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Experiments in Teaching and Learning

by Edward P. Clapp, Lindsey Hicks, Devon Wilson

What does innovation in education look like? 

How does innovation in education take shape differently across a variety of teaching and learning environments? 

What is the relationship between inquiry and innovation? 

What might it mean to lead for innovation?

Based on the work of a cohort of educators and school leaders representing a diverse array of teaching and learning environments, Envisioning Innovation in Education – Hong Kong: Experiments in Teaching and Learning explores these questions by offering a window into the process of inquiry-driven innovation within the context of the Hong Kong educational landscape. 

Grounded in the work of the Envisioning Innovation in Education project, a multi-year collaborative inquiry conducted by Project Zero — a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the United States—and funded by the CATALYST Education Lab in Hong Kong, this comprehensive guide for educators and school leaders includes in-depth pictures of practice that highlight school-based inquiry and innovation projects, lessons learned along the way, and a host of teacher-tested tools and resources designed to support the process of envisioning and inquiring about innovation. 

Whether in Hong Kong, Havana, or Houston, Envisioning Innovation in Education – Hong Kong is sure to offer tools, strategies, and resources that will be immediately applicable to educators and school leaders interested in the process of positive change for themselves, their colleagues, and their students.

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Pictures of Practice

Pictures of Practice

The following pictures of practice are stories of learning. They are stories of innovation and how the educators in the Envisioning Innovation in Education (EIE) project interpreted new concepts, strategies, and tools to support inquiry-driven innovation in their classrooms. They are also stories of co-learning and connection, how educators learned with and from their colleagues, how they learned with and from their students, and how relationships and communities of learning were built in the process.

The pictures of practice are organized into four sections. The sections represent areas of innovation that became central to the educators’ inquiries in pursuit of educational innovation:


A. Student & Teacher Agency

Cultivating student and teacher agency is a topic that sparked interest and resonance from the very beginning of the project. Developing student agency, defined in varying ways by the participants, was the focus of many of the inquiry projects. Many teachers found over time that the inquiry cycle they engaged in for their projects provided a useful model for promoting student agency in their classrooms. Additionally, the development of increased teacher agency supported innovation by allowing teachers to express their experiences, point of view, and determine the focus and direction of changes in their instructional approaches.


A. Providing Opportunities for Cultivating Student Agency in Planning, Assessment, and Production


B. Supporting Student Agency, Motivation and Confidence in Design and Technology Classrooms


C. Cultivating Agency in the Humanities Classroom


D. Student Agency and the Power of the Passion Project


E. “Is It Possible to Change the Teaching and Culture of a School with a 100 Year History?” Cultivating Teacher and Student Agency

Lessons Learnt


B. Documentation

Documentation, the practice of observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing to enhance student learning and to inform teaching was introduced as an inquiry process to support educators’ inquiry and innovation projects. Documentation was a relatively new inquiry process for many teachers and allowed them to innovate in the way that student and teacher thinking was expressed and made visible, thus deepening student and teacher knowledge of each other and understanding of diverse perspectives. The examples cited in this section illustrate how documentation of student thinking helped to deepen and share the innovative experiments in learning that teachers were inquiring about.


A. Phenomena Walls–Documenting Student Thinking About Big Questions

B. Documenting Student Analysis of Visual Text


C. Celebrating Learning–Documentation as Celebration


D. Slow Looking in High School Geography Classrooms


E. Sketchnoting–Seeking to Align Assessment, Documentation, and Understanding

Lessons Learnt


C. Whimsy & Play

Whimsical and playful instructional approaches shared in this section illustrate how educators strove to change their teaching and learning tone, environment, and mindsets to positively impact student learning experiences and to create the conditions for innovation. Playful approaches to instruction help to relieve the everyday stresses in the classroom and can improve teacher-student, student-student and teacher-teacher relationships.


A. “How can I build play into Chinese learning?”

B. Creating Opportunities for Playful Learning and Connection Schoolwide


C. Look Out Below! – Playful Learning in the Physics Classroom


D. Let’s Dance–Playful Learning in the English Classroom


E. Creating Novel Experiences in the History Classroom

Lessons Learnt


D. Effective In-School Professional Development

Supporting teachers' capacities through professional development was another motivating reason schools cited for participation in the Envisioning Innovation in Education initiative. As the project progressed, educators saw the value in the tools and strategies utilized in the Envisioning Innovation in Education project to support effective in-school professional development. They strove to design ways to share these ideas and support innovation with their school colleagues through teacher-led professional development opportunities.


A. From Inquiry Projects to Schoolwide Implementation - Supporting a Shared School Culture of Thinking


B. The Innovation Lab–Supporting Teacher-Driven Learning and Leadership


C. The Power of the Study Group


D. Playful Professional Development

Lessons Learnt

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