Sunday, 19 February 2012

So "They" Say We Should Promote Creativity. . . What does that mean?

E3 2010: Creativity Unleashed
From Flickr by iwinatcookie

I have been reading a good deal about creativity in schools and talking with staff about authentic learning tasks that would promote creativity. Often I hear, "We don't have time for authentic tasks. We have a curriculum to cover." I am not really sure how to press for change except to continue to facilitate discussions about creativity in school.

On the Good Education Blog, Liz Dwyer writes,
Our current standardized approach to teaching and learning tends to slot students students into silos—art-school types on one side and analytical thinkers on the fast track to law school on the other—so our society has a pretty limited understanding of what being creative actually means and what it looks like across disciplines.
Even in kindergarten we see the expectations for students to conform to one standard, that standard provided by the teacher; the provider of one size fits all expectations. The evidence is provided by the bulletin boards where every single project looks exactly the same. I mean, if we allow creativity to flow, we would simply talk about the idea as a group and then let our students create their response. We would be happy with the response and not be "fixing" it to "make it right." What message are we giving our students when we correct their ideas? We are telling them their idea is not good enough and we know "what is right" so "don't go trying to come up with your own creative idea." We effectively crush the creativity out of them.

Ken Robinson states, "All children start their school careers with sparkling imaginations, fertile minds, and a willingness to take risks with what they think," he says. "Most students never get to explore the full range of their abilities and interests ... Education is the system that's supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way in the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn." I couldn't agree more. I suspect this topic will have to be addressed more formally at our school in the very near future.

Dr. Pamela Burnard "believes many teachers still think being creative means they have to be flamboyant and extrovert. While many schools are creative, many others pay lip service to the creativity agenda, she argues.

This might mean a day off the curriculum to do "the arts" after pupils have sat tests. It's a myth to call this creative learning, she says. Creativity must be embedded into everyday teaching and learning. "Many schools haven't got a handle on the language of creativity and are reticent about teaching more creatively," she says. "They are worried they won't achieve standards in other things."

She agrees with much of Robinson's argument. "If you have a school system which rewards conformity and avoids risk-taking, then youngsters will be unable to cope with the world unfolding before them."

Michael Michalko, expert on creativity, says there are twelve things you were not taught in school about creativity. His first point is crucial to promoting creativity in schools. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not. Once you have a particular identity and set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don't. The reality is that believing you are not creative excuses you from trying or attempting anything new. When someone tells you that they are not creative, you are talking to someone who has no interest and will make no effort to be a creative thinker.

Finally, Dwyer writes,
Savvy teachers and schools are already discarding the one-size-fits-all, siloed model of teaching and learning. And, they already know that it's not enough for schools to simply add on a "creativity hour"; it must be infused into all aspects of our education system. Let's hope more schools get on board with this paradigm shift so that an entire generation of students doesn't grow up living their lives according to outdated 20th-century myths about creativity.

It is my hope that creativity will be alive and well in my building and students will feel free to take risks without fearing the big red "X" because their response is different from the teachers. If we go this route, those students with exceptional challenges will be far more comfortable in such an excepting environment where teachers will look at possibilities for all in a creative manner themselves.

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