J.P. Guilford 1897-1987 US psychologist
The world of education has never really defined creativity. For many, the notion of the creative curriculum means the arts subjects, music, art, drama. At times enlightened experts have proposed creative approaches in other areas, but these have often been lost in a rush to return to basics, or as now, the core curriculum, which means whatever the current Secretary of State deems it to be. The difficulty of this is that the core determines what is to be tested and is therefore important, so we are told, as a tool to check that schools are doing what they should do.
Should education be a case of either-or, or should we be seeking to find ways of covering the basics within a more creative curriculum? If J.P.Guilford is correct, then if life is a series of problems to be solved, schools should be creating a curriculum which allows them to tackle problems with support and guidance, making errors and being helped to see how to resolve them. How much of the current curriculum is risk free?
Daily, children are being given photocopied worksheets, sadly, often unaltered from the internet or ideas book, so may not be applicable to the class or child context. Pre-prepared templates, limited, prepared resources and finished items to be copied are even seen in “creative” lessons, leading to thirty identical copies. Craft, skill development or real creativity?
If a budding Picasso was in the classroom, would this approach enhance his skill? Some would answer yes and many artists move from formal training to the abstract after college.
There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns. Edward de Bono 1933- physician, author on thinking skills
Where Edward de Bono promulgates the notion of creativity as a human resource to be developed, many schools offer a variation of what has gone before, often many years before, without question. Teachers actively share resources, and while there is no need to “reinvent the wheel”, as is often quoted, there are few classrooms where the same activity will achieve as much as the originator of the idea. However, patterns are repeated, often in the name of innovation, where what was a good idea twenty years before is rediscovered and repackaged as the next new idea.
We have, over time thrown away many good ideas, because they’ve dated a bit, but if anyone was to look at the Nuffield Science 5-13 series (1967-75), they’d find a very practical, experience based, problem solving, creative science curriculum. But then along came QCA guidelines, which gave a recipe based science approach, to go along with further recipes for other subjects. Creative, it was not.
To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires a creative imagination and marks the real advances in science. Albert Einstein scientist and mathematician 1879-1955
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, polymath 1642-1727
Einstein would be turning at this point, but then so would Isaac Newton, who had the humility to give credit to the thinkers who had gone before. Children need to know facts, but then they must have the chance to explore these, compare other sources of information and come up with a reflective, considered view. There is always more than one way to look at the world. Everyone is different and the new Einstein or Newton may well be in one of our classrooms, still to discover the spark of imagination from which the next big advance in science will come.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. Albert Einstein.1879-1955 (He said a lot)
Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. John Dewey 1859-1952 philosopher, psychologist and education reformer
Imagination is often underused as an educational tool. It is often mixed up with recall, of facts, places visited, people met, so is more likely to be an activity based on memory or description. If Einsten and Dewey felt so strongly about imagination and they were working 80-100 years ago, why have we not embedded imaginative problem solving in the curriculum?
Real imagination stems from some version of hypothesis building, which is capable of being checked in some way, leading to reassessment. Real imagination allows someone to take a flight of fancy, to create a new reality within which a story can be set. Real imagination takes one or more idea(s) and transforms them into a novel solution. Real imagination can be rare, but these children do exist and may well be sitting in the classroom. They are not always the capable, academically able children, nor are they necessarily the ones with their hands up. They may be the child who is daydreaming, while looking out of the window.
The human mind once stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes 1809-1894 physician, poet, lecturer and author.
We wish children to make progress in learning throughout their school careers. We’d like to think that we stretch their minds. Many studies have shown that this is not the case. Children often are subject to repetitive activity and may be suffering from repetitive strain. They