An arm around the shoulder
He asked us to think of a teacher who mattered to you. Now think, why were they important to you?
Was it because they used a range of teaching methods?Because they helped you get the best marks possible?Or was it in some way related to the way they made you feel?
Our obsession with assessment
“Children need the sort of environments and opportunities that let them develop their interest in different ways and at their own pace.”
Then we moved to a more systematic model that prescribed ideal levels at certain ages. Now we micro-assess our students right from the age of 5. These assessments tell students how well they are doing compared to some kind of ‘normal’ level.
‘How are you assessing this?’
‘How does this matter in the real world?’
‘Is this in the exam?’
Are you born with creativity or do you learn it?
We often confuse creative with artistic.
‘Oh, he’s the creative one. She’s the smart one. He’s the practical one.’
- The first is decorating. This is where we take an existing idea and we pretty it up a bit. We take the status quo and tweak it.
- The second is adaptive thinking. It’s where you borrow other people’s ideas, cobble them together and pass them off as your own work.
So how can we be creative again?
Bringing “Open Texts” into the classroom
- Here’s a worksheet – with the answers on the back.
- Let’s analyse this novel – and don’t miss these key themes.
- Produce this artwork – following this pattern.
How to bring “open texts” into the classroom
- Does time have a beginning or an end?
- Is beauty real or imagined?
- How should we measure our lives? In years? In accomplishments? Something else?
- What is consciousness?
- If every cell in my body gets replaced over 7 years, will I still be me in 7 years time?
- If I go back in time and kill my grandfather before he conceives my father, I have prevented my own conception. So does this mean I cannot go back at all?
Welby shared a story about a history lesson he taught to personalise the learning. He put a row of chairs on each side of the room. After explaining a historical situation, each person had to choose a side of the room. Sit on the left if would take up arms and fight. Sit on the right if you wouldn’t.
Do you know how you learn?
- What causes some things to stick in your brain over other things?
- What do you do to get beyond competence?
- What strategies help you get beyond failure?
How to get beyond marks, results and assessments
- Reduce the impact of marking. Go to the top of the food chain and ask them to identify the minimum marking they need. Then, negotiate with them to lower the number of required marks. Perhaps you can bargain them down to one final mark at the end of the semester or year? This then leaves you free to experiment with the other methods explained below.
- Use self evaluations. ‘What’s worked well in this project?’ ‘If you had 2 weeks, what would you change and why?’ Self-reflective questions help people to learn how they learn.
- Use peer assessments. What if you asked each student to review 3 other students’ work? They would practise critical analysis 3 times and would receive 3 pieces of critical analysis from their peers. Before long, they would start to get good at analysing what ‘good’ looks like. Compare that to receiving just one mark from the teacher…
- Use iterative portfolios. Most educational institutions need a mark to show your learners have progressed. It’s hard to avoid marking and measurement altogether. With an iterative portfolio, the students get marked at several points along the way, leading towards one final mark.
- Elevate the voice of the self. Nobody remembers what you made them think, but they will remember how you made them feel. Try to think of ways to relate your lesson to the students’ lives and morals. Start the lesson by making it personal and the rest will flow from there.
Working in a wounded hierarchy
How do you work in a ‘closed text’ system?
- When something is bad, real leadership means looking after others. Real leaders work first with people’s emotions and second with people’s rational brains.
- Protect and nurture initiatives that could get hurt. If you’re trying a new way of working try to keep that under the radar until you have some proof of its success. Don’t give people the chance to crush it before it’s even got off to a proper start.
- If something works, tell that story loud and proud! And, pin that success on your harshest critics.
- Create trust structures to talk about failure.
- Refuse to be beaten! Never let your inner enthusiasm be beaten. The word enthusiasm comes from en theos which means ‘inner god’. Nurture your own en theos and celebrate it in others.
A word on cynicism
Kia kaha | We need you