Monday, June 24, 2019

The need for creativity in our schools - time to be centre stage again

Real creativity
 – the missing element in education
Readings 24th June 2019

We are coming to the thought that we are speaking to a minority in our efforts to encourage an education system that places creativity and the creative arts central  to teaching and learning.

Confirmed by views seen recently on TV

The views of classrooms on show (with a couple of exceptions) through the teachers’ strike
indicated to us a system featuring an emphasis on literacy and numeracy with work on display more to do with teachers than celebrating student creativity.

 As well, postings on the Teachers’ Facebook page seem to illustrate creativity more as decoration often clone like in appearance.  And the issue of workload seems to relate to an obsession with testing, assessment and associated documentation once again focused around literacy and numeracy – areas that seem to take up most of the morning leaving little time for equally important Learning Areas. And to make it worse associated with demeaning ability grouping.

Let’s leave current formulaic teaching models.

Formulaic teaching
Formulaic teaching seems entrenched. WALTs, learning intentions, success criteria, the over use of feedback, the growing emphasis on phonics indicates a teacher orientated approach to learning, one in which creativity is at risk.

Where is the emphasis on developing the gifts and talents of students?

We do recognize areas that value student creativity such as: play based learning (with its similarity to 1950/60s developmental teaching); the concept of student agency; place based learning; Project Based Learning; and personalized learning (which, however, has been captured by ‘thin’ or fragile’ learning via Google) and the potential of Flexible Learning Environments.

Where has the creativity gone?

Professor Peter O’Connor (Faculty of Education Auckland University) has written "Schools as we know them were originally designed at the same time as mass industrialization began. Not
Prof Peter O'Conner
surprisingly factories and schools centre around the testing and standardization of the products they make and value conformity and uniformity.

The need to take risks

Creativity in these environments shrivels because its fundamental includes a willingness to take risks, to be curious, to be playful with ideas and to consider possibilities to make something not seen or imagined before. This approach has never been a feature of New Zealand schools except in isolated instances and for a brief period in the 1950s, when progressive education philosophies were introduced.

Art and well being

The vitality of schools at the time was based on the twin ideas that the arts train the imagination, and the social imagination is vital for social progress, social justice and national wellbeing. There was a belief that the arts and education were a strong foundation stones for a strong democracy.

The need for creative empathetic citizens

It was understood that one of the school’s primary functions was to create critical, creative empathetic citizens as a safeguard against the rise of extremism.”

Creativity killed by National Standards and STEM

O’Connor continues, “I believe nine years of National Standards essentially killed off creativity in New Zealand schools. The overriding focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) was highly effective in dismantling the arts across the whole education system…”.

“The arts curriculum is the vital tool for teachers to be creative with their children and be creative themselves.”

We couldn’t agree more with ProfessorO’Connor
Sir Ken Robinson - a similar challenge

Sir Ken Robinson writes a similar story about the need to move away from current standardization. He writes one role of education is to help people develop their natural talents and abilities’. ‘We have the opportunity to rethink the whole ecosystem of education. We need to reinvent schools…..We need to stir the motivation , vision, optimism and political commitment’.

The Modern Learning site – and Seymour Sarason

The Modern Learning site always provides valuable inspiration for teachers willing to move into creative teaching. Their writers often quote Seymour Sarason about his need for the artistry of teaching who says teachers need to create ‘those conditions that make students want to learn;
not have to learn but want to learn more about self, others, and the world… seek to help the child forge connections between what he or she wants to know and what the child wants to learn’.

What if ....

So, the Modern Learners write ‘what if we started with the premise that school could be the most interesting place in a young person’s life given our curious, connected, self-directed modern learners are truly capable of doing what was previously unimaginable.’

 From a New Zealand site: Number Agents

In contrast New Zealand site Number Agents write, ‘we need to stop constantly measuring children against so called benchmarks. Measuring and gathering data does nothing to help the child’s growth, but does take up time that could instead be used for fostering and inspiring the joy of learning.

