Time to put Sir Ken Robinson into action
Readings Saturday 25h May 1980
Time to transform education?
Most teachers have heard or read the thoughts ofSir 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.
This is all the more important after hearing on the Sunday Education TV programme where it was said teachers are spending 60 hours pus a week to cope with what is required of them.
Time surely for teachers to get off the current obsessive assessment and associated documentation bandwagon and consider a real alternative. Workload demands seem to be mainly associated with literacy and numeracy, much of it is generated by schools themselves!
Time to make teaching more fun and creative?
We appreciate that our views may only resonate with a minority of teachers but we strongly believers that a transformation along the lines suggested by Sir Ken (and many others) would make teaching more fun than the current compliance system.
We also appreciate that there are a number of teachers already doing their best to develop interesting ideas: ‘play based learning’ (a modern interpretation of 1950/60s ‘developmental programmes’), ‘passion hours’, ‘wonder walls’, ‘mindfulness’, flexible learning environments (another recycled idea reflecting the open plan schools of the 70s), valuing the importance of ‘agency’, environmental education, place based learning, Project Based Learning ( Dewey again!) the introduction of information technology (the current ‘silver bullet’) , developing a local curriculum, and so on. All worthy but all too often ‘add ons’ to the current system
Need to escape from the current demands.
Current practices such as the amount of time placed on literacy and numeracy, compounded by obsessive assessment and documentation demands, block any real change
.Past decades have seen the introduction of formulaic standardised approaches such as WALTs, ‘next steps’ (do we really know enough about next steps or are we limiting our students to what we think?), ‘success criteria’, ‘intentional teaching’, heavy handed feedback, and prescribed learning objectives. And this will be worse with the introduction of PaCT testing where teachers will be expected to assess students against learning expectations in all learning areas – an impossible task
The classroom in the image of Te Papa
What appears to be missing is: first hand experiential learning, the valuing of the personal world of students, a lack of focus on developing every learners’ talents and gifts, integrated learning , and, most of all, an appreciation of the idiosyncratic creativity of students.
If teachers provided skills at point of need this would result in quality learning across the curriculum and the creation of room environments that celebrate students’ creativity across the curriculum. We see classrooms as ‘mini Te Papa’ – with the students busy researching questions they feel is important, creating exhibitions (and portfolios), arranging demonstrations and interactive displays all featuring their language and art and making use of information technology.
The spirit of the New Zealand Curriculum
Changes as outlined above would be in the spirit of the New Zealand Curriculum which states, students need to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. As an aside there are those that
believe process is more important than process but we beg to differ – both are important and student can only grow when they can see or feel they are progressing. Students learn through creation; knowledge, in this sense, is a ‘verb, a doing word.
Future ready citizens
In such an environment students are self-educating/assessing, continually developing new knowledge, picking up required skills (including literacy and numeracy) as needed on the job for any project, working in teams as scientists and artists, developing lifelong learning attributes – entrepreneurship and creativity vital for future success.
All this is nothing new and goes back to such educators like John Dewey who wrote ‘children grow into tomorrow as they live today’. For too long we seem to have followed the standardised ‘assembly line’ approach of Henry Ford fragmenting learning in the process.
The role of teachers.
The challenge for teachers is to set up the condition to encourage learning, to trust students to explore areas of interest to them, and help to them acquire skills as necessary to complete work of pride and, in the process of such learning, ensure students develop the ability to assess their own progress against their previous best. This does not mean leaving learning up to chance. The teachers’ role, as educationalist Jerome Bruner writes, ‘is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and teachers could provide a range of challenges to ‘tempt’ learning.
If teachers do this then they could amplify the curiosity, resourcefulness, creativity and confidence that are innate human qualities – until they enter formal schooling where teachers determine and assess learning of things the teachers feel is important.
Students are always learning – for better or worse.
If learning is positive, then all for the good but all too often students dislike what it is they are being taught to learn. The most efficient learning comes when we learn about things we want to learn about and in such situation we need little help. This is ‘learning by doing’. Ironically if students really want to learn something then they are happy to acquire knowledge and skills using the internet or in formal situations from knowledgeable adults. Flexible learning environment have an advantage in this respect if the ‘adults’ a have arrange of personal interests to share such as teaching a new sport, information media, a musical instrument or presenting a play. Finally, the students must become their own teachers.
The artistry of a creative teacher
A true teacher helps students with a light hand, finding out what the learner already know or can do, encouraging them to them answer their own questions, valuing the ideas they bring to the situation, modelling, giving feedback, providing emotional support, encouraging risk taking, always
respecting the student’s efforts, and always ensuring the learner feels in control. This is teaching as a creative act in itself.
Imagine entering into such a learning environment. Such an environment builds on the ideas of pioneer New Zealand educationalist Elwyn Richardson in his book In the Early World. Elwyn saw his classroom as a community of scientists and artists exploring and expressing ideas about their world.
We see such ideas as transforming education and in the process making it far more attractive to those who want to become teachers. If schools can’t create such ‘tempting’ environments students will bi-pass formal school and learn for themselves – as many are already doing.
Interested teachers could start with Sir Ken Robinson’s book. Sir Ken proposes a highly personalised approach; one that engages all students, develop their individual abilities and their love of learning.
Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach
Sir Ken Robinson – ‘Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’
Includes a number of videos to share with staff and parents,
More from Sir Ken
The video talk will have you laughing as well as seriously reflecting that our education system as currently structured is harming far too many creative students. Decide for yourself after viewing. If you go to the TEDTalk site, you can ‘google’ Sir Ken and then look for his video clip
And more – his address to the PN Inspired Impact Course 2011
What is the most important question for students? Who Am I?
Elwyn Richardson – In the Early World
There was a time when New Zealand primary education was internationally recognised for
placing the learner at the centre of learning. When education was driven by a belief in the creative power of the learners themselves; when learning was based on the internal and external lives of the children. But since Tomorrows Schools things have changed. Today schools have been distracted by assessment, achievement data and measurement by standards. The evidence is becoming clear in our rush to towards achieving measurable results children’s curiosity has been eroded.
Creativity – its place in education – Wayne Morris
‘The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.’
What is school for?
‘We don’t really ask ourselves about the purpose of school or why we send our kids there, it’s just something we do. But every country should be asking themselves what schools are for. In order to have an idea about what our countries are going to be like in the future, we need to know what the purpose of our schools is. At the moment it appears to be content transmission and testing, and that isn’t going to produce the kind of innovators we need.’
On Teaching Reading, Spelling, and Related Subjects
Half Truths About Whole Language, by Alfie Kohn
‘While there is no precise, universally accepted definition of Whole Language, and no party line f
or its proponents, this much is clear: it isn’t the “opposite” of phonics, and it doesn’t deny the importance of phonics. Even Kenneth Goodman, a pioneer of the Whole Language movement whose views are sometimes considered extreme, agrees that “you cannot read an alphabetic language without using and learning phonics.”’
Five Ways Design and Making Can Help Science Education Come Alive
‘Design is an artistic endeavor that values the creative and human centered application of
math, science and technology. Using design to help others learn science is not intuitive, however, once practiced you will see how humanistic and authentic it is to incorporate design in any subject. Below is a list of the most promising benefits that I have noticed in the past six years for using design as a framework and making as the engine to empower students as they gain and apply their scientific literacy.’