Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Creative teaching - the only alternative to school failure; Sir Ken Robinson leads the way - but who is actually following.

'Creativity is just as important as literacy and numeracy'
 Tell that to the Ministry of Education and the Government.

Share with other creative schools or teachers and Board of Trustee members

First TED talk - over 9 million downloads

Second TED Talk
Talk with graphics - excellent

The Government is right in believing schools should do a lot better. No student should leave school feeling a failure. The trouble is their approach is wrong, and ironically, with its desire for all students to be assessed against National Standards, is creating ‘winners and losers’ environment and in the process narrowing the curriculum and encourages teaching to the tests.
Sir Ken Robinson call this standardisation a fast food approach; an  approach that has its genesis in the past industrial age.
As thoughts are returning to beginning a new term it is worthwhile taking the time to listen to the wise, and often entertaining, ideas of Sir Ken.  It would also be a good idea to pass the links on to other teachers to Board of Trustee members.
Sir Ken, in his second TED Talk, says we are facing crisis as worrying as the climate change crisis – the crisis of not realising the talents of all students. Developing the unique talents of all students is an urgent challenge.
Most teachers are aware of Sir Ken’s comment that ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’. Creativity is all about developing people who love what they do –students who have not lost through formal school their innate desire to learn.
The problem, according to Sir Ken, is that education disconnects students from their talents  and , worse still, assesses students  only in literacy and numeracy – made even more destructive by the publishing of league tables.
What is required, Sir Ken believes, is not evolution but a real educational revolution –‘we need to transform current education into something else.’We need ‘educational transformation’.
To do this we need to challenge things we take for granted- things people think can’t be done in any other way. For me the blind spot in education is the clinging on to the idea of ability grouping, sorting, setting and streaming  issues tackled by the book ‘Learning Without Limits'. Literacy and numeracy targets and league tables will result in the problem of either poor or inflated self-images.
Sir Ken quotes Abraham Lincoln (1862) who said, ‘the dogmas of the past are inadequate to the stormy present… we must rise to the occasion. As our case in new we must think anew and act anew, we must disenthrall ourselves of ideas we take for granted. The way things are. Ideas that may have suited a previous century ‘but our minds are still hypnotised by them and we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them.’
The trouble is, Sir Ken continues, ‘it is difficult to know what you take for granted because we take them for granted’. This applies to my thoughts about the use of ability grouping that determines forever how  students see themselves.
Sir Ken believes we are enthralled by (take for granted) linearity – that learning must go through predetermined tracks (think National Standards). Education, he believes, ought to be seen as more organic- rather like visiting an exhibition at an art gallery than learning from a book from start to finish.
Sir Ken says, ‘we create our lives symbiotically as we explore our circumstances through our talents’. We need, he says, to reconstitute ability through our diverse talents
The other big issues we fail to appreciate is conformity (once again think of National Standards). School system he says are being increasingly designed as fast food organisations for the mind. Everything is increasingly being standardised, predictable, fragmented.
I would add secondary school have long feature linearity of learning and conformity of students. Now it is being pushed on primary schools.
What we need instead, says Sir Ken,’ is for schools to customise Learning to the individual circumstances of individual students. We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education and it is impoverishing our spiritual capacity just as fast food depletes our physical bodes.’
School have to recognise human identity is extremely diverse – children have a range of potential aptitudes’ to identify and amplify. ‘All learning is about passion - what excites our energy- about doing something you love – that you are good at.’
The reason why so many students opt out of education is because education doesn’t feed their spirit – it doesn’t feed the energy of their passion’. The current focus on numeracy and literacy, no matter how well intentioned, will not solve school failure.
Sir Ken believes we have to change our metaphors. We have to go from an industrial model to an agricultural one. From a manufacturing model based on linearity, conformity and ‘batching’ people (one again with ability grouping) to a model based on agriculture.
We have to recognise’, Sir Ken continues,’ that humans flourish not in a mechanistic process but rather in an organic one. It is impossible to predict the outcomes of human development – all we can do, as with a framer, is to create the conditions under which all students will flourish’.
Education can never be about cloning’ (  by I would add through imposed best practices, targets and National Standards) ‘it is about customisation and about personalisation; education to suit the circumstances of your students’.
‘This is the answer to the future. We need to develop a new system with appropriate support’ ( in New Zealand the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum’) ‘to help all schools develop appropriate systems based on a personalised curriculum taking advantage of thecreativity of teachers’.
We have an opportunity to revolutionize education but to achieve this we will have to change from an industrial model ( I would add also add to escape from the current corporateefficiency model) to an agricultural model where each school can flourish.
Sir Ken concluded his talk with a quote from a W B Yeats poem about a lover only able to offer not great cloaks  but only ‘my dreams  .I have spread my dreams at your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’
‘Every day in every way our students spread their dreams at our feet and we too should tread softly’.


Allan Alach said...

One sad aspect (if sad is the right word) is that when Ken Robinson was here for a principals' conference in 2007 (great presentation BTW) he also had quite a lengthy meeting with then Minister of Education Steve Maharey. There was a video floating around showing some/all of this meeting. Can you imagine the present Minister (or her predecessor) doing the same thing? Maharey also did a presentation at this conference, which left foreign visitors gobsmacked. They couldn't believe that NZ had a minister of education with his vision, and wanted to take him back to their countries. Again, imagine, if you can, the present and immediate past incumbents doing this? No room for endlessly repeated meaningless sound bites.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Greetings Allan. I was lucky enough to almost share a stage with Sir Ken at the Inspired Impact Conference to 1400 people held in Palmerston North in 2011. I say almost because of illness he gave his address via sattelite - but it was still highly successful.He even took questions from the floor!

I also was impressed with Steve Maharey. Steve gave a number of presentations about personalised learning. The current governmnent is blinkered by their corporate efficiency ideology and the current minister so far has little original thinking to offer.They are all trapped in conservative reactionary thinking akin to Henry Ford. What can't be measured doesn't count.

Sadly , unless I am proved wrong, New Zealnd principals will go the way of the Aussie principals. The system is failing - it will need more than timid compliance to ensure all students learn. There is the way but not the will!

Lets hope Labour will pull their fingers out and finish what Maharey started.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Bruce, I'm interested in when you think personalised learning could begin? As soon as they hit school, or do they need a few years of early teaching (colour wheel, phonics, writing endless stories about their weekends etc) before this is a reality? The interesting thing for me as a teacher with unschooled children is to see the growth in literacy and numeracy naturally and as a part of an overall education. We value life and learning, and the kids are just picking up things as they go along. Much of the learning seems to be subconcious, which I find very interesting.
Anyway, will stop ranting now. Thanks for the fantastic posts.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Hi Straun

Chidren are involved in personalised learning from birth. It is at risk as soon as any form of schooling begins.

Check out my early education blogs for more details - or some of the books I listed in the blog about creative learning books.

Any pre school learning ought to fun (particularly if introduced by adults). The best thing is to create conditions with lots of things for kids to explore,encourage lots of talk, art and writing if they want.Kids should be involved in lots opportunities for exploring through their senses.

I would be careful pushing phonics on kids to seriously - best done naturally in context. If kids want to write "endless stories" this would be great.

Kids do "pick up learning' as you say - their identities are created through their experinces - for better or worse. Culture counts.

Debra said...

Thank you Bruce!
Sir Ken Robinson is leading the way for us. I appreciate TED talks, all of which we’ve heard and absorbed, but here are my favorites, compiled into one post, which I’ll be passing along to everyone I know. About to go Tweet this post now.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Debra

I think it is really important to share the ideas of Sir Ken to combat the corporate nonsense being imposed on schools.

Teachers need to listen , absorb and put into practice the ideas of Sir Ken!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce

Have just returned from 5 weeks in Europe and UK

Good to see you still going strong; feel honoured that my book is included in your list.

You may have picked up that in Britain there is talk of going back to O Levels because of poor performance in international tests; there is no suggestion that there could be a link to the long emphasis on standardised testing - which has obviously been a total failure! Also noted in Singapore the increasing emphasis on individualised learning with children following their own passions and interests and the parents' wish for education that equips their children with the skills they need to meet the challenges they will face. NZ seems to have a habit of following failing systems, raher than those pushing the boundaries.


Kevin hewitson said...

I left my teaching career prematurely in part frustrated by the lack of risk taking and willingness of the profession to do what was right rather than what was dictated. Doing so afforded me the opportunity to go exploring to find out what was happening outside of education that was causing such negative ripples within the profession. I came across many figures who were promoting both common sense and delivering insight into the world of learning, so many of which had been "on the stage" for many years. How could it be that there was a system failing so many so spectacularly with so many visionaries about?

Two years later I have a much more informed view, I have listened, read, debate, asked questions and researched my way around the world of education. What we collectively know about how the brain works, what learning needs, how people are motivated, environmental influences etc fills many thousands of texts, web pages and conference theatres. If one hundredth of this was listened to and implemented in terms of educational policy we would have conquered distant planets by now (Carl Sagan reference). Instead we have politicians grabbing sound bites for personal gain and power without any true belief in education.

Until education policy is wrestled away from political influence it will not matter how many Sir Ken Robinsons we have, not one jot!

I have not given up though, I have collaborated with a likeminded colleague and now have a small, embryonic Coaching Centre for literacy and numeracy where empowering the learner and mindful learning is at the core. The children turn up excited each week, parents recognise their children are engaged in learning and the success is wonderful to behold - we are developing true lifelong learners who will, despite not because of the education they receive from our systems.

Education has to move away from argument, debate and making noise to action. Go around, you will never go through.

Kevin Hewitson
Director at Advocating Creativity in Education
(See what I mean!)

Bruce Hammonds said...

I hate to say it but I think you are right, the current system won't change because of the pull of the status quo - or worse still the past.

I believe strongly in the power of education ( learning) but not in schools.

And you are right there is no shortage of expertise to call on.

Education is determined by political ideology and at the moment political ideology and education are on a crash course. A new ideology may well be on the horizon but people like yourself can't wait. It was good time for progressive educational thoughts after the destruction of World Wart Two ( more the late 50s and 60s) but by the 80s the political climate had changed for the worse.

Your conclusion reminds me of educationalist John Holt, who in his writings in the 70s, slowly changed from a school reformer to a de-schooler.

I fear he is right.

New schools will need to develop that bypass the old models - which many parents seem to want to keep hold of. That is parents from the elite whose children benefit from the current system.

Kris Burden said...

So is it really to late?
What if a principal truly believed that education could/should be transformed?
And what if their teachers decided to be bold and give it a shot?
And how about if the parents and school community could be convinced to give it a punt?
And what if because of all of this the kids were the true focus of education?
Surely the level of student achievement would rise along with the creativity.
So do we give up and say it can't be done, or do we put in the effort, roll up our sleeves, and give our kids the future they deserve?

Bruce Hammonds said...

With the thinking you express it is never too late.

With the right principal, with bold aligned teachers,and the support of parents it is possible.

And , with you, I believe achievement levels would rise as a result.

It wouldn't be easy but nothing worthwhile is.

Anonymous said...

I tell you what! Give me the name of the school! I would live to work with like minded people! I have thought about opening my own school!!

In a school like this you wouldn't want a principal! You would need a BIG round table where all professionals sat around it with their expertise intact!

No more hierarchy of subjects or teachers! A community of learning!!

Gill Very Creative teacher in Victoria