Sunday, April 16, 2006

Creativity: process or product?

  Posted by Picasa What’s often missing when I visit classrooms are the ‘voices’ and personal creativity of the students.

In my mind education is relatively simple – to value the questions, concerns and queries that the students have about their lives and experiences and then to help them express their thoughts, ideas, current understandings as deeply as possible. As part of this process, the teacher’s role is to assist students to learn more, to complete research, and to express their idea through the expressive arts.

And, from all this focused purposeful activity, basic literacy and numeracy skills will be required, as well as providing rich areas to explore in their own right.

All too often what the classroom reflects are student’s responses to teacher’s requests and questions. Currently teachers seem obsessed with talking about criteria and exemplars and ensuring students are able to articulate why they are doing any activity; students who are able to self assess their progress and set new goals. Teachers 'teach' using ‘intentional teaching’ (in ‘student friendly’ language naturally) and assist by providing ‘feedback’ and ‘feed-forward’.

As well , many teachers, clambering on board the higher order thinking bandwagon, cover their walls with overlarge charts explaining de Bono’s hats, Costa’s ‘intelligent behaviors’, Bloom’s taxonomy ( in student language) and endless graphic organizers. These are best keep in student ‘How to Learn’ books?

As a result we now see the process orientated classroom. Technique, or skills teaching, has almost completely destroyed any sense of individual student’s creativity or ‘product’.

It has been ‘higher order thinking’ for ‘thin’ learning.

Such teachers , suffering from an overdose of pedagogy, do not understand that the point of the creative process is for each student to produce a piece of work ( research, poetry, art or dance) that represents the best a learner can do; a piece of work or performance to be proud of. We are what we create to a degree.

They do not understand that to develop such creative work thy need to do 'fewer things well' to allow their students to 'dig deeply' into any experience and then to express what they discover with individual creativity.

And if they were do this then ‘their’ rooms would reflect the individuality of their students.

You would see evidence of the latest ‘open ended’ study, or ‘rich topic’, the class was researching including: their focused ‘key’ questions, their prior ideas, and their ongoing research. And what is on display would be aesthetically presented - both the individual students work and the whole display. And, although the students would have been ‘taught’ graphic skills, each students work would reflect each individual’s style. All too often they look as if they were the work of clones.

Creative language on display would be, insightful personal stories, response to environmental experiences or part of the current study. What would be valued in every piece would be each learners ‘voice’, or writing ‘power’, not a dull composition reflecting an imposed set of criteria based on displayed exemplars.

And the most impressive aspect of a creative classroom would be examples from the creative arts. All the art work on display would celebrate student’s individuality rather than, once again, have that 'clone like' look of being interfered too much by a teacher following some criteria about art.

It is not that the various thinking skills, intentional teaching, criteria and exemplars are a bad thing but used excessively, or exclusively, they become techniques that destroy creativity.

All a teacher has to do is to come alongside the learners and to gently provide assistance without restricting students own learning power. Teaching is a delicate act, an artistic endeavor, and the proof of any teachers skill will always be seen in the variety and creativity of the students ‘products’: demonstrated or performed, in their book work, or on display. Most of all by the attitudes of students towards their own learning.

The teachers as an artist is simple idea but one requiring great skill and sensitivity.

Techniques, or process skills, are important but only if they contribute to the individual creativity of the learner.

A ‘criteria’ to assess your classroom!


Anonymous said...

It seems a 'battle' between the technocratic teachers, who 'deliver' programmes defined by others, versus the creative teachers who 'design' curriculums with their students.The latter focus on developing students 'voice' and individuality rather than disembodied 'achievement targets'.

I am with you!

Bruce Hammonds said...

We need good classroom teachers to keep the system going. The trouble is that they are bombarded by ideas from experts from outside the reality of the classroom, most of whom have never practiced what they preach.

As a result it is easiest for teachers to just go along with the 'flow' and do their best. Many thankfully happily subvert or colonize the ideas imposed on them.

We are lucky that the majority do a great job but imagine what they would do with the leadership of creative ideas arising from within their own classrooms.

And imagine the wonderful creative diversity - it would drive the 'technorats' crazy! What would they measure!

Anonymous said...

I like the image of the teacher as an artist - makes a change from being 'alter boys' to Ministry's imposed educational religion!