Thursday, June 18, 2009

Artistry versus conformity in teaching.

Over the decades I have had the privilege of working alongside several very creative teachers. Teachers who had the wit and skill ( or artistry) to take advantage of teachable moments and use them to enlarge their students' awareness, skill and knowledge. One such teacher was Bill Guild, long since retired but still learning! A dead (and smelly) wasp nest provides opportunity for observation , investigation and inference as well as creative language and art.

Creativity is at risk in our schools today. Not that it was ever valued much by those whose natural inclination is to stick to the tried and true.

Today 'best practice' rules supreme as teachers follow suggestions to try to direct their students' learning by the use of defining intentions, negotiating 'success criteria', or something called WALTS. Teachers are too busy interacting with students providing 'feedback' and 'feed forward' all too often unconsciously removing student intuition and imagination in the process.

There is nothing wrong with such intentions if used lightly but this is not the case. Combined with a growing obsession with measuring progress in literacy and numeracy such ideas are distorting true learning. This obsession with measurement will be given even more emphasis with the inevitable political imposition of National Testing.

Teachers need to claim back their professional judgement, or 'artistry', and place greater emphasis on ensuring every student develops their innate gifts, talents, individuality and creativity.

Observing a teacher with such 'artistry' in action is an enlightening experience. During the flow of the day more unplanned actions unfold than intentional ones but things mostly happily work out for the best. Teachers who have such confidence in their own artistry have gained this confidence from their previous experiences. This teaching 'artistry', often unstated, is also intuitively shared with other teachers.

From previous experiences, or memory, such a teacher has knowledge of precedents to call on. From his, or her, rational mind, comes an awareness of current 'best practice'. With 'artistry' such a teacher combines all these influences unconsciously using imagination and intuition. Such teacher have the confidence of an artist who puts trust in the creative process.

This is almost the opposite of the advice of best practice' and many teachers who wish to control the learning process. With such misguided advice students 'products' end up by looking remarkably similar even if this is not the teachers intention. Such conformity indicates a lack of both student and teacher creativity.

Creative classrooms should be full of focused action. Any planning should centre on the need to assist students to get on with their tasks. It would be wrong , however, if such planning was so good that students were not able to make mistakes because it through the consequences of mistakes ( or risk taking) that students learn.

If students are able to imagine what they intend to do, and appreciate the need for others to get on with their tasks, then the teacher is free to creativity interact with individual and groups as circumstances require.

With benign planning and routines, involving real tasks, and an implicit trust in students to learn for themselves, the artistry of the teacher comes into play.

This is a long way away from from all the current highly rational 'evidence based teaching' imposed by those who see teaching from a managerial frame of mind. Ironically creative classrooms are full of 'evidence' of the success of their students as a natural result of their investigation in a range of learning areas. What is on display is 'evidence' of the 'voice', questions, concerns, theories, research and creativity of the students.

Creative students are developing a 'life long learning confidence' by being active 'seekers users and creators'. Such students will be able to demonstrate success even when confronted with National Standards testing.

I would place more faith in a school of teachers following such a creative approach than a school that follows a more managerial approaches to learning.

Who will remember the managerial teachers who live on planned certainty? No one remember the managers, the administrators; only those with imagination to see beyond current expectations.

It artists not managerial technocrats that finally count.

Only the artists, the creators will be remembered!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Conformity rules and it is not OK!!