The Centre for Innovation in Education was founded in 2012 in the framework of the ESF infrastructure project "Modernisation of the Learning Infrastructure for Professional Higher Education Study and Teacher Education", the content of which was to modernise the learning environment and create study laboratories, i.e., a didactics centre.
The initial stated purpose of the centre was to provide a place to generate and test new ideas. According to Tiit Land, Rector of Tallinn University, the intention was to equip the centre with cutting-edge technological equipment, involve foreign specialists, and gather young new generation with courage to think outside the box and experiment with "bold ideas" in a good way. The plan was to create conditions conducive for cooperation between different academic units – an eternal challenge in universities offering teacher education.
The project was initiated in March 2012, and the as-yet nameless centre started with a couple of employees: the project leader Klemen Slabina, who was responsible for the creation of the study laboratories and environment; project coordinator Gertrud Kasemaa; and part-time head of the centre, Teaching Track Associate Professor Katrin Poom-Valickis.
As the fourth floor of the Terra building, which now houses the centre, was under renovation at the time, the project team managed their activities from a room on the 5th floor of the Terra building, jokingly called the "broom closet". It was in this 5-square-meter room literally containing cleaning equipment that the innovation started, and the first agreements with several of our current partners were concluded there.
The Centre for Innovation in Education was officially opened on Friday, September 13, 2013. At the time of the opening, the national pedagogics newspaper Õpetajate Leht published a comprehensive article about the centre.
As the main condition and basis of the Centre's activities was co-operation between institutes providing teacher education and representatives of fields related to learning and teaching, didactic laboratories were established – 8 sectoral networks tasked with gathering the latest knowledge of the didactics of the correspondent educational field, techniques and learning methods from Estonia and globally. The laboratories were intended as incubators for developing and testing learning and teaching techniques based on the changed approach to learning and teaching. In 2013–2014, the activities of laboratories received support from the EDUKO programme. The centre included the following laboratories:
- history and civics and citizenship education laboratory;
- initial education laboratory;
- language learning laboratory;
- natural sciences laboratory;
- creative work laboratory;
- technology laboratory;
- health laboratory;
- general laboratory.
In the course of the structural reform of the university, the centre, which had previously been an independent academic unit, joined the School of Educational Sciences on 1 September 2015 as a research centre. A research centre is a subunit of an academic unit which has been established for the implementation of activities supporting the main activities of the academic unit both within the university and for the provision of services externally.
The main activities of the centre are focused on the project "The Competence Centre for Educational Innovation at Tallinn University" aiming to develop a centre that consolidates, analyses and shapes the best modern educational practice and disseminates it in the Estonian education area. The project work was planned in five main directions:
- development of didactics
- school culture
- higher education didactics
- development of the eDidaktikum learning and teaching space.