Improvement and Innovation: synergistic or divergent changing approaches?
The INDIRE guided research “Improvement and innovation: synergistic or divergent changing approaches?” was born out of the need to study the organisational response in those schools which introduce a radical transformation project regarding teaching practices. The study intends to analyse how innovation processes fit into the broader framework of school improvement and if improvement and innovation are approaches to a synergistic change (i.e. that integrate being mutually reinforcing) or if, on the contrary, they may be considered to be divergent.
The analysis of the results of these monitoring and research activities, conducted on national trial projects in recent years (PQM, VSQ and Vales) showed that the approaches and the responses of schools to processes of change for improvement focused on different dimensions, according to the context and the strategic objectives pursued by the each institute. Strengthening, autonomy, accountability and innovation are key words that from time to time have guided and accompanied the path of schools towards improvement.
The research starts from these results to investigate the processes of ongoing improvement in schools that adopt the “Educational Avant-garde” movement’s ideas, in accordance with two approaches: school accountability and school improvement. On the basis of the first, it is necessary to highlight the accountability and the transparency of the results; according to the second, it is necessary to give to the schools and the teachers the chance to experiment approaches that could produce results in the long term, which may not be measurable with standard tests.
The research questions are:
1. How can we fit innovative practices within the strategic planning aimed at improving the school? Are they in line with the mission of the school?
2. What are the organisational responses of schools that experiment a system innovation?
3. Are the managerial practices, taking place in the schools involved in the research, able to find a synthesis between accountability and improvement? And if so, on what terms?
The chosen sample is composed of a selection of approximately 500 first and second grade secondary schools which have submitted a plan for the complete adoption of the movement’s ideas (about 90 Institutes) and decided to use the model improvement plan proposed by Indire (43 institutes).
The research that uses quantative-qualitative methodologies, provides for two successive but integrated stages:
– the analysis of self-evaluation and design documents produced by the schools involved (self-evaluation reports, three-year Plan of the Courses, Improvement Plan, plan for the adoption of the innovative idea). This analysis is carried out on the basis of indicators designed to identify processes for improvement and innovation in the schools;
– identification of case studies to be used as reference models (possible criteria: context, ideas adopted, priorities/goals, process targets identified in the self-assessment report and confirmed in the improvement plan, correspondence or discrepancy between the documents).