This is a terrific article written last May for the Washington Post online magazine. My friend and fellow arts instructor, Jan, sent it to me today. It reiterates what I have been saying to anyone who will listen: Improved test scores are not an adequate reason to include or exclude a subject area. Arts have intrinsic value not specifically related and yet foundational to learning in core subject areas.
Archive for the ‘re-imagine education’ Category
Having gone through the college admission process two times now, I can say I have learned a few things. This article has so much good advice, I wish I had read it a little earlier. Tufts, Tulane and now Oklahoma State University notwithstanding, most colleges are not yet on board with the super creative admission materials (a la Legally Blond) but we are headed that way. I predict the college admission process will be completely transformed in less than a decade.
The financial aid section is especially useful. A friend of mine gave me the best advice ever: “Whatever they offer, go back and ask for more. There is a little black box under someone’s desk and it’s full of money for your kid. If the financial aid counselor tells you there is no such box, ask that person to look again.” Using this strategy, my oldest went from $0 to full ride. It doesn’t always go that way but like Winston Churchill famously intoned, “Never, never, never, never give up.”
My husband found an interesting blog post on the idea of the teacher-led school model. The idea of a greater presence in the classroom for decision-makers is one which piques my interest. I am fortunate to work in an educational community where everybody’s involved in student life. It’s a bit like living in a small town. Mrs. Crabtree tells your Sunday School teacher what she saw and the milkman noticed something too and we’re all talking to your mom. But I digress… Enjoy the post:
Barnett Berry Video
I gather that some people have had trouble with the embedded video so I am instead making it a link to the Edutoipia site where you can view his video as well as other resources related to education reform. Thanks for letting me know!
Barnett Berry is the president and CEO of the advocacy organization Center for Teaching Quality. In the preceding video he clarifies for all of us just who is going to reform our current system and outlines ways in which that can be done. He bases his ideas on what he calls the Four Emergent Realities:
The Four Emergent Realities include:
1. A new learning ecology that provides a “24-7, just-in-time” learning environment with specific assessment tools.
2. Having teachers trained and working both in and out of Cyberspace.
3. Teachers working as teams with a structure to support differentiated teaching careers over time.
4. Teacher-preneurs (we used to refer to these progressive educators as mentors) who teach but are also allowed time, space, geography (connecting in person or online) and reward to spread expertise in and out of Cyberspace.
I think Barnett may be onto something.
This New York Times story of preschool madness elicits an obvious response: “Are these parents crazy?” There are more subtle forms of directed learning that may thwart rather than propel children. We all know that an over-scheduled child can become a stressed-out child. It would take a month’s worth of blogs to identify negatives associated with stress. For this post I’ll stick to the theme of directed learning. I should call it over-directed learning.
I have seen teachers and parents (including me) pulling their hair in frustration because a child won’t go along with our learning structure. I am a fan of giving a certain amount of structure to kids. This includes a few rules, a reliable schedule and logical consequences. That structure allows kids freedom to create within a psychologically safe environment. But here is where I differ from those who push their children to earn their place among the learning superstars before they enter middle school. A child who plays with Lego’s by destroying and rebuilding or spins around in the backyard until he falls down, stands up, looks around, and spins again is learning. We label this kind of learning “play” and by doing so we reduce its importance in the educational hierarchy. Learning does not only occur at a desk or in an environment where right answers rule the day.
Coercing children into directed learning environments such as the one described in the New York Times article or even placing your baby near the stereo to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony has only a short-term effect on spatial-temporal reasoning and no discernible increase in intelligence. Why, then, do we continue down these competitive paths? Sometimes we favor organizational skills and following directions over experiment and exploration. Imposing adult standards on children for things like order, neatness and organization has more to do with convenience and less to do with allowing children to learn and grow. Failure Freedom is missing in these environments.
The freedom to fail boldly is what allows for quantum leaps in learning. By encouraging our children to be afraid of failure and push harder to please the adults in their lives we have siphoned the gas from our educational engine. It took me three kids and many years in the classroom to learn this lesson. But my failures (and not the copious books I have read) have been my greatest learning tool.
Dr. Robert Sternberg, is an American psychologist and psychometrician and Provost at Oklahoma State University. He was formerly President of the American Psychological Association. Although Dr. Sternberg developed assessments for creativity and practicality (problem solving) he is not a fan of the current model of educational testing. He asserts that rather than focus on what has been learned, he is interested in assessing a student’s ability to learn. In his talk at a recent Creativity Summit at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he answered his own questions, “What do you mean by creativity?” and “Why isn’t everyone creative?” He restated an idea he promotes in much of his work: “There are people who buy low and sell high in the world of ideas.” This is shorthand for Sternberg’s Investment Theory of Creativity developed with Dr. Todd Lubart. My short version of the theory goes something like this: Creative people come up with novel ideas. The mere novelty of the idea causes it to be rejected by the majority of people. This rejection is not just a rejection but an acceptance of the status quo. This is the “buy low” portion of the theory. The innovator invests effort into convincing others that the idea is not only workable but superior to the status quo. This precedes the “sell high” portion of the argument. When an idea’s value is finally recognized, the creator ‘sells’ the idea to others to develop while the innovator moves on to other projects. As Sternberg notes, “If you think about it, that’s what creativity is about.”
Sternberg has been quoted as saying, “Creativity is a decision.” He cites 7 Key Decisions in creativity:
1: Decide if you have a problem that seems unsolvable. Then ask, “Can I redefine the problem?”
2: When you have a creative idea, ask yourself three questions: a) What’s the best that can happen? b) What’s the worst that can happen? and, c) What’s likely to happen? This helps an innovator analyze potential outcomes.
3. Look for entrenchment. “Where there’s vested interest, it’s hard to sell creative ideas.”
4. Realize that knowledge is a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity. Knowledge means less repetition but it can also cause entrenchment. When knowledge of past outcomes is the lens through which a person creates, “many experts are less creative… [because] they can’t see through other lenses.”
5. Be willing to take sensible risks.
6. Persevere in the face of obstacles.
7. Find what you love to do. “With your kids and with your students, what’s important is not what you want them to do but what they want to do.”
Dr. Sternberg is an authentic and innovative thinker. Despite expertise that could cause entrenchment in a less playful personality, Dr. Sternberg is the perfect person to explore the educational landscape of assessments and creativity. Although the entrenchment many of us face in the world of teaching makes innovation challenging, it will help to remember Dr. Sternberg’s 6th Key Decision. Keeping the creativity conversation alive may cause enough of a shift to allow innovative thinkers a seat at the table when assessments are discussed.