in•no•vate – v. To begin something new: introduce.

— Webster’s II

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Innovation is the spark of insight that leads an inventor or an artist to investigate an issue or phenomenon. That insight is usually shaped by an observation of what appears to be true or the creative jolt of a new idea. Innovation is driven by a commitment to excellence and continuous improvement. Innovation is based on curiosity, the willingness to take risks, and experimenting to test assumptions. Innovation is based on questioning and challenging the status quo. It is also based on recognizing opportunity and taking advantage of it.

In the world of education, innovation comes in many forms. There are innovations in the way education systems are organized and managed. There are innovations in instructional techniques or delivery systems. There are innovations in the way students are included in an active learning process. The list goes on and on.

An element of the ARI mission is to identify, support and promote innovative practices in education – and as importantly – support and promote those educators and their students who are daring to be great.

An ARI Learning Innovation Grant must:

  1. Address an important challenge in education.
  2. Pass through a competitive review process focused on the project’s design.
  3. Demonstrate the promise of tangible improvement in teaching and/or learning and,
  4. Award recipients agree to present their proposed innovation at the regional Promising Practices FIRE Summit and present their associated results at the regional Action Research FIRE Summit .

How can we responsibly promote untested, unproven, but innovative practices and how can we encourage the inventors of innovations to start developing an evidence base so that over time these interventions can be held up to review and demonstrate their effectiveness?

First, we practice transparency. The Learning Innovation Grants awarded through the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative are not yet tried and true. They have not yet been subjected to rigorous scrutiny. Applicants/Recipients attempt to describe the intervention in an informative and compelling way, while not making claims about its effectiveness until results can be measured and compared.

Second, we provide ongoing support for Learning Innovation Grant recipients. Once awarded an innovation grant, educators are connected to a broad system of available supports that include regionally based staff, District Innovation Coordinators, colleagues and a growing virtual landscape focused through the lens of

Third, we encourage all grantees to use Action Research designs so that, over time, we can learn if these interventions are effective. We do not mandate a specific set of metrics or require a common model, believing that the dynamics in individual classrooms/initiatives require unique designs specific to needs and outcomes. We provide incentives for grant applicants to embed such studies into their project designs from the beginning as reflected in the scoring rubric.

Fourth, we showcase and highlight the work of Innovation grantees. Grantees are required to present their plan and their findings twice each year at regional Summits focused on Promising Practices and associated Action Research. As a critical mass of grantees develops–those that have shown positive impacts on student achievement or other positive outcomes—it will enable us to promote innovations aggressively, through publications, web sites, and videos.

Fifth, we provide access to an online portal, to review current and previous grant recipients’ work and videos. The video presentations can serve as a resource as you develop your own presentation about the action research you will be conducting during the 2017-18 school year. Each grantee will post updates at least 3 times per year on the Promising Practices Holler so interested followers remain engaged.


A note about Action Research –

Action research is a practical approach to professional inquiry. As its name suggests, action research concerns actors – those people carrying out their professional actions (for our purposes, teaching and learning) from day to day – and its purpose is to understand and to improve those actions. It is about trying to understand professional action from the inside; as a result, it is research that is carried out by practitioners on their own practice, not (as in other forms of research), done by someone on somebody else’s practice. Action research in education is grounded in the working lives of teachers and students, as they experience them.


Action Research is about:

  • the improvement of practice,
  • the improvement of the understanding of practice,
  • the improvement of the situation in which the practice takes place.

Carr, W. & Kemmis, S. (1986) Becoming Critical: education, knowledge and action research.


ARI Learning Innovation Grants Application

Procedures and Requirements:

The Appalachian Renaissance Initiative supports bold and locally directed improvements in leadership, teaching and learning that directly improve achievement. ARI and member districts serve as an innovation laboratory for public education with an emphasis on rural communities. The eastern Kentucky region is experiencing a renaissance that is being led by educators. The work underway is a catalytic model that will inform and support other communities working to dramatically improve educational outcomes for students in rural schools nationally and beyond.

Educators in the seventeen participating ARI school districts are eligible to apply for the competitive Learning Innovation Grants. Educators may apply for up to $1,000.00 to enhance classroom learning by implementing innovative strategies and approaches to learning. One-hundred Learning Innovation Grants will be awarded.

Proposed innovations should be framed around specific teaching and/or learning goals.

All submissions will be evaluated by an external review team using the enclosed Scoring Guide.

On-going assistance will be available through the ARI District Liaisons, District Innovation Coordinators and on .

Application requirements include:

  1. A complete submission of application
  2. Commitment to present your project and the projected impact at the Promising Practices FIRE Summit (Pikeville, KY on October 25, 2017-travel and substitute paid by ARI if participant stays for the entire day.)
  3. Commitment to present your project and the impact at the FIRE Summit (Pikeville, KY on April 11, 2018-travel and substitute paid by ARI if participant stays for the entire day. )
  4. Commit to participating for the entire day at the Promising Practices FIRE Summit and the Action Research FIRE Summit
  5. Commitment to share project results on the ARI interactive WEB portal (

throughout the year (Posting must occur on Promising Practices Holler by October 15th, January 15th, March 15th and May 15th.)



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