Jeremy Rusnock/Courtesy Imagination Stage
Let’s start with a question from a standardized test: “How would the world be different if we all had a third eye in the back of our heads?”
It’s not a typical standardized question, but as part of the Next Generation Creativity Survey, it’s used to help measure creativity a bit like an IQ test measures intelligence. And it’s not the only creativity test out there.
So why bother measuring creativity? James Catterall, a psychologist and director of the Centers for Research on Creativity in Los Angeles, says the simple answer is that if society, business and education demands it, then we need to know when it’s happening; otherwise, we’re just guessing when it’s there.
He says, “Measuring is an important aspect of knowing where our investments pay off.”
Troublemaker Or Misunderstood Creative Genius?
In the late 1950s, a man named E. Paul Torrance was similarly interested in children’s creativity. Torrance was a Georgia farm boy-turned-psychologist, and one of his first jobs was working with boys at a military academy. It was there that he began to see creativity as something that was Continue reading
In this era of global competition, test scores are used as the primary benchmark to call out which countries will produce “successful” students. Knowing that American students are competing against a global pool of the best and brightest has led education leaders to focus more on how they score on international tests compared to students from other countries.
But high test scores don’t provide a complete picture of students’ success, according to Yong Zhao, world-renown author, scholar, and professor of education at University of Oregon.
“Countries that score highly, have students with lower confidence,” Zhao said in his keynote address to educators gathered online for the 2013 Leadership Summit.
That seems counter-intuitive, and Zhao isn’t claiming a causal connection — he questions whether focusing on test scores might inadvertently lower confidence. Zhao has analyzed data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and discovered a negative correlation between high math scores and confidence.
“Countries that score highly, have students with lower confidence.”
Similarly, in his analysis of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test that analyzes how countries score in reading, math and science, Zhao found a negative correlation between attitude and attainment. In other words, the countries with lower scores had students who reported higher interest in the subjects. Zhao analyzed media stories from high scoring countries like Korea and Japan, where students don’t show enough confidence or enthusiasm for subjects in which they excel.
He found the same results when he looked at students’ belief in their entrepreneurial capacity, their ability to start businesses or be self-starters. “Everybody is trying to perfect this system and make Continue reading
A new learn-to-code site called Tynker is catching the attention of schools and districts across the country. This, in addition to an iPad app recently released called Hopscotch. Kids, get coding!
By Thom Markham
Once they get to the working world, most students, in almost any job, will collaborate as a member of a team. And every student needs to be prepared for that environment — partly for employment opportunity, but mainly because the deeply embedded mental model of learning and creating as an individual process is obsolete. Collaboration has become the chief way in which things are done. Powerful collaboration is driven by incisive communication—and out of that process come the very best expressions of innovation, creativity, and critical inquiry.
But collaboration doesn’t necessarily come naturally to students. High-performance collaboration requires training and the development of key personal skills. For teachers, two initial steps will help foster this process. First, reframe the conversation by using the terminology of teams rather than group work. Think of your favorite sports team and now call them a group. Feel the difference? Teams focus on accountability and commitment; they form for a purpose and operate through norms and shared expectations.
Second, import and adapt the high-performance principles common in the work world to teams in the classroom. This requires time, good coaching skills, a relentless focus on the quality of interaction between students, and a set of team tools, including contracts, rubrics, and exercise. But the payoff is noticeable. Once students form teams over an extended period and begin to collaborate well, they learn more, get better at teaching others, produce more powerful products, and enjoy the process. Here are 10 principles that can help you design high performance teams.
- Examine individual strengths within collaborative context. Teams form through an intentional process. One starting point is to have members begin by sharing their individual strengths. Who will need help on certain aspects of the task ahead? Use simple tools, such as a basic Myers-Briggs test, to have students individually assess themselves. Have them share results using respectful communication. In this early phase, always debrief the process. Were Continue reading
Lizzie Chen /NPR
Over the years, there have been a lot of claims about the benefits of the arts on the mind: Listening to Mozart makes you smarter; playing an instrument makes you better at math. One program — funded in part by the federal government — is putting these theories to the test. The Turnaround Arts Initiative, spearheaded by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is using an intensive arts curriculum to try and improve eight low-performing schools.
They’re located in Denver; New Orleans; Des Moines, Iowa; and on a reservation in Montana, among other places, and they all serve students from poor families. Some were considered to be the lowest-performing schools in their states.
“They were schools where kids seemed defeated and resigned,” says the committee’s executive director, Rachel Goslins. “There wasn’t a lot of motion or purpose or energy in the halls. They were schools that had failed for a long time.”
Third-grader Jionni Anderson remembers what it was like. She’s a student at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., one of the schools selected for the program.
“In first and second grade we had white walls,” Anderson says. “And it didn’t look right in our school. So that’s when our art teacher, Miss Hayes, and the art club, they painted different colors on the walls.”
Bold colors — greens, oranges and reds. Initially, the school had an art teacher but it didn’t have money for supplies or an art club. That all changed when Savoy became part of the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Continue reading
Ask an educator about what it’s like teaching a room full of students, and you’ll likely hear a similar refrain: No two kids learn the same way or grasp concepts at the exact same time.As a result, educators often say they resort to “teaching to the middle.”
More schools are starting to question whether traditional age-based classrooms are the best way to go, and to change the dynamic of teaching to the middle, they’re experimenting with competency-based learning, a system that moves kids along at different paces once they’ve shown they can grasp a key concept of a unit.
Kim Carter, executive director of QED Foundation, is a big supporter of competency-based learning.
“The choice is, do we want an education system that’s obsolete or do we want a system that is valued and creates value,” Carter said. The foundation offers training, coaching and consulting that focuses on student agency, as well as communities of collaboration both inside and outside school. Eventually, she says, that pace should be negotiated, with the student gradually taking over more responsibility for her learning.
“If you are truly going to go competency based and not just have a veneer of change, it will require retooling our systems.”
Competency-based education is gaining momentum across the country. Already New Hampshire and Maine schools have transitioned to the model. Schools in Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, and many other states are following suit. The Common Core State Standards are also pointing in the direction Continue reading