What is a creative education? – Elwyn Richardson, Sir Ken , Guy Claxton, John Holt

What is a truly creative education?
Creative teaching Readings
  Friday 12th April
Bruce and I spend time each week gathering articles that encourage a creative approach to education.  This of course begs the question what makes a classroom creative?
Bruce has been involved in encouraging creative approaches to education for decades. First as a

science adviser, as a teacher, an art adviser, principal and an independent education adviser.

At the beginning of this year Bruce was asked to give a session at the school he was once principal of at their TOD to share the main ideas arising from his experience over the decades.
Perhaps the main idea Bruce mentioned was to develop your classroom, or school, as a community of learners.
 Bruce drew the attention of the staff to the philosophy of Elwyn Richardson who saw his classroom as a community of artists and scientists exploring their immediate environment and personal experiences. To us both Elwyn’s book In the Early World (recently republished by the NZCER) is still the best example of creative teaching. All schools and teachers should have a copy.
As a Science Adviser (and even earlier as a Nature Study Specialist) Bruce said that exploring the natural world is as important as ever and, as part of this, it is important to help students learn through sensory awareness.  Such awareness and appreciation provides motivation for expression

through a range of media but will contribute for students to protect and value the environment.

In the mid 80s Bruce was involved in the Waikato School of Education’s Learning in Science Project (LISP). Essentially this was based on finding out what students know and then to challenge their understandings ; to value their question  and current theories and to note how their view had changed (or not) due to learning experiences. Contrary to current views knowledge is as important as the learning process. Classrooms should reflect the before and after views of students.
As an art adviser Bruce focussed on helping students express ideas through art and valued the idiosyncratic expression of every learner.  Much of what many teachers today call creativity is craft at best and decoration at worst – and, all too often, little can be seen to differentiate each learners efforts.
Bruce’s teaching experience followed a long career giving advice. The main message he learnt was that giving advice and doing it are two different things.  Having to cover the whole curriculum was a real challenge and took him time to come to terms with.   Bruce made the point

that take advice with care – many who provide advice have had little practical experience of what they talk about.

So these were the points Bruce shared which align with my own views. We both believe that in an education that focuses on accepting learners for what they can do and building on their strengths – to develop their unique passions and talents.
 We both believe that all students will learn if it makes sense to them, if they can see the point of what they are doing.
We both believe that the teacher’s role is to create classrooms as communities of learners full of challenging experiences to attract student’s curiosity. As Jerome Bruner has written ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’. If we see our classrooms as a subtle mix of an artist’s studio ( in including all media), a scientist’s laboratory, a work room and an art gallery then students will learn to do, in meaningful contests, the very things teachers currently spend far too much time on – literacy and numeracy. Too much valuable teacher time and energy is wasted on assessment and


Two last points. Teachers should do fewer things well and, strangely in this fast paced world, to slow the pace of students work to both encourage in-depth thinking and to give time for teachers to come alongside learners to help as required. Students, all too often, think that first finished is best and by rushing develop fragile learning.
Students are born to learn. We mustn’t let schools get in their way. If in doubt read Elwyn Richardson’s book and also watch the two videos about his work at Oruaiti School.
Allan Alach

For those interested in Elwyn Richardson’s book

Reclaiming the joy of learning : In the Early World ( NZCER)

‘Oruaiti School functioned as a community of artists and scientists who turned a frank and searching gaze on all that came within their gambit. Curiosity and emotional force led them to explore the natural world and the world of their feelings…..Studies and activities grew out of what preceded them. New techniques were discovered and skills practiced as each achievement set new standards’

In the Early World
Here’s a movie, filmed by Elwyn Richardson in 1961, with his added commentary, that shows some of the amazing art work produced by his pupils.
Song of the Bird
Following on, here’s another video that looks at Elwyn Richardson’s work and which includes Richardson talking about his teaching.
A gifted Taranaki teacher Bill Guild implements Elwyn’s ideas
Bill Guild was a key figure of a group of Taranaki teachers that had gained reputation for the  creative programmes they were implementing.  Bill – who by the way turns 93 this year and is as enthusiastic about creativity as he ever was and a whiz on his Apple  Computer
John Dewey an educator for the 21stC
The progressive ideas Bruce and I hold relate to the writings of John Dewey. So many of the ideas talked about today have their genesis in the writings of Dewey .

Dewey placed a premium on student meaningful activity in learning and participation in classroom democracy. His belief that students must be ‘invested’ in what they are learning echoing calls today for school to present ‘rich, real and relevant learning’ to combat growing student disengagement.’

Guy Claxton’s  book ‘What’s the  Point of School’
This book is powerful and timely examination of why our schools are built to fail, and how to redesign them to meet the needs of the

modern world.’ The challenge of redesigning schools is a big ask but the book gives lots of very practical advice about how to create enthusiastic learners and more effective teaching. In particular the ‘learning power’ ideas gives guidance to how New Zealand teachers can implement the ‘key competencies’ of the new curriculum.’

Time to re-read John Holt –
The Joy and Sorrow of Rereading Holt’s “How Children Learn” Here, summed up, are John Holt’s great insights about children’s learning.
We must reverse the ‘outcome oriented’ educational monster we have unleashed
Our students need to be content creators, not memorisers As the New Zealand Curriculum says students need to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’.”
What Students Do Better Than Teachers

Moving from exchanging words to exchanging ideas is a big shift that doesn’t happen just because there is a question and answer exchange. There is a certain trust inherent in any meaningful communication.’

9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us
I’ve been collecting a list of these “things that we don’t really want to talk about in education” in hopes that it might challenge us to bring those elephants out into the open and ignite some much needed conversation about how to deal with them. Here are nine of them.’
The Artistry of Teaching

‘There is one goal [of education] that, if not achieved, makes the achievement of all other goals very unlikely. That goal is 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. The overarching purpose of schooling and its governance is to support that goal, i.e., to create and sustain contexts of productive learning supportive of the natural curiosity and wonder with which children start schooling.’

Seven Myths Keeping Teachers from Implementing Creative Projects
Every year, I ask my pedagogy students about their most memorable learning experience as a student. Inevitably, it involves a creative project. These were the moments when learning stuck and often it was when they fell in love with the subject. But these were also the experiences that taught them collaboration, project management, flexible thinking, and a growth mindset.’
#3quotes from Rogers – Steve Wheeler:
‘Although he originally practised as a psychotherapist, Carl Rogers was intensely interested in education. His 1969 publication Freedom to Learn is now considered a classic of education. It was certainly required reading during my own teacher training. Rogers’ approach to both psychotherapy and education was humanistic and thus person-centred. His view on learning was that children needed to be fully engaged rather than passive in the classroom.’
4 Ways to Develop Creativity in Students
‘When Benjamin Bloom identified what he called the taxonomy of the cognitive domain, he ranked
synthesis (creativity) as one of the most difficult skills to master because a person has to use all of the other cognitive skills in the creative process. Since, according to Bloom, creating is the highest

order of thinking, it should be in the forefront of all learning environments and an end goal. When students create what they imagine, they’re in the driver’s seat.’

Sir Ken Robinson: How to Create a Culture For Valuable Learning
‘Robinson believes education is “to enable students to understand the world around them, and the talents within them, so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.” He doesn’t deny that learning information about the world is important, but he says it’s equally important for students to understand their own talents, motivations and passions if they are going to lead lives that satisfy them. The current system of conformity and compliance leaves no space for this type of self-exploration.’

Categories: Education