Can Innovation Be Taught in Schools? Experimental Evidence from India
Saloni Gupta

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

Higher-order skills like innovation and teamwork have gained importance in the education policies of many countries today. While innovation is considered a central driver of a country?s economic growth, team skills are critical for today?s workforce. However, evidence of how schools can teach these skills is scarce. I am conducting a randomized evaluation of a program called ?Think and Make? (TM) in India, which works with eighth-grade students from marginalized communities in eighty schools to develop innovation and collaboration skills. Students participating in the TM program work in teams to identify local community problems in the health, agriculture, environment, and education sectors, develop prototypes of their ideas and build potential solutions. I use four methods to measure innovation skills in these children, including a novel measure of innovation developed with the help of real-world innovators. The other three methods involve ? investors? grants, user feedback, and a laboratory game for individual innovation skills. Participating students belong to marginalized indigenous communities in highly remote areas that are less socially and economically integrated with the rest of India. The outside world has a limited understanding of the problems of these communities, and the Think and Make program enables the children to solve these problems by using a pedagogy that promotes a deeper understanding of the needs of their communities. By making this program a part of their formal education in school, state policymakers are making their education system more inclusive and equitable, and this dissertation research can contribute to informing those decisions.
About Saloni Gupta
Saloni Gupta is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a field experimentalist focusing on the development of higher-order skills in adolescents and technology reforms in school education. Her current research is focused on public schools in the two Indian states of Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. In her past experiences, she has implemented various evidence-based education policy solutions in India. Additionally, she has been a program leader for a government-funded nationwide teachers? education program, a teacher of at-risk youth during her fellowship at Teach For India, and a software engineer at Fidelity Investments. She earned her master?s in international education policy analysis at Stanford University and a bachelor?s in electrical engineering at Thapar University, India.

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