Reading Sir Ken Robinson's latest book 'Creative Schools - Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up' has really impressed me.
I hope it might even be a' tipping point' to encourage school leaders to challenge current assumptions and start on the journey towards transforming schools into modern learning environments.
A similar message has also been outlined by New Zealand educator David Hood in his new book 'The Rhetoric and the Reality'. For secondary teachers Bali Haque's book is worth a read.
Maybe I am being over optimistic.
Talking to current principals about the possibility of such creative ideas is , often met by reasons why it is too difficult in the present climate. Both Robinson and Hood are well aware of the current political situation but both see this as no reason not to begin the journey to transforming schools. And nor do I.
The recent posting by New Zealand educator Kelvin Smythe adds another voice to the debate - and his summary of holistic education is worth the read. Essentially the same message as Sir Ken.
Instead, schools busy themselves trying to solve the problem of developing 'sensible' teacher objective judgments ( TOJs) to sort students into spurious, politically inspired, National Standards in literacy and numeracy - the very antithesis of creativity.
|Are schools risk averse?|
I guess what is missing is the courage to take the lead. Principals seem to prefer focus on their own school ( compiling the best achievement data they can -' shonky' at best) and no one seems to have the courage to take the lead to encourage schools to to work together towards realizing a creative education. And of course many think that is what they already do, or that all is well.
|Time to break out|
Surely , if not principals , then there must be creative teachers who see the need to breakout of the current straight jacket of standardized teaching and imposed, so called, 'best practices' - particularly the demeaning effect of the current emphasis in judging student success based on narrow literacy and numeracy data?
The simple way to judge if a primary school is moving towards developing creative education ( moving away from standardized teaching towards personalized learning) is whether or not they use ability grouping ( or worse still cross class grouping) in literacy and numeracy- or isolated teaching of subjects at the secondary level.
That would exclude the vast majority of schools being creative as defined by Sir Ken.
Sir Ken, and Kelvin Smythe, write strongly against such practices. Finland gets buy, as do many Asian countries, without the use of this sorting and tracking of students. And there is excellent research both from the UK and NZ to show the demeaning effect of such practices.
In contrast to these limiting archaic practices imagine a school system dedicated to developing the gifts and talents of all students - whose programmes were based on providing personalised learning
|It's all too hard!|
Sir Ken advises teachers to observe the educational opportunities offered by the best of early education centres, sadly now increasingly at risk from being standardized, to gain insight. He asks why does the early intense curiosity of the early years diminish as students progress through school? Why is that far too many students act as if creativity is to be limited to the few talented individuals when everyone is capable of creative thinking? Why is it that students, deemed to be successful at school, often fail to shine in later life and conversely why is it, so called, school failures often do well in real life?
The trouble may be is that primary students happily accept of whatever programmes are provided and that the trouble ( disengagement) only really starts when the reach the more critical teenage years.
Maybe students don't fail school , maybe schools fail students? Consider the number of students who leave, as educationalist Karen Olsen has written, 'wounded' by school?
Le'ts get back to imagining schools dedicated to developing the talents and gifts of all students.
I am always curious to see what books are available to teachers on their staff bookshelves - or to ask teachers of educationalists that inspire them. It would seem schools are full of unquestioned habits, procedures and practices.
Sir Ken asks what if teachers were to re-invent schooling- what would it look like? What if schools were to focus on the competencies , attributes or dispositions their students will need to thrive in problematic and challenging future?
For those interested the ideas in New Zealand pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson are worth a visit - ideas developed in an even more traditional era - the 1950s
And there is also the inspiration from Sylvia Ashton Warner from the same era.
|Time for thinking out of the box!|
And in the 60s and 70 the most innovative groups of teachers were junior teachers who introduced developmental programmes providing their students with opportunities for real choices. Ironically today all the so called, 'best practices' are provided by contracted consultants and Ministry staff who have long lost a sense of classroom reality - that is if they were ever there in the first place.
Imagine if the 1940s vision' of an 'education of the kind they are best suited for and to the fullest extent of their powers' of Peter Fraser and Dr Beeby were to be fully realized.
Imagine if the, all but sidelined, New Zealand Curriculum which asks schools to ensure all students leave confident lifelong learners able to ' seek, use and create their own knowledge',were to be made central.
Imagine a school premised on making student inquiry and talent development central to all learning.
Imagine such investigations being open ended, integrating learning areas as required - investigation that provide opportunities for students to make use of , hone, or discover, their own unique portfolio of talents.
Imagine what this would mean for teachers - it would be impossible to plans for pre- determined outcomes but rather be prepared to follow their students leads and questions and to ensure students are given every opportunity to develop all the appropriate competencies and skills.
Imagine teachers who really valued students curiosity, questions and prior ideas and then did their best to challenge their students to defend and, if necessary, change their ideas. Teachers who believed that 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation' ( Jerome Bruner).
|Schools to develop talent|
Imagine teachers integrating ICT to assist students in their inquiries - rather than providing ready made answers as is too often the case
And imagine that true accountability is judged by the quality of what students can do, through demonstrations, performances, exhibitions ( such as science, technology and art fair exhibits)-and seen by all interested in their electronic personal portfolios.
And all this is entirely possible - all that it would require is for principals and teachers to have the wit and intelligence to change
Teaching , in this scenario, would be the most creative task of all.
It would be a real change from teachers being seen technicians delivering imposed curriculum and
Such a transformation would realize the sub title in Sir Ken's book of 'revolutionizing education from the ground up'.
And most of all it would make teaching fun again - sort of like doing the 60s all over again again but this time doing it properly.
Now I am showing my age.
Some great leadership quotes to inspire action
|Now there is a good idea!!!!!|