Innovation in Teaching

What About Structure?

This week we are heading into the module five of our PME 811 course. I continue to focus on my burning question of:

How do we keep our teaching innovative and creative? How do stay relevant and create programming that follows curriculum, teaches students the necessary skills and engages them with the material?

Last week, I received quite a few peer responses to curriculum experiences on my blog post “Power of Change”. Each of them working in completely different settings: Universities, an international school, and a private school. I would still be interested to hear the thoughts of someone in the public school system in Ontario too. However, it was nice to hear of the curriculum freedom they all have.

I enjoyed the response of our professor Dr. ABC:

Academic freedom is a really big factor for many professors. This varies from institution to institutions. Personally, I have seen a wide range. Using my own experience, I have had the freedom up to 80% in one university and in others 40%. Oftentimes the reason has to do with structure and the need to ensure students know what is happening at all times. I do see us “innovation and creativity” in this world of high accountability and structure.

It’s amazing how much curriculum can differ from school to school. I look forward to being able to contribute more to these experiences in the very near future, but it got me thinking about the level of structure that is still needed in post-secondary institutions. Of course, freedom to be creative and innovative is important, but so is making sure the students are getting the same general information about their field regardless of where they went to school.

Sometimes, when I listen to friends (or myself) compare our educational experiences, it amazes me how much a program can differ from school to school. Terminology, resources, tools, case studies, textbooks – they differ so greatly depending on who is teaching the course. I’ve had professors that lecture the whole time and I’ve had professors that barely lectured and relied on guest speakers. Both styles had their pros and cons, but I am now pondering the balance between the structure and innovation…

As Ryan said in my last blog post comments, he likes using the curriculum and having the structure. Maybe structure is not so bad?

4 thoughts on “What About Structure?

  1. Erica, you’ve hit on something very important here and that is the within school variability of expertise in schools. John Hattie talks about this a lot (see below for sources). If you have taken the Collaborative Inquiry course yet you may already know this, but one of the main reasons for in school variability isn’t just preferred teaching styles, it is because there isn’t enough collaboration happening between teachers. There are a myriad of barriers preventing teachers working together as opposed to on a lonely island however if we got together to discuss and devise common plans to do what works best for students there would be less variability. For example, if your lecturer teacher worked with their colleagues to measure the impact of that chosen teaching intervention and compared it with another the results of that evaluation should shed light on how effective it is. Perhaps that teacher may choose to continue lecturing in some situations but do something else in others if they are of the mindset that their job is to improve student learning based on evidence, not do what they feel is best and do what they want for the sake of personal preference alone.
    You can see it statistically represented here:
    You can read about Hattie’s suggested solution to it here:

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Thank you for your response! I am actually in the Collaborative Inquiry course right now too, and I have to say the lines have felt incredibly blurred between the two courses. The reading complimented each other more than the professors possibly know!

      I think you bring up an excellent point in your response – the variability in expertise. I’m most definitely going to look into Hattie’s suggested solutions shortly. I agree that we need to continue to encourage collaboration for innovation in teaching and learning. Throughout these courses, and in my professional life, I have learned SO much from my peers – now I hope to empower my future co-workers/co-educators to do the same. 🙂


  2. I think structure is comforting on one level because it is predictable. We know what to expect and there are identifiable benchmarks of achievement involved. A curriculum that is closed provides reassurance that concrete learning is attainable. If we loosened the structure and curriculum was open, parents, students, and administrators might be concerned with how to maintain and ensure standards of assessment.

    So here’s a question: to what degree does structure encourage and empower innovation?

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