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If you work in the field of learning innovation in higher education, you undoubtedly collaborate with faculty on course, program, and/or institutional level innovation projects. Thomas Carey in his study of innovation competencies for graduates defines innovation as, “the process of creating lasting value by the successful mobilization of new ideas.” There is increasing awareness of innovation competencies for undergraduate and graduate students, but what about faculty?

A learning innovation project could include flipping classes, creating MOOCs, or changing the course credit system to incentivize micro-learning. Lauren Herckis, an anthropologist at Carnegie Mellon University studied barriers to faculty changing their teaching, finding that the fear of negative student evaluations, respect for their own role models, and fear of the unknown, can inhibit innovation projects.

We decided to ask colleagues at our own institutions what competencies and mindsets faculty exhibited in innovation projects in which they were involved. To prime our colleagues, we posed the following list of innovation competencies and mindsets developed by our colleagues at Research.Innovation.Scholarship.Education (RISE) at the University of Michigan Medical School:

Innovation Competencies and Mindsets

1.    Creativity: the ability to think beyond traditional ideas, rules, and patterns to generate meaningful alternatives.

2.    Initiative: the ability to independently develop, assess, and operationalize ideas that foster positive changes.

3.    Teamwork: the ability to effectively and efficiently collaborate with others in a group.

4.    Networking: the ability to identify and engage external/outside stakeholders in common interest or goal.

5.    Collaboration: the ability to work with various stakeholder to assimilate ideas and needs and reach a solution.

6.    Visioning: the ability to assess future directions and risks based on existing and potential opportunities and threats to implementation.

7.    Enterprising: the ability to initiate and leverage available resources to further a goal.

8.    Intelligent risk-taking: the ability to weigh potential benefits and disadvantages of exercising one’s choice or action to assume calculated risks.

9.    Critical Thinking: the ability to logically identify strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and analyze these judgments.

10.    Challenging the Status Quo: the ability to set ambitious goals that challenge established practices—especially when tradition impedes improvements.

11.    Identifying Problem: the ability to pinpoint the actual nature and cause of problems and the dynamics that underlie them.

12.    Intellectual Curiosity: the desire to acquire new knowledge and to seek explanations for things—even when the applications of that new learning is not immediately apparent.

13.    Flexibility: the willingness to change or compromise according to the situation.

14.    Perceptiveness: the ability to recognize situational forces that promote and inhibit change.

15.    Positive self-efficacy: the trust in one’s own abilities, talents, and judgement that s/he is capable of achieving a certain outcome.

16.    Effective Communication: the ability to provide regular, consistent, and meaningful information; listen carefully to others and ensures message is understood; and ensure important matters are shared with all appropriate parties.

17.    Leadership: the ability to motivate or persuade others to act to achieve a goal by communicating a vision, committing to the cause of the organization, and inspiring trust.

We would like to hear from others working higher ed about this list.

How do you define “faculty innovator”?

Which are the top four competencies that faculty must have or develop for innovation projects?

What is missing or could be removed from this list?

Add your responses in the comments or you can respond in this brief questionnaire.

Michael Goudzwaard is a Learning Designer at Dartmouth College where he works with faculty on learning invocation projects including classroom use and design and he leads Dartmouth’s MOOC initiative, DartmouthX.

Rachel Niemer is the Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan where she coordinates the Product Management, Public Engagement, and Behavioral Science teams in their work as thought-partners with faculty.

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