Tuesday, May 5, 2009

(Professional Learning) On Creativity in the School System

I just finished watching my first online lecture, and I've got to say I've never been happier to have wireless! What was I thinking staying on dial up for so very long.

Anyway, the lecture I watched was Do School's Today Kill Creativity by Ken Robinson. Ken Robinson is a world recognised expert on developing innovation and has a particular interest in school. He gave this lecture at a conference on ideas and creativity.

The basic idea was that the education systems we have today were evolved from the industrial times in the 19th century, and therefore have a focus on two things - a) doing things which will get you a traditional job and b) traditional academic achievement leading to eventual university success. This focus means that schools consider mistakes to be the worst things you can possibly make.

Of course, as Ken Robinson says, " . . . if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

I see this in my school, in the requirements I'm required to meet in my classroom, in the media we are bombarded with. This evening the news was making pronouncements on the 'best' schools, based on their OP scores. This morning we were being told that we're poor teachers because we're not university professors in all 7 areas we're required to teach, that we should specialise, break all knowledge into cute little boxes and never stray from our best areas.

At the moment I'm teetering between QCATs (Queensland Comparative Assessment Tasks) for Year 6s and NAPLAN (National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy) for my Year 5s. While we were practicing the writing task today for NAPLAN (5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing, 5 minutes editing, write a story about this topic and please stay within the lines) I had to remind one of the students not to spend time drawing an illustration for her text. Even if her picture told the story better than her words, that picture would leave her severely disadvantaged in the tests because of the short time limit, and she would be considered not to be taking the tests 'seriously'. This is despite the fact that our 'Essential Learnings' (curriculum) regards art as a type of text to be studied and created.

So what is creativity and how can we make sure it's there, present in our classrooms?

I suppose creativity is in dance and art and music and drama. But it's also in thought, in encouraging the students to take risks, to approach things in their own way. It's in encouraging students to think and to be prepared to get things wrong from time to time.

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