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BECTA - ‘Innovative approaches’ Quality Principle

Becta invited Core Education to review this principle and produce advice for practitioners and developers. The quality principles for digital learning resources were published in April 2006 and relate to the design and use of digital learning resources to support effective learning and teaching. They are applicable to a range of ages and contexts, including the schools and post-16 sectors.

Response to Quality Principles surrounding the Innovative Approaches principle

(March 2006)


In considering this principle, we read around the other principles and have these five observations to make:

1 It is not clear how the practitioner audience can directly relate to the principles, in one sense there is an ambivalence of audience.

2 The principles are often couched in an 'admonishing' style - what not to do, rather than more inspirational and positive statements of what is hoped for or might be achieved. There is an underlying sense of fear that technology will be abused rather than exploited successfully as if the principles were gate-keeping rather than signposting in nature and intent.

3 The principles suffer from an embedded and unspoken belief that the technology is in control, or that the learner 'experiences' learning rather than actively participates in it. This is at its worst in the principle on 'Assessment to support learning', which seems to imply that the technology should be the judge of human performance, but in fact capitulates in the bullet points to describe the learners', peers' and teachers' rôles in this regard. We would contend that the learners cannot be guided and measured by designed systems, although feedback on the accuracy of factual answers is useful evidence for learners and teachers to make proper judgements.

4 Only one principle starts with an adjective - 'Robust summative assessment' which helps to summarise the principle, rather than see it as a place name - should not others do the same? If all the titles where more informative in this way, it might make them more memorable and useful. In general, language used was passive and uninspiring.

5 The core design principles make specific reference to 'digital learning resources' and how they should be. In the core pedagogic principles, the subject of each principle varies between 'digital learning resources', 'teaching and learning' and 'technology-enhanced learning'. This needs a bit of tidying up so that the practitioner or developer can make sense of what exactly is being referred to here - practice or artefact?

 Response to the Innovative Approaches principle

"Digital learning resources may be innovative in their design and use of technology and/or innovative in the approach to teaching and learning that they offer."

We feel this is an observation rather than a principle and it does not explain the characteristics of innovative approaches. The "and/or" leaves so much open and uncertain without providing any clarification of the nature and range of innovative approaches.

A replacement principle could be:

"Innovative approaches are rooted in imagination and creativity but are nurtured by a supportive environment, provide surprise and may involve risk. Digital learning resources benefit from innovative approaches which occur both in their design and deployment. It is important to recognise the role of ownership and progression in innovative approaches. Teaching and learning is refreshed and energised by innovative approaches, especially where there is evidence, reflection and communication to others."

This principle could then be expanded both for practitioner and  developers be as shown below:

Concept Designer and Developer Support
Indicative Reference
Imagination and Creativity
These central concepts lie at the heart of innovation. When imagination and creativity coalesce, innovative approaches are a common by-product. Key developments depend on this source, and care must be taken not to damage it with over-management and regulation.
‘Creativity: find it, promote it', QCA,