Teaching faculty to think like innovators

Here's a great way to educate flexible, creative problem-solvers and innovators

The rapid pace of technological change has forever transformed the face of the global workplace. In fact, its future is unimagined; 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 have yet to be created. As all brave explorers on any frontier know, survival in an uncertain world requires adaptability, resilience, and resourcefulness. Today’s educators must nurture these traits in students to prepare them to meet whatever challenges await and to succeed in a new order.

Schools are thus charged with going beyond academics and instruction in the latest technology to teach students “survival” skills, such as how to brainstorm, think creatively, design, and prototype … how to communicate, collaborate, and lead … and how to innovate. These are the skills employers are seeking as the nature of work becomes increasingly mutable.

At Dwight, we’ve been teaching these entrepreneurial skills through Spark Tank, an after-school incubator for K-12 students. They bring their ideas for new products, social enterprises, political initiatives, and non-profits to Spark Tank, where they develop them through five stages, from concept to market launch. During this process, students learn a range of practical problem-solving, design, presentation, marketing, and business skills, gaining invaluable entrepreneurial and innovation experience.

We have also taken a cue from the business world to enhance all-important faculty professional development (PD), thanks to the support of The Dwight School Foundation. With our imperative to educate flexible, creative problem-solvers and innovators, we want to ensure that all our faculty can tap into those skills and model that behavior for our students. Through our Frontier Teacher training program, we’re bringing the same entrepreneurial mindset and processes favored by startups and innovators to the art and practice of teaching.

While Frontier Teacher training has only been in effect since 2017, its results are already changing the way our teachers are thinking and prioritizing; preparing, teaching, and evaluating the impact of their lessons—and reinvigorating their own love of learning in the process.

The real innovation isn’t just in what our program teaches, but in how.

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