An old Rural Adviser once said ‘teachers have two important attributes, their energy and their time and if they waste in on b/s they can’t teach’.

The artistry of the creative teacher - Modern Learning site

‘The question is’, Gary Stager writes in a Modern Learning posting, ‘how can we create
experiences and context in classroom where kids can discover things they don’t know they love? This is done by implementing good projects that spur creativity, ownership and relevance'

One of our favourite quotes comes from Jerome Bruner, who says 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation'.

.Another favourite writer of ours is Frank Smith who writes, ‘we become like the company we keep, we learn to be like them .. the identification creates the possibilities of learning. All learning pivots on who we think we are, and who we see ourselves as capable of becoming’.

A metaphor for a classroom.

We see classrooms as an amalgam of a museum, art studio, media centre, laboratory and exhibition gallery populated by interesting talented teachers

In such a rich and challenging environment students will learn – it’s what they do.

No need for the current tiresome assessment models – the work the students complete, their portfolios, will be evaluation enough.

Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach

This weeks readings

Professor Peter O’Connor – the killing of creativity in our schools

‘I believe nine years of National Standards essentially killed off creativity in New Zealand schools. The overriding focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) was highly effective in dismantling the arts across the whole education system.'
Sir Ken Robinson – time to personalize education

Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools. "The movement towards personalisation is already advancing in medicine. We must move quickly in that direction in education, too”’
Critically Endangered: The Art of Teaching from Longworth Education site ( NZ)

In the face of so much science, a critical but overlooked, component to teaching is becoming increasingly rare in the classroom - creativity.  An area that is not easily quantified into numerical data, inputs and outputs, the use of creativity by a classroom teacher to ensure a level of joy in learning and teaching extends the science of teaching into the art of it.’
The Benefits of Cultivating Curiosity in Kids

‘Despite the centrality of curiosity to all scientific endeavors, there’s a relative dearth of studies on the subject itself.
Fortunately, scientists are actively unraveling this concept and, in the process, making a convincing case that we can and should teach young minds to embrace their inquisitive nature.’

Teachers need to get students involved in open studies with no known answers

Here are ten criteria for ‘wicked problems’”.
This is Why We Must Be Teaching With Imagination, and How to Do It

‘Imagination is what stays when teachers are gone from their students’ lives. It’s what students have taken from a creative classroom and into real life. While basic knowledge and facts are important building blocks, imagination is the synthesis of that knowledge. It’s the vehicle that gets learners from point A to point B on their own.’
In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education Part 2

Another instalment from Kelvin Smythe’s ATTACK series that he completed just before he died:
‘Except as a chronological expression, 21st century education is nothing special, remaining part of a continuity that, despite considerable twisting and turning, remains just that, a continuity; the technological disruption predicted for that chronological expression being just a further example of ideological disruption that is always there or near in the sensitive and value-laden area of school education.’
Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play.

‘But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.’
For more information about the need for educational transformation, creativity and talent development in earlier blogs:


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Now current negotiations are drawing to a positive end time to focus on teaching and learning - let's put Sir Ken Robinson's ideas into action

Time for educational transformation
Readings 14th June 2019

Now that the salary negotiations look like they will be settled it’s time to focus on teaching and learning. There is a reading below written by Sir Ken Robinson about the need to move from standardisation to transformation. A good read.

Time now to place the NZC central to learning

We both believe in the need for primary schools to now place the intent of the New Zealand
Curriculum up front and central and move away from the, as one commentator has said, ‘the evil twins of literacy and numeracy that have all but gobbled up the entire curriculum’.

It is not that literacy and numeracy aren’t important. Obviously they are but they need to be seen as ‘foundation skills’ necessary for students to develop their interests, talents and personal concerns. As such they are best ‘taught’ in context with students requiring help to be withdrawn for ‘catch up’ help and returned back as soon as possible to the ‘game of learning’. 

What is the ‘message’ of your timetable?

