Creativity

Just a quick reflection on one line I recently read in a school’s OFSTED report, which said:

Artwork on display and the pupils’ commitment to physical activity indicate that creative and sporting skills are also well developed.

I believe that creativity and being creative, constitutes more than simply producing artwork to display around the school. Whilst I have not read the whole report, and I do not know the school or have any experience of the workings of the school (and I am definitely not attempting to reflect on the school concerned in a negative way), I simply find the idea that well developed creative skills, evidenced through artwork on the walls, reflects a shallow conception of creativity.

Of course, the school may well have a number of different ways of encouraging creativity and I am sure that OFSTED also are aware of the vast discourse in the educational community about creativity and how to develop creative skills. Certainly, I have only just touched the surface in this regard. However, I am using this statement as a starting point for a brief consolidation of my current understanding/thinking.

Guy Claxton (2006) discusses the idea that a creative mentality can be cultivated in schools and dissects the dispositions and habits that creative people hold. Perhaps, for me the most interesting disposition was that of resilience. He highlights that being creative is not always fun. And that it is the ability to deal with frustration and confusion and to not give up when these feelings arise that is key to a creative mind. He goes on to suggest that creative people must be willing to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and think for themselves; these aspects are too often forgotten in schools (very generalised, I know!)

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Perhaps this is no accident. There is certainly a school of thought (Ha!) that believes education is used by governments to control its people; as ‘a mechanized process of inducting young people into the culture of modernity’ (Miller, 2005). Modernity being a view of society as a machine that is managed with the purpose of turning its resources into commodities and profits. Certainly, where educational tradition has been challenged, governments have reacted. The late educator A. S. Neill’s Summer Hill School, where freedom is placed at the forefront of effective learning has, until very recently, always conflicted government ideals – only just receiving a positive OFSTED report having almost been shut down a few years ago.

Lastly (I have gone way deeper than I had planned to so should probably stop soon), in his most recent TED talk, Ken Robinson discusses the idea that we are obsessed with getting people to college (or university) and that we are enthralled to the idea that life and education are linear lines of progression. He promotes a more organic view of education based on principles of agriculture that elevate human flourishing.

How can we implement this practically in our classrooms? Who will lead this revolution? And will it ever be possible to really radically change the concept of education in this country?

Image: BBH Advertising Campaign for Levi’s.

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Transformational Learning

Just watched this interview with Esme Capp a school principal from Melbourne, whose successful implementation of a collaborative, ‘negotiated’ curriculum has reflected 21st Century learning needs of the children in her school.

By developing a strong school ethos centered around 21st Century children and their developing learning needs, alongside a strong belief in theories of collaborative learning, the principal generated a new curriculum based around key themes, rather thatn key subject areas. Through project based work focused on these key themes, the children’s ‘traditional’ curriculum skills are assessed, working from where the child is, not where the curriculum is.

Dissonance between home and school practice has been widely discussed (Lankshear and Knobel, 2003; Carrington, 2005; Merchant, 2007), however this 21st Century approach to learning views children’s learning development across domains, recognising the home-based learning in school and working closely with parents in tracking their child’s progress.

Children co-create a learning journey at the start of each week with their teachers, before starting their projects. Individual passions and interests are allowed for in the avenue each project takes. Through conferencing, workshops and target teaching the children move through their planned journey and are encouraged to be self-aware of their learning.

In the summary of the DCSF report ‘Your child, your schools, our future’ (2009) the need for children to be able to ‘learn and re-train, think and work in teams and to be flexible, adaptable and creative’ alongside developing ‘responsibility for themselves, for their health, for their environment, and for their society’ is highlighted as incredibly important as the jobs of the future are predicted to leave little room for those with little or no skills. This transformational learning environment will allow for such skills to be acquired.

This ‘negotiated’ curriculum clearly then, can allow for the personalisation of learning and takes into account learning as being socially constructed, as well as the key themes and skills needed for children in today’s social climate.

Will this be the future for all schools?