Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

6. What’s Worth Knowing?

  • We start with a school that is centered on project-based learning where you figure out what you want the students to learn and develop a project for it. You reverse-engineer the content into the project. Here you are more likely to see published texts and documentary films among other projects with no bells and a flexible, personalized schedule. The curriculum shapes the schedule, not the other way around. Human achievement required people to explore, test, and prod to see what happens, and to ask what if? Being creative is also at the heart of being human. It is essential for schools to develop each child’s unique capacities along these lines. Ken offers the following eight core competencies, all starting with c, for schools to focus on: curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, and citizenship with details for each.
  • The big question for schools is: What sort of curriculum is needed to promote these eight competencies? Ken finds that the idea of academic subjects it too limiting as the boundaries between different subjects constantly overlap. I should note that Finland is currently working to get rid of subjects in favor of interdisciplinary activities. A balanced curriculum should give equal status and resources to the following: the arts, humanities, languages, language arts, math, physical education, and science. As for the right mode, Ken looks for kids actively doing things, a process of trial and error, design thinking, and ditching the divide between academic and vocational programs. Education also needs to extend beyond the school walls. This will help keep students more engaged in school. He also sees a role for independent study.

7. Testing, Testing

  • Like many authors, Ken sees that the current crop of state tests produces collateral damage as they test kids who aren’t standard in only some areas. Areas not tested get scant attention, and kids who don’t do well get even more test prep. These tests also serve to reduce the range of assessments teachers use. He sites Young Zhao who points out that getting great test scores won’t stop smart people in developing countries from taking more jobs. The tests also curb students’ natural creativity, and cause some teachers to pay much more attention to students near the cutoff point. In the US alone we spent $16.5 billion on testing in 2013 compared to the $9 billion business called the NFL.
  • Ken believes that assessment is a key part of education, but that it needs to be integrated. As it is, grades don’t say much about what a student knows. We seem more concerned about comparing kids to each other. We need to ask students to assess themselves and do away with grades. Learning, not grading should be the primary focus. Ken tells of a model called Learning Records which requires teachers to focus on what students can do. They allow for early intervention and do a much better job of providing useful information to parents. Students can’t get an A without showing progress. While top students may not like this, middle and lower kids tend to as they can set their own goals and see progress. Effective assessment should spur students to do well, show what they have actually done and achieved, set clear and relevant standards, and not be seen as the end as they are naturally interweaved into the learning process.
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