A look at your timetable will indicate how much time traditional teaching of literacy and numeracy takes up and, by default, how many other areas are neglected. Schools need to focus on developing the gifts and talents of all students and to do this requires reimagining the timetable.

There are schools that have done just this but they are few and far between. Possibly the best inspiration for integrated learning comes from the distant past – the writings of pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson. His book, ‘In the Early World’ has been reprinted by the NZCER and is still one of best book about creative teaching. Elwyn saw his class as a community of artists and scientists busy exploring and creating about their environment and personal concerns.

Innovative secondary schools

It seems to us that the centre of educational innovation is now to be seen in a group of
Claire Amos Albany High School
A strong voice for change
innovative secondary schools
. These schools, in their modern flexible buildings, have moved away from traditional compartmentalised disciplines of the past and are developing integrated curriculums making full use of modern technology.   Once the centre of innovation was once to be seen in many primary classrooms particularly in the junior classes.

Ironically these innovative secondary schools are currently facing up to the prospect of having literacy and numeracy requirements placed on them. Evidently too many students enter, or leave, secondary education without these in place. So much for decades of standardised teaching in these areas in primary schools.

Schools as ‘mini Te Papa

We imagine schools as being ‘mini Te Papa’. Students (and their parents) who enter such schools would be faced with a range of displays of students’ researched studies from across the

 Students would be seen at work in teams completing a range of projects, many making use of a range of information technology to research and express their findings. Although students’ concerns and interests would be central teachers follow Jerome Bruner’s advice that ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and are expert at providing ‘tempting’ experiences that capture student curiosity; and teachers who appreciate the inquiry cycle and the concept of Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligences.

It’s the culture that teaches – ‘culture counts’.

We believe that it is the total environment that students are exposed to that ‘teaches’ students what is important and that this environment (or culture) includes not only ‘tempting’ activities but also respectful relationships between all involved.

The teachers in our ‘imagined’ school would need to have a wide range of personal interests to share, covering as many areas of the curriculum as possible – including expertise in reading and maths, information technology, behaviour, history, design et etc. Some of the best things are learnt through the company we keep.

Students lived experience and concerns central

We envisage an education that places at centre the experiences and interests of the learners, their questions and theories, and gives serious attention to the work the students create.

Something to think about? We think so.

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

 This week's Readings

From Sir Ken Robinson: time to pesonalise education!
Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools

"The movement towards personalisation is already advancing in medicine. We must move quickly in that direction in education, too". Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools. "The movement towards personalisation is already advancing in medicine. We must move quickly in that direction in education, too

Boosting Student Engagement Through Project-Based Learning

Research shows that by organizing learning around meaningful goals, PBL can be an effective way to cultivate a “need to know” attitude in students—students are motivated to deepen their understanding in order to solve a problem that is meaningful to them. Concepts are better understood when students see a need for their use because that need encourages them to apply what they’re learning to relevant situations, leading to a better sense of understanding.’

8 Things Every School Must Do To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution

Educators, schools, government officials, and parents must re-think education and how to prepare the next generation to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities and overcome the challenges enabled by ever-increasing technological change. Here are some of the changes happening because of the 4th Industrial Revolution and eight things every school must do to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution’

The quiet secret of an open learning environment

De Werkplaats in Bilthoven is one of the Netherlandsfirst primary schools without any classrooms, where pupils and teachers work in an open learning environment. The environment should adapt to the child rather than the other way around.’

In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education. From Kelvin Smythe’s Attack series that he completed just before he died.

‘One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a 21st Century Education to-day, Piglet.’
‘What was it doing?’ asked Piglet.
‘Just lumping along,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘I don’t think it saw me.’
‘I saw one once,’ said Piglet. ‘At least I think I did,’ he said. ‘Only perhaps it wasn’t.’
‘So did I,’ said Pooh wondering what a 21st Century Education was like.
‘You don’t often see them,’ said Christopher Robin matter-of-factly.
‘Not now,’ said Piglet.
‘Not at this time of year,’ said Pooh.’

