Frontier Teachers learn the skills, tools, and frameworks for design-thinking and lean-startup methodologies. They apply these methods through innovation mini-projects that tackle education challenges. Faculty go through their own design thinking iteration cycle (conduct empathy interviews, define the problem, ideate a solution, craft a prototype, pitch, and test it), becoming more comfortable with experimentation, taking risks, managing uncertainty, and “failing,” as some of the most important innovations often emerge from what is learned through “failures” rather than through “successes.”

Mini-projects targeted how to redesign assessments, how to develop ways for students to better understand our International Baccalaureate rubrics, and how to help students improve their self-assessments and reflections at the conclusion of an assignment.

During the process, faculty learned that they can make “small bets” that can help ideas, such as a new way to give student feedback, thrive without pressure to succeed immediately on a large scale. Such experiences are designed to encourage teachers to try something new before it is perfect, opening the door for potentially game-changing innovations to emerge.

Frontier Teacher training moves quickly from theory to practice, similar to the way startups work, as they’re often required to iterate new ideas swiftly in order to find a viable product-market fit. During the program, faculty are encouraged to apply Frontier methods in their classrooms, so students can begin to reap the benefits right away. Examples include:

  • re-scaffolding creative processes for students after being challenged in training to be creative under tight time constraints
  • integrating game development through design-thinking techniques and game-based learning
  • creating online course content and modules, and using screen casting as an online teaching tool to enhance learning beyond the classroom
  • introducing rapid research projects
  • using play-based learning to review vocabulary and prepare for exams
  • integrating TED Talk elements to improve students’ oral presentations and public speaking skills

This PD program included teachers across all grades and disciplines, which inspired unprecedented levels of faculty collaboration, project feedback, and sharing of ideas about what new tools and strategies to try and iterate. Beyond the formal training, teachers are continuing to share and test what they learned with colleagues akin to R&D in business, serving as mentors, and encouraging their peers to become Frontier Teachers.

Teaching faculty to think like innovators #k12 #edchat

With a greater level of unfettered creativity among faculty, they are unleashing that in our students at a more advanced rate; we’re seeing even more students pursuing their passion projects within and beyond the classroom than ever before.

We are reframing education at Dwight by using applied research with measurable outcomes to rethink and redesign traditional models, test new teaching and assessment methodologies, and never stop iterating so that students can become skilled transformational thinkers.

We’re proud to be on the forefront, empowering faculty on every campus in Dwight’s global network of schools to reimagine their own teaching, enabling students to shape their own bright futures, and accelerating knowledge for all.

About the Author:

Chancellor of Dwight School Stephen Spahn is the longest-serving head of school in the U.S. With more than 50 years at the helm of Dwight, he has been dedicated to igniting the spark of genius in every child, mentoring generations of students, and educating them to become innovative global leaders since 1967. A pioneer in global education, he was a founding member of the Guild of International Baccalaureate Schools of the Northeast, served on the International Baccalaureate Board of Governors, and established Dwight’s first campus abroad in London in 1972. Today, as chancellor of The Dwight Schools, he spearheads the education of thousands of students through a global network of leading IB World Schools in New York, London, Seoul, Shanghai, and Dubai, and in the cloud through Dwight Global Online School.


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