The CHCA Teacher Innovation Fund (TIF) is one of the most important endeavors CHCA is undertaking regarding instruction and learning. The world is changing in the way we communicate with each other; the way products are made; the way products and service are brought to market; the way customers evaluate, choose and consume products and services; the focus on sustainability; the style and delivery of information; and the pace at which all of this is changing. Education is no exception to the changes taking place. Students have access to information and content like never before. Teachers are moving from the role of mostly delivering content to facilitators of engagement, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, and enlightenment. At CHCA, our teachers are embracing this shift and our TIF will serve as an accelerator.
As a part of the Light the Way Campaign (LtW), we set aside 10% of the campaign proceeds to go into the TIF. We hope this ultimately results in nearly a $1.0MM fund, which will fuel the innovation and engagement we desire for students in our newly developed innovation spaces. We also hope to further create a culture at CHCA that promotes continual innovation in educational instruction, leading to increased and sustained engagement for students. (We have also set aside $200,000 in addition to this fund to support theological integration into all subjects).
The research is clear that engaged students learn better. Most educators believe that instinctively, but what does it really mean to be an engaged learner, and how do we actually bring engagement about? We believe the CHCA TIF should focus on four key components for awards.
The TIF begins with our well laid out curriculum, which clearly states what students need to know, understand, and be able to do. Each innovative idea must begin with our benchmark curriculum and propose an idea that shows how students might be increasingly engaged in that content.
While engagement means the learner is somewhat in the driver’s seat, the teacher is critical to sustainable engagement. Teachers have a clear understanding of their students, the curriculum benchmarks, the level of energy and excitement about a particular topic, the right time to abandon the classroom in favor of an innovative environment, etc. The CHCA TIF, therefore, puts teachers in the driver seat of innovation. In addition to specifics regarding timing and curriculum, they will help decide what materials, furniture, equipment, technology, etc. will enhance the experience and foster the most flexibility in the labs. Please note: basic furniture for the labs will be provided. When we talk about FF&E, we are talking about more specialized components endemic to the proposed innovation.
Student engagement can be environment sensitive. Students take cues from the visual nature of the learning environment and act and think accordingly. While typical instruction classrooms serve a purpose, research reveals that spaces looking different from traditional settings foster innovation and creativity and lead to more engaged learning. “Innovation” spaces must look different from the traditional classroom and give a sense of less formality where creativity and failure are merely components of learning that eventually lead to success. Our new innovation labs will indeed look and feel different from traditional classrooms and serve to spur student engagement. Therefore, TIF grant awards will initially favor the use of our existing and new innovation spaces but grant requestors are encouraged to submit proposals for innovative teaching regardless of the use of these labs.
This fund is about providing teachers funding and an environment to try big new ideas. And it is understood that their idea for making a big stride in educational practice may also fail. Inertia draws us strongly to the comfort and safety of what we know has been successful in the past. Our hope is that proposals will be well thought through and reasoned but will be bold in challenging common instructional paradigms.