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How Principals Can Embrace Disruptive Innovation As a Real-World Education Model

A disruption is a sudden change from normalized processes. The term disruptive innovation, initially coined by Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen, refers to innovations that challenge established norms to improve upon them in keeping up with changes over time. Disruptive innovations in education aim to identify proactive approaches to changing school systems in positive ways that include all students in the learning process.

This article outlines some of the current disruptions school leaders are facing today and ways to parlay the challenges that arise into opportunities for innovation.

Safety and Transparency

An emphasis on school safety and transparency are key disruptions to current school models. School shootings, recent findings on the impact of trauma on student success, and efforts to combat stress levels in today’s students drive educators and parents to emphasize student safety.

According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, school safety

improves school outcomes and student academic performance. Therefore, today’s school leaders must ensure students feel safe and supported in their academic careers. This process includes transparency in safety practices that encourage family input and support, such as offering parental access to school information, reliable emergency notification systems, and consistent communication between administration, faculty, and families.

Globalism and Diversity

Today’s graduates are entering into an increasingly globalized workforce. According to Edutopia, “The power to communicate across borders and the ability to collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds is a key 21st-century skill.”

Students need to be prepared to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds. Modern technological advances, social-emotional learning models, and social-justice education are just some of the disruptive approaches available to school leaders to prepare students from diverse backgrounds to succeed academically and move into a globalized workforce.

Generational Differences and Reforms

The policy rationale for schools has changed over time as cultural norms shift. As outlined by the Christensen Institute, governmental education policies that once focused on education to preserve democracy have shifted over time to refocus on vocational preparation and poverty elimination.

Recent policy reform efforts have emphasized school accountability in meeting these needs. By focusing on building human potential and making data-driven decisions that align with policy goals, educational leaders can maximize the potential for student success while combatting poverty through workforce preparation.

Technological Advances

Technology is a crucial disruptive innovation in today’s schools. A recent study conducted by the Christensen Institute with Bay View Analytics suggests that if school leaders strategically harness the innovative technological practices implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, “they may spark the beginnings of the student-centered transformation of conventional schooling.”

To harness the power of educational technology for school transformation, the Christensen Institute recommends school leaders support teachers in identifying effective strategies from the 2020-2021 school year and building off them. They also suggest adopting hybrid options, blended learning models, and learning management systems to increase access and improve student learning.

Transformational change begins with out-of-the-box thinking, and skilled principals turn disruptive innovations into opportunities for school improvement.

Learn more about SIUE’s Master of Science in Education in Educational Administration with a Specialization in Principal Preparation online program.

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