonder whether something could come to them later.
Coming up with ideas
The next stage is to come up with as many ideas for solutions to the problem as possible. Coming up with wild ideas is allowed and even encouraged at this point. Using creative problem-solving techniques can be helpful with idea-creation. In this module, the teachers distributed one of the problems invented by the pupils to each group and instructed the children to write their ideas down on post-it notes.
The teachers instruct the pupils to think of solutions for the problems they came up with earlier. These solutions should not use any new objects or items – they must be able to be carried out through simply working together. The teachers use the example problem of “school trips are boring”. All ideas are written down but not evaluated at this point. The teachers also write down the ideas “school trip buddy” and “school trip song”. After the instructions, each one is given their own problems to which they must think of different solutions. The teacher encourages the groups to write down all ideas during idea-generating, even silly-sounding ones.
The group in the video is give this problem: “The school cafeteria is often messy and pupils do not clean up after themselves.” The pupils begin thinking of ideas, and the first idea involves having a lunch supervisor to look on the pupils and ensure that no-one will make a mess in the cafeteria. Some other ideas include: “a lunch rhyme that must always be uttered before being served lunch”, “every pupil cleans up after themselves”, “detention to those who do not clean up”, “ if you do not clean up, you do not get dessert”, “two pupils stay behind to clean up”, “lunch to take place outside where there is no need for cleaning”, and “more homework for those who do not clean”.
Recognising the factors defining the implementation
After collecting as many ideas as possible, the most viable ones are identified. At this stage, goals, skill levels, and available materials and tools are considered. The teacher plays an important part in this, as he/she is best able to decide what is possible, when time and other constraints are taken into account. However, the ideas from the pupils must not be rejected immediately. They can always be developed and refined further, while also bearing in mind the available resources. In this module, the teachers had prepared helpful questions relating to the problem given to them. By answering these questions, the pupils can identify factors that may restrict the execution of the idea. To answer the questions, the pupils got to familiarise themselves with the subject relating to the problem.
The pupils move either to the cafeteria or the breaktime area to observe and identify possible causes for the problems. Each group is given a list of questions to help them observe.
The group in the video talks about the possible causes for the cafeteria often being messy They make the following observations: “some food sometimes falls to the floor when you take some on your plate”, “eating too much too fast”, “speaking with your mouth full”. They also observe whether there are areas that are messier than others and why that might be. They notice that the floor under the counter might be dirty if a plate falls to the floor or a glass tips over. Additionally, they notice that the the area around the tables is messy because the chairs are not being put back in place.
Test and develop
The solution to a problem must always be tested and developed in an iterative manner. One can also go back to generating ideas, if it seems that the idea that was settled on does not work. Nonlinearity is important in this type of work, as it rarely happens that the first idea that arrives is the best and the most viable one. In order to succeed, sufficient time must be allotted for this stage. According to past experience, successful groups tend to start testing and building a prototype at a very early stage. It would be advisable to reach this step by the end of the first lesson. In this particular teaching period, the pupils developed their ideas further using mind maps.
The teachers demonstrate with the help of examples how the ideas can be developed further towards a feasible solution. They use the problem of “school trips are boring” to present two of their best ideas and develop these further using a whiteboard. Their first idea is a game, and they use this opportunity to explain how mind maps can be used to generate ideas. Their other idea is to suggest moving elsewhere. When developing this idea, the teachers demonstrate how running into problems might reveal that the original idea is not viable.
The groups are instructed to select one idea and to develop it further, keeping in mind the factors they observed during the previous lesson in the cafeteria or the breatime area. The group in the video decides to develop the idea of a lunchtime supervisor and to list attributes the supervisor should have. At the end the teacher comes to check how they are getting on, and asks who the supervisor(s) might be.
Modify and implement
Once a solution has been reached and a potential prototype exists, the idea is shared with the rest of the class. Based on the feedback received, more adjustments and test are made. This activity may also be repeated, however the goal is to produce a finished artefact. The artefact is an important, concrete representation of the pupils’ work and efforts. In this teaching period the pupils share their idea with the teacher, who then gives feedback. Finally, the pupils shape and produce a concrete object, which adds an active element to problem-solving.
The group in the video first thinks back on the idea they developed in the previous lesson. The teacher come to ask and to recap their idea of two lunch supervisors in the cafeteria. He or she then asks the pupils to discuss how to select the supervisors and what their tasks would be. The pupils talk about them possibly looking on when the pupils have their lunch and then cleaning up afterwards. They then begin to wonder whether the teacher could function as the only supervisor while watching the pupils, who could take turns cleaning.
They finally settle on the idea of pupils taking turns cleaning the cafeteria. The teacher then asks how the supervisor shifts could be organised. The group decides that the supervisor shifts should be allocated using a wheel-of-fortune type of spinner with everyone’s names on it.
At the end, it is good to present one’s own artefact or product and share one’s know-how with the others. A good potential method in the adjustment stage is to present the products between two groups, and only at the end present to the entire class. It might be worth presenting the inventions to the rest of the school as well. For the presentation, it is a good idea to assign roles for audience members for feedback-giving. In this teaching period the pupils presented to their own class.
The groups take turns presenting their ideas to the rest of the class. The teachers instruct them to include a presentation of the problem as well as a solution. The group from the other videos presents their problem: “The cafeteria is often messy and pupils do not clean up after themselves.” As a solution they present a spinner to be placed in each classroom. The spinner has the names of every student in the class and it may be used to decide the supervisors for each week. The supervisors can be pupils from the 1-4 grades.