Thursday, January 03, 2008
Teaching as a creative act
This book outlines the power of a creative teacher in the 1950s and has been recently reprinted by the NZCER. Inspirational and not a curriculum in sight.
Life is creative; we make it up as we go along.
What we attend to, and the choices we make, are determined by what we choose to notice. This in turn is determined by the prior experiences we have have had. Our learning identity, for better or worse, 'emerges' from the sum of our experiences. And, of course, this includes our school experience. To confuse the issue our views are also effected by the larger culture we live in - a culture that is continually changing.
Traditional cultures can limit exploration. Today the current, but dated world view, blinds us to new opportunities. Until our basic beliefs and assumptions are challenged little will change.
Every few centuries new ideas emerge to challenge previously held assumptions. The discovery that the earth was round and went around the sun, plus the invention of the printing press, challenged the power of previously held religious views. Today we are in the midst of another dramatic shift in consciousness as we move from a scientific mechanical view of the world, based on predictability and the printed word, into one of an continual change amplified by the development of the world wide web.
Changing world views effect all organisations, including education. Our school systems were established in an industrial era of 'top down' hierarchic power. Basic skills, and obedience for the masses, were early requirements that persist to this day.
Successful in their time such 'top down' and fragmented organisations ( both public and private) now are under stress as they are unable to cope with the new challenges of a fast changing interconnected world.
Students live in this new 'emerging' world but their schools are locked into outdated mindsets and structures. This is a recipe for stress We have been wasting too much energy trying to plan and control our students rather than tapping into the inbuilt desire to learn and make sense of their experiences. We need to go 'with the grain' rather than against it!
Schools can no longer prescribe what student need to learn but instead must be willing to to be involved with student led discovery. Students need to engage with real life tasks rather than be asked to cover what they may never use. We need a 'just in time' curriculum rather than a 'just in case' one! This will requires a new creative role for teachers who will need to be skilled, in what Jerome Bruner calls, 'the canny art of intellectual temptation'.
Creative learners begin any endeavour with a desire established by purpose. In most cases such learners don't know how things will turn out and to learn will require an 'enlightened trial and error' approach. Teachers and students will need to develop new powers of attention to notice what is happening so as to make changes as learning unfolds, often in unpredictable directions. Learning in such an environment is less about transmission and more about 'co-contracting knowledge in action' by both teachers and students.
All learners need to be helped to develop powerful learning identities from an early age. Such positive identities are built up from past successes and provide the courage and confidence for learners to accept new challenges with enthusiasm. New capabilities ( competencies and talents) 'emerge' as part of this process. Learning is an act of faith. Developing positive learning identifies for all students is the responsibility of teacher working in tandem with parents or caregivers.
The acceptance of such a personalised creative approach would make life more exciting for teachers and their students. Schools and teachers would be judged on what their students can do
This creative approach needs to replace the current fragmented teacher determined programmes with their endless, and impossible, accountability requirements and increasingly failing students
All we see today are stressed teachers trying to make sense of demands made by a system that has well past its 'use by date'.
We all need to escape from the shadows of our old thinking and, when we do, a different world will appear. A world that is continually evolving' a world that will welcome our endeavours to take advantage of whatever learning opportunities come our way.
We need to replace control with creativity. We need 'new minds for a new millennium'.
Just watch a two year old in action. They are creative; making it up as they go along. All they need are the conditions conducive to growth, and experiences to choose from, to let them grow.
The opportunity for creative education has aways been there for the taking.