Children Educate Themselves: I Outline of Some of the Evidence

‘We do not have to worry about curricula, lesson plans, motivating children to learn, testing them, and all the rest that comes under the rubric of pedagogy. Lets turn that energy, instead, toward creating decent environments in which children can play. Children's education is children's responsibility, not ours. Only they can do it. They are built to do it. Our task regarding education is just to stand back and let it happen. The more we try to control it, the more we interfere.’

Why Questions Are More Important Than Answers

“Questioning is the art of learning. Learning to ask important questions is the best evidence of understanding there is, far surpassing the temporary endorphins of a correct ‘answer.’”

Some oldies but goodies

The real agenda - New Minds for a New Millennium

Our Vision is for schools to create learning environments to develop the interests, gifts and talents of all students.’

Tired of the impossible assessment workload ? Time to put Sir Ken's transformational ideas into action.

Most teachers have heard or read the thoughts of Sir Ken Robinson's about transforming education ‘from the ground up’  as outlined in his book Creative Schools. He writes, ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’. We think it is now time now to put his ideas into action.’

The question for all learners ; ‘Who Am I?

“‘Who am I?’ is the most important question for students? And are schools helping provide an
answer? ‘What makes me who I am?’ The questions above should underpin all the activities in our education system. That so many young people leave education with these questions unanswered ought to be of great concern and worse still leaves students open to becoming to become involved in anti-social behaviour.”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The real agenda - New Minds for a New Millennium

New Minds for a New Millennium

The Past Present and Future of teaching and learning
Readings June 9th 2019

For a number of years, we have published our blog which often includes a set of readings that we hope teachers might find worth reading. We know that teachers are far too busy to spend time searching but we also know that keeping up with reading about new ideas is an important part of being a professional.

We appreciate that only a few will read our blog but as someone once said there is nothing like a hopeless cause – climate change comes to mind.

New connected mind

Our Vision – a view from the edge

Our Vision is for schools to create learning environments to develop the interests, gifts and talents of all students. Our Vision relates back to such writers suchas John Dewey and in New Zealand to the philosophy of Dr Beeby who, as Directorof Education of the First Labour Government, introduced progressive ideas into the New Zealand educational landscape.

Communities of scientists and artists

For us it is the work of pioneer teacherElwyn Richardson that is our inspiration. Elwyn believed that his class was a community of artists and scientists exploring and expressing their ideas about their experiences. Important in this development and sharing of creative teaching was the work of the art advisers who developed related arts programmes. And we would add Sylvia Ashton Warner and Marie Clay whose ideas about reading are as relevant as ever

Holistic education

 More recently holistic ideas about developmental holistic progressive education were championed by the late KelvinSmythe who fought the fight against the mechanistic, formulaic and technocratic approaches imposed on schools over the past three decades.
All forgotten history, we guess, for many teachers today.

Our view is possibly from the edge but it is the edge where new ideas evolve.

Signs of creative growth

It seems to us the centre of progressive education has shifted to a few new innovative secondary schools. Currently their creativity is under threat with the possible introduction of literacy and numeracy requirements for all students rather than these areas integrated into meaningful contexts.  You would’ve thought that with the current focus on testing, assessment and documentation in these areas in primary schools, this would not be a problem?

Innovative secondary schools are experimenting with new organisations while most primary classroom timetable have changed little over the decades, if anything, have become more traditional than ever with their over emphasis on literacy and numeracy (with their shameful ability grouping).

There are also signs of progressive growth in the primary area. Such things as ‘play based learning’ (1950/60s developmental teaching), ‘place based learning’ (earlier environmental education), ‘project based learning’ (John Dewey lives on), and integrated learning.  Then there is, of course, the introduction of Modern Learning Environments (70s open plan schools revisited) and the use of modern information technology which is still ‘over promised and underutilised’; used properly it can amplify student

Literacy and numeracy still, it seems, reign supreme along with oppressive testing, assessment and documentation requirements – often self-imposed by the schools themselves.

