This blogpost follows my last two posts that I created after speaking to the K-12 on-line learning conference. This third post focuses on creativity and innovation.
We hearing a lot about the importance of creativity. Questions abound regarding how schools enhance or even sometimes hinder students’ creativity.
We also hear often about the importance of innovation. It is suggested that without innovation, student learning will not improve. I would suggest that we are not clear about how to teach creativity, how to nurture creativity and how we leverage innovation to support our primary goal to improve student achievement and well-being.
Lucas, Clayton and Spencer in an article titled “Progression in Student Creativity in School” (2013) state that there are five creative dispositions: inquisitive, persistent, imaginative, collaborative, and disciplined. These dispositions need to be explicitly taught and the learning conditions in each classroom need to nurture their development. A further challenge is how we measure improvement in these areas? We know that what we measure holds priority in terms of what we value, but the ways we presently measure improvement in student achievement may not lend itself to measure improvement in these dispositions. Again, another invitation for education policy makers to be creative!!
Drawing upon Lucas, Clayton and Spencer’s work (2013) I would like to pose some questions that I have created around these dispositions:
How do we invite our students to question, explore, investigate and challenge assumptions? (inquisitive)
How do we support our students to take risks, persevere, deal with a lack of clarity while learning and be willing to think and act differently? (persistent)
How do provide opportunities for our students to use their intuition, to make connections that are not readily obvious, and to develop and consider new and different possibilities? (Imaginative)
How do we create conditions for students to share their thinking with one another, to cooperate, to provide feedback to each other, and to build new ideas and develop new projects together? (collaborative)
How do we encourage our students to reflect, to be critical, to improve their work, and to devise strategies and techniques to support their own learning? (disciplined)
When I walk into schools and classrooms, I pay close attention to the tasks in which students are engaged. I also observe how the students are working and learning. Further, I observe the teacher as he/she interacts with students. A classroom that teachers and nurtures creativity has some of the following characteristics from my experience:
Students are leading the learning within clear parameters determined by the teacher.This leadership is evident when students have created the questions they are exploring as opposed to simply “filling in a blank”. In these classrooms, students create multiple ways to solve a problem, develop strategies, and to complete a task. Students believe in themselves and their abilities to fulfull expectations and be successful in their learning. They use many tools and different resources to support them. They are able to work independently as well as collectively and there is clear evidence that they have learned something new or created something new when they fulfill the expectations of the curriculum that the teacher helps bring to life.
Teachers have a significant role to play as they focus their attention on each student. Instead of supplying all the information, these teachers invite students to find information and to critique and analyze that they find. Instead of standing in the front delivering factual based information for an entire class, these teachers balance direct instruction, with collaborative opportunities as well as independent work.
I would like to offer a concluding word about innovation. A learning environment is continuously changing as new ideas are generated and new knowledge is created. One could argue that a true learning environment is an innovative one. Andy Hargreaves reminds is in his new book “The Global Fourth Way (2012) that schools need to be innovative and they need to be improving. Student learning is at the heart of what educators do. Therefore, innovation must serve improved student achievement and well-being.
I believe in the voices of students. This article in the Toronto Star from Kourosh Houshmand, student trustee from Toronto District School Board emphasizes some of the points I have outlined here.
When I addressed the On the Rise K-12 Digital Learning Conference I shared with the participants that “Learning is changing-whether we like it or not!” I would suggest that the only way to provide what our students need is to collaborate together, to learn from one another, to take risks, ask questions, experiment and respond to what are students are saying, creating, and doing. As educators, we are very fortunate to serve our students in a dynamic learning environment!!!