Top 8 reasons why innovations in education fail

The world is searching how to improve student achievements, but only some succeed. One size fits all solution might not exist, but there are definitely some common characteristics which do not help to seek better quality through implementation of innovative solutions. These factors are not exclusive only to education. They occur in different sectors, but the final form they take differs from country to country, from sector to sector. If we can identify and tackle interferences – it will drastically increase the chance of success. Here is our top 8.

1. Underestimating or overestimating school preparedness for change

Education is a complex matter which involves various of stakeholders and changes takes time. It is important to clearly evaluate and understand how much a school is prepared to implement one or another change. And this is not a decision you want to base on single person subjective feeling.

You should derive or take some sort of criteria which would allow for you to benchmark your school accordingly. This should involve appropriate dimensions: people, funds, time, infrastructure, experience, etc. For this evaluation more people from community representing different stakeholders should be involved. Such exercise would allow you to better understand current situation.

Having done this you can proceed with proper information to planning stage and rise adequate targets which would be not to ambitious and not easy as well.

2. Lack of involvement from leadership

In schools, as in other organisations, success very much depends on strategy which is adopted by the leadership. OECD PISA results show that headmasters’ single-hearted orientation to learning outcomes in each class, leadership and creative adaptation of new practices in learning lead to improved achievements.

Finland, who is on top in learning rankings, also stress importance of headmaster in improvement of learning results. “No doubt an organization can achieve great results when leadership is acting as pathfinder: thinking strategically, always looks for possible cooperation, seeks that team would become smarter. The same applies in schools, where it is even more important for leaders not to get lost in routine task and daily problems.” – says Knowledge Economy Forum Council head Mindaugas Glodas.

3. Not having a plan

Without strategy execution is aimless and without execution strategy is useless. School leadership tends to underestimate importance of having well-written, concrete and agreed plan in place with responsible persons, resources needed, deadlines and indicators. We can not find right words to stress this enough, but this hygiene problem is one of the most common reasons for failure, when we talk about change implementation in schools. And it is one, which is easy to solve!

4. Top-down wins against co-creation

Best ideas come not from “top”, but from those who are actually working with children: know them well and are working for them. A headmaster must gather a competent team and let them unfold, take responsibility and make decisions. If not – you can have brightest individuals in your school but with tied hands, they will not be able to do anything.

5. No or too little support for teachers

“People determine changes; thus, you need to invest in them. We grow up our people, support their learning by different means and it allows us to be superior”, – says „Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics“ general director Algimantas Markauskas.

Innovative changes bring some disruptions and try to replace old habits. In this situation a new set of competences might be needed, so finding a right way to support this transition is crucial. If you are still not convinced, just remember this story: First person says “We won’t see all the benefits from this innovation if our people will not learn to use it effectively!” Second person asks: “And what if we invest in our people and they leave?” First replies: “And what if we do not invest in our people and they will stay?”

6. The system does not encourage new behavior

It is important to agree on the ultimate goal with all school community, but no less attention is needed in implementing these agreements.

We talk about integration of different subject, but our learning plan is not adapted for that. We talk about cooperation, but never invest time on learning how to do that effectively. We talk about teaching and learning of general competences, but all what we measure is fact-based information.

“You get what you measure” is more true than you think so you must adapt your incentives right.

7. Too much focus on “novelty”

New is not always best. And focus on novelty can cause a very big distraction from actual improvement of learning process and experience for students. Innovation, on the other hand, is firstly and foremost not about “novelty”, but about “value”. Shift you focus from novelty to added value.

8. An attitude that success must come immediately

We have heard a lot of success stories which strike like a lightning from clear sky. We see a lot of folks who instantly – after one innovative solution or after a single idea– become global stars, new prophets of “impossible is nothing”, billionaires. But this is only one side of a story. What we tend to miss and what media sometimes do not stress enough is how much hard work, how much failure there was in creating that innovative solutions.

There is no easy shortcut to success. If there would be one – it would be overcrowded anyways. Embracing innovation means embracing learning culture and continuous improvement for each community member and for solution you are implementing as well.

You must find answers and solutions on your own, but it is always nice to get some support (even more when it is for free!). We could have just what you need for start of your journey.

Project sySTEAM – systematic approach for implementation of STEAM education in schools (2017-1-LT01-KA201-035288) is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. Project is implemented by Virolai E.M.S.A., Kiviõli I High School, Vilnius Žemynos Gymnasium, Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation, Sihtasutus Omanäolise Kooli Arenduskeskus, Knowledge Economy Forum.