Time to develop communities of learning

Time now to focus on developing classrooms as creative learning communities with the overriding aim of developing the gifts and talents of all students and to see literacy and numeracy as foundation skills necessary to achieve this end. We imagine modern classrooms as ‘mini Te Papa’ where students answer questions that are relevant to them, digging deeply into such areas to create exhibitions, displays, demonstrations and portfolios of based on their researching and, in addition, making use of all the creative arts to express their ideas. This aligns with the NZC which asks teachers to ensure students are able ‘to seek use and create their own knowledge’ – personalized learning.

Back to creative teachers like Elwyn
Students in such an environment learn to see the world holistically in contrast to the traditional fragmented approach of many schools – ‘new minds for a new millennium’. Students driven by purpose – new minds amplified by new technology.

Teaching as the most creative career of all

Time for new thinking
Creating such a learning environment would make teaching the most creative career of all. And it’s not simply handing learning over to the students. As Jerome Bruner has written, ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and they will also need to withdraw learners to teach missing skills so learners can get back to the exciting task of the ‘game of learning’ they were born to play.

It is this Vision that keeps us posting – even if most teachers are too busy to notice. As Elwyn Richardson used to quote, ‘It’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp when you are up to your backside in alligators’.

Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach


The Circle of Courage – Native American Model of Education

‘Anthropologists have long known that Native Americans reared courageous, respectful children without using harsh coercive controls. Nevertheless, Europeans colonizing North America tried to “civilize” indigenous children in punitive boarding schools, unaware that Natives possessed a sophisticated philosophy that treated children with deep respect.”’

How One Colorado Art Teacher Inspires Kids By Leaning Into Chaos, Not Control

Research and reflection led her to the realization that she was usually following a set plan: Her
students all made the same thing as she instructed them on how to do it.“There was no room for creativity,” she said. “Everything was preplanned for them. There was a moment where I realized, ‘Oh, these are my ideas and not my students' ideas.’”

Going for Depth: How Schools and Teachers Can Foster Meaningful Learning Experiences

For Mehta and Fine, “deeper learning” consists of three interrelated conditions: mastery, when students fathom a subject; identity, when they connect the knowledge of the subject to their own sense of self; and creativity, when they can apply that understanding to another endeavor in what Mehta calls “the next layer of learning.”'

Dylan Wiliam: Teaching not a research-based profession

‘Classrooms are just too complicated for research ever to tell teachers what to do,' says Dylan Wiliam In many ways, teaching is an unusual job. It shares with other professions the requirement that individuals make decisions with imperfect knowledge, but, unlike other professions, there is no shared knowledge base – no set of facts that all involved in doing the job would agree on.'

Why We Should Stop Segregating Children by Age

One of the oddest, and in my view most harmful, aspects our treatment of children today is our penchant for segregating them into separate groups by age.’

Making Progress on Progressive Education: First Empower Teachers

At the heart of progressive pedagogy are questions about student motivation: How can teachers best motivate students? How can schools best motivate teachers?. Research tells us that for this to happen, schools must first maximize the intrinsic motivation of their teachers.’

Rethinking “Student Achievement”

‘When it comes to “student achievement,” I hardly know where to start. Literally. Should I begin with trying to define it? Or should I start with the fact that hardly anyone defines it? Or that whatever definitions do exist suggest a total lack of consensus and coherence?’

A Childs Brain Develops Faster With Exposure To Music Education
A two-year study by researchers at the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at the University of Southern California shows that exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children in the areas responsible for language development, sound, reading skill and speech perception.’

The Hidden Meaning of Kids' Shapes and Scribbles

‘Your child’s quirky art isn’t just cute—science suggests that even the most bizarre depictions can have deep creative intention.’

What we think we know -- but might not -- pushes us to learn more

‘That's because our doubts about what we know pique our curiosity and can motivate us to learn more, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. The findings, just published online in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, challenge a popular belief that curiosity in general is the prime driver of knowledge acquisition. They also give new meaning to the Montessori approach to learning readiness, which encourages children to follow their own natural inquisitiveness.’