Colleges of Education face enormous challenges today and the pressure for change and accountability for preparing quality educators who can increase student learning has never been greater. The College of Education at UMSL has taken this challenge seriously and made tremendous change in the way we work with the community, embrace innovation, and engage with educators across varying sectors. Since Fall 2011, we have had many conversations about changing our lexicon, our identity, our relevance to our students and to the community, and the future of Colleges of Education. Today, we think of ourselves as an “education innovation hub” with a unique selling proposition of “Engaged Educators. Innovative Education.” All good words but what do they mean.
Education Innovation Hub
As an education innovation hub, we are working to create a tripartite relationship between practitioners, researchers, and education innovators. Practitioners, defined broadly, to include educators in formal and informal educational settings who support and influence children and youth; researchers, typically faculty, but also others who are interested in learning more about the impacts of innovation on youth learning outcomes; and education innovators, sometimes practitioners, sometimes faculty, sometimes others who are interested in taking risks, trying new things, inventing or reinventing new ways of doing things that impact youth and/or educational systems in positive ways. The role of the College, therefore, is to wholeheartedly engage and embrace innovation to incubate new ideas, solve problems of practice as part of the collective, support product development, and push the best work towards sources of capital and into an entrepreneurship infrastructure. We also want to use proven innovative practice in teaching and learning venues to implement at scale and enhance program delivery, content, and experience. In addition, we look to new venues for research, assessment, and evaluation to validate these new practices and ideas.
We are moving quickly…. improving teacher preparation, leadership experiences, and programs to prepare educators outside the formal school environment. We are cross-branding with national programs such as Teach for America, Teaching Channel, New Leaders, Foliotek, the Carnegie Project for the Education Doctorate, and others as we find synergy and partners who are interested in simultaneous renewal. We are partnering locally with school districts, charter schools (we sponsor six schools), independent schools, youth serving organizations and others to build capacity for program delivery, our new “studio school” model, and other experiences for our preservice and inservice educators, leaders, and school mental health professionals.
Our most exciting work is the prototyping we are doing with what we call, “ResponsiveDesign”. This process requires the collaboration of educators and problem-solvers from across industries—including business, healthcare, engineering, and economics—to bring new and fresh perspectives to seemingly unsolvable problems. In order to build on this work and grow the capacity for design thinking in the region, we are creating the CoLabitat. Housed in UMSL’s renovated Barnes Library, a 1950’s postmodern glass structure, the space will consist of “huddle spaces” for cross-disciplinary teams to solve large and complex problems, flexibly zoned areas for groups to tackle short-term challenges, and a technology-rich student design space to facilitate community-initiated consultancies that inform coursework. “Hoteling,” or populating work spaces dynamically based on need and implementing a system to anticipate demand, will be employed as stakeholders move in and out of the CoLabitat depending on their projects.
CoLabitat programming will include “micro classes” that introduce ResponsiveDesign processes, share proven practices from education leaders, and introduce new ideas from entrepreneurs. Programs will likewise include “consultancies” that envision new research or pitch ideas, intensive institutes that introduce new education technologies, and in-depth studies of new practices in the field. CoLabitat will also host education-related special events, conferences, and cultural events. All public forums will incorporate cross-sector data that will help focus and inform problem formulation and share new perspectives on existing and emerging problems. In addition, practices from prototypes will be shared, taught, and taken to scale. Ideas that work will no longer be hidden from view in a single classroom, school, or organization, but exposed as workable, accessible, and practical.
Catalyst for Change in Education
We believe that the College of Education at the University of Missouri St. Louis will provide the region with an incubator for examining and changing the way we achieve educational goals. UMSL and COE have the leadership, research, and vision required to move forward immediately.