Friday, September 01, 2006

The creative situation

  Posted by Picasa Thanks to teacher 'artist' Ray Stoddart who helped this student achieve this quality print.

Before you can be a teacher of anything you need to establish a certain kind of relationship with your students. A good relationship doesn’t result because you desire it; it grows out of what you do and especially the way you respond to what the children do.

Teachers can plan before they meet their students but if you want them to see their learning as relevant you need to involve them in this planning. Through this involvement the likelihood that you will develop positive relationships with them will emerge

Real planning with children involves real freedom for them to decide questions that are genuinely important to them. Consequently, planning with children calls for you to master a dialogic technique to uncover their needs and your professional concerns about the possible terrain that learning is to cover.

To teach anything you have to talk with children not at them. True dialogue is not random conversation; it grows out of a special kind of perception. Teachers have to listen, or look for, a spark that can be kindled. Out of the dialogue an intense awareness of something you and the learners want very much to know or do emerges.

Students, at first, might only have vague ideas, intuitions and interests but through dialogue real problems will emerge that will need resolution. Skilled teachers become experts at, what Jerome Bruner calls, ‘The canny art of intellectual temptation.’ They develop an understanding of what truly concerns their students, become aware of their students potential talents, and from such small beginnings a genuine negotiated curriculum evolves. Teachers need to think about what it is that might ‘connect’ with their students? What do their students care about now? How can their interests, concerns and questions connect with curriculum requirements?

It is easy to think you can provide a stimulating curriculum for your students but true learning can only be discovered in the process of doing thing that engage students attention. It is their learning not yours.

Whatever is chosen, teachers ought not to have in their minds what it is they want their students to achieve, except in the general sense. The current idea of teachers preplanning goals and 'learning intentions' runs counter to true creativity and individuality. Add to this an overuse of task criteria and creativity is almost certain to be lost. Powerful intentions can only be discovered in the process of creation.

If learning is developed through dialogue students discover that they have good reason to invest their creative energy. They see the problem as 'real' because it was not given to them but has grown from their concerns. This is 'ownership'.

Once a problem has been identified by an individual, or a group, or the class, there can be no cut and dried tidy sequence. Real learning is messy at best until solutions emerge and, even then, these solutions are only stepping stones for further discovery. If we worry too much about sequence, or whether we are covering the ‘right’ material, learning will suffer. The truth is that children, in the right environemt, cannot help but to be curious about the important human questions that comprise 'official' curriculums.

The key is to do what has been chosen in depth. When students are really involved teachers are fully engaged in helping their students confront and cope with the ideas they are struggling to give some shape to. True learning is a co-constructive activity – teachers and learners learning together, each challenging each other, providing feedback and advice as necessary.

The ‘artistry’ of the teacher is vital in such creative situations if all students are to produce work of personal excellence. Teachers encourage students to persevere and to learn from what might at first appearance look like ‘mistakes’. They encourage children to stop and reflect about what possibilities lie ahead and might suggest possible actions for then to consider. And they acknowledge and celebrate student creativity and insight.

How advice is given is crucial. Care must be taken to ensure students stay true to their own style. Teachers can, too easily, influence students so much that even students art become variations on a theme rather than a reflection of students creativity. When teachers over plan and over teach, true dialogue, which is a self correcting process, languishes.

Quality work (marked by student individuality in any learning area) is the product of genuine collaboration and respect for the ideas of the learner.

When students achieve work of personal excellence, powerful respectful relationships emerge. Even previously bored or disruptive students, children whose learning capacities have been damaged, will respond when they see what they can achieve.Involved students, busy trying to solve problem that they themselves have defined, are too busy to waste their time in destructive or attention seeking activities.

Developing such relationships, by tapping into the personal felt concerns and questions of students, and by providing challenges that are owned' are the key to personalized learning.

Learning must come from within, but it is only through dialogue, and by being in a respectful learning environment, that it can be realized.

Everybody only gets good at what they are good at. Expanding the range of areas to gain personal respect and pride of achievement is the challenge of creative teachers.

A 'love of learning' remains intact in such creative situations.


Anonymous said...

This skill - to come along side the learner to assist them create such wonderful work, is all too often missing today.

Anonymous said...

It is this teacher working in depth with a students to help create a personal statement that is missing in todays schools.

Too much painting to numbers( criteria, exemplars and teacher intentions)and too much overuse of techniques resulting in work of a high standard of conformity.

A victory of process over creativity.

And this technocratic standardized teaching aproach is seen across all learning areas.

Anonymous said...

As you say relationship develop when students believe the teacher is listening to their 'voices' and concerns.