Results from Innovation Experiments

Join the movement of educators that are designing, testing, and sharing the results from their innovative ideas. The innovators that are participating in the Innovation Box process are sharing their results (even when the idea doesn’t work). We are taking the approach of radical transparency because we believe that other educators might see something interesting in our idea or experiments and be able to make it better. We learn from our experiments and we want others to join that process. Take the results of these experiments and iterate. Share what you learn so we can improve our ideas and outcomes. Below you can download short descriptions of the various ideas and tests. If you want more details you are welcome to check out our online database (button at the bottom).

Reducing Habitual Absenteeism Through Text Message

A risk-factor for dropping out of high school is absenteeism. Students that are habitually absent are much more likely to drop out. This experiment aimed to determine whether sending students a text directly from a teacher (rather than from an automated system) with a positive message (e.g. “We missed you.”) would encourage students to return to school. This experiment had mixed results. Download the Innovation Brief to learn more. We encourage you to iterate and try it in your school.

Impact Student Success by Address Executive Function

For many students one of the barriers to success is their executive function skills. They lack the organization, task initiation, ad time management to be successful in school, expecially as school gets more demanding during the middle years. A team of middle school teacher and counselors designed a course to explocitly teach these skills beased on the book Smart, But Scattered. The team had nine weeks to test their idea with a group of 15 students. The teachers taught the students skills, gave the students opportunities to practice specific behaviors (e.g. organizing binders and lockers), provided the students opportunities to teach others, and included fun events where the students had to apply what they were learning (e.g. party planning).

Increase Engagement and Attention Through Movement

Lots of recent research shows that exercise and movement is good for cognitive development and potentially academic outcomes for students. One second grade teacher noticed last year were having trouble staying engaged during the core academic time in the afternoon. The teacher set out to test the idea that movement breaks would improve engagement. The teacher also decided to test which types of movement breaks worked best. As a first step the teacher set out to measure how “disengaged” students were during the core content instruction. It turned out that students were highly engaged and additional efforts to use movement to increase transition times were not successful. This raises the important point that innovation needs to remain focused on solving a problem, not just introducing something new. If you have an engagement problem, movement breaks might work for you - check out the brief and reach out for more information.

Improve Student Writing and Enjoyment by Short Writing Tasks

Most student writing in middle school social studies classes at Merrimack Valley Middle School were not meeting basic standard. In addition, students do not appear to enjoy writing and are exhibiting deep apathy and disinterest toward non-fiction writing. A teacher decided o tackle this problem by increasing the number of writing tasks, but shortening the duration and testing other conditions for optimal engagement and success (e.g. computer vs. hand written, fiction vs. non-fiction). When asked, the students did not show overwhelming negative attitudes toward writing (81% expressed somewhat positive to positive attitudes). However, students have continued to show some apathy toward school work in general (e.g. not completing assignments). This experiment was inconclusive because students expressed a higher level of enjoyment of writing than expected and the teacher pivoted to focus on apathy in general.

Increase School Community Connection through Access to Food

It is estimated that somewhere between 10-20% of youth in America are food insecure (they worry about whether they will have enough food). This problem can have a significant impact on student success in school both academically and socially. Two health teachers set out to test an idea focused on reducing in-school food insecurity by building a prototype “snack pantry”. The teachers learned that students will access snacks (no social barriers to requesting or taking food during the day), but the availability of food did not reduce student sense of food security or connection to the school community. The test was instructive in showing that other factors may have a greater impact on student sense of belonging then just feeling food insecurity and the teachers set out to identify what those factors were following the first experiment.