12 Mar Creative Approaches to Evaluating Schools
“Employers are increasingly saying that they don’t just need people with basic job skills, but people who are creative (and) who can generate new ideas and new ways of solving problems,”
~Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg – Massachusetts
We want all students to be college and career ready and in order to do that we are focusing on Reading and Math results. However, in a few states creativity indexes are also being explored. The intention seems to be based in preparing students to compete in the 21st Century. In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Brain: why right-brainers will rule the future, he describes a future that will belong to “creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.”
There are pros and cons for measuring creativity of schools and curriculum. One benefit could be a balanced curriculum that includes arts, debate, science fairs, filmmaking, and independent research. Schools that focus on creativity in their classrooms would reach out to the whole child. Creative curriculums could approach learning in new ways and boost student achievement in Math and Reading scores by providing an education that connects facts and concepts with application in innovative ways.
The fear is that the index could trivialize creativity into a checklist of activities. “We don’t want to encourage quantity over quality of activities,” said Robert J. Sternberg in a recent article in Education Week.
However, one way that the creativity index could emphasize a balanced curriculum would be to provide schools with another measure of effectiveness. In the same Education Week article, Daniel J. Hunter states “If the only public measurement of your school is a standardized test, then schools have every incentive to teach to the test.”
What does this mean for teachers?
This could mean that teachers would feel empowered to design instruction that looks outside of the box. Instruction would be geared towards the need for students to develop skills that include collaboration, problem-solving, and communication. Educational strategies could be thematic or problem-based. This creativity index could provide support for teachers who are feeling confined to measurement by state tests.
What does this mean for policymakers?
Administrators and policymakers will need to support and allow flexibility for creative teachers. Research shows that a quality demonstrated by creative individuals is risk-taking. Teachers must be allowed to take risks when developing innovative approaches to learning. Currently, teachers feel constrained by testing demands that dictate the schedule in the classroom. High-stakes tests also affect the approach taken to instruction including where we prioritize our strategies and personnel. There are a number of other issues that restrict free-thinking by classroom teachers. I welcome blog readers to provide comments about these limiting factors so that we may dialogue about them. Implementing creativity indexes could be another way to measure teacher effectiveness and could provide more balanced data for teacher ratings.
Research is finding that creativity is not an innate gift experienced by a select few. In fact, it is a skill that can be learned and nurtured. When presented with opportunities to actually think and to problem-solve real-life situations, students are offered more chances to demonstrate creativity. As teachers, we need to be able to give them those opportunities. If administrators and other policymakers were willing to focus support on and nurture the creativity of teachers, we would have the encouragement we need to cultivate a creative environment in our classrooms that teach our students how to be truly prepared for the 21st century.