Global research into innovative teaching is pinning down the conditions for transformational reform
Cover ITL research reportThe latest findings from international research into innovative learning and teaching with technology from Microsoft's Partners in Learning programme has been welcomed by top education change expert Michael Fullan.

“This latest ITL research is the clearest conceptual and empirical example that I have seen of how technology and pedagogy can be effectively integrated, although it too shows that we have a long way to go," he says.

"ITL Research brings new clarity to reform work that is in early stages in many places, and this clarity can enable an increasingly accelerated pace for subsequent breakthroughs. The path is becoming clearer with dramatically greater potential for going to the next stage of transformation.”

The good news is that innovating teaching practices really do help deliver the contemporary skills so essential to students' success in their lives, but the bad news is that evidence of this is patchy. However, the research project is staring to pin down the conditions for these changes to be implemented – and to scale – across countries and cultures. Put simply, it's about adopting the best pedagogies available for the task, and how technologies can make them even more accessible and effective.

The findings come from the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project that is sponsored by Microsoft's Partners in Learning, a major teacher innovation programme now in its eight year that has reached nearly 10 million teachers worldwide. It was released at the organisation's annual Global Forum which was held in Washington DC this week to celebrate the innovative work of some 700 teachers attending from 70 countries (see "US teacher recruitment coup for Partners in Learning").

"Innovative Teaching and Learning Research: 2011 Findings and Implications" was also welcomed by key educators at a seminar on the implications for policy change at Microsoft's Innovation Center in the US capital. Guests included US Karen Cator, director of the US Government's Office of Educational Techology and her predecessor Linda Roberts, along with Chris Montague, strategic director for partnerships and and performance networks with the The Schools Network (formerly the SSAT) in the UK. The Schools Network is a stakeholder in the ITL research project.

Maria LangworthyMaria LangworthyITL Research director Maria Langworthy commented: “We hear all around the world of the need to transform the experience of teaching and learning. What the ITL research begins to reveal is that if we want learning outcomes to advance, not only must pedagogy and the role of teaching change, but our ideas about leadership and policy must adapt as well.”

These are the key findings of the report:

  • Innovative teaching supports students’ development of the skills that will help them thrive in future life and work;
  • However, students’ opportunities to develop these skills are typically scarce and uneven, both within and across the sample of schools in the study (across all countries);
  • While ICT use in teaching is becoming more common, ICT use by students in their learning is still an exception in most schools today;
  • Innovative teaching practices are more likely to flourish when particular supportive conditions are in place. These conditions include teacher collaboration that focuses on peer support and the sharing of teaching practices, professional development that involves the active and direct engagement of teachers, particularly in practicing and researching new teaching methods, and school culture that offers a common vision of innovation and consistent encouragement for new types of teaching;
  • While researchers saw examples of innovative teaching practices in the classes observed, a coherent and integrated set of conditions to support the adoption of innovative teaching was lacking in most of the schools and systems in this study.

Useful information is starting to emerge for teachers and school leaders to start maing changes to their own school cultures, and for policy makers to support them and scale up change. The report identifies these conditions for change:

    • "First, efforts to provide ubiquitous ICT access to students need to be continued to ensure that all students have equal opportunities inside and outside school to develop the skills they will need for life and work.
    • "Second, teachers need specific types of professional development opportunities that leverage the most innovative teachers in each school to drive peer collaboration focused on teachers themselves designing, practising and researching more innovative teaching approaches that develop students’ future skills.
    • "Third, and critically, leaders need to cultivate school cultures that provide more holistic and shared visions of innovation centered in the integration of advanced pedagogies with technology.
    • "And finally, innovative teachers and schools need the assessment and performance accountability conditions in which more innovative teaching and learning can flourish."

Partners in Learning is already making changes to its programme informed by research findings. It is affecting the way it works with schools in the programme in more than 45 countries and even how the Innovative Teacher Awards are judged. And online research tools have already been available to schools to measure and develop 21st century learning on the ITL

Phase 2 of the ITL Research is already under way and ITL will start new program of professional learning and collaboration called LEAP21 (Learning Educators, Advancing Pedagogy for the 21st Century) which will use the research-based tool developed in ITL Phase I for the analysis of learning activities and student work. ITL says that feedback from schools and teachers using these online tools has been extremely positive. It is free to use and is available in more than 30 languages.        

More information

Microsoft Partners in Learning 
Innovative Teaching and Learning Research: 2011 Findings and Implications
To find out more about joining ITL Phase 2 contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
For background information from the 2010 event and earlier research findings see 'Innovative teaching the route to 21st Century skills'
PIL research tools for schools to identify and develop 21st century learning and teaching
See also "Microsoft awards spearhead push for change" and "US teacher recruitment coup for Partners in Learning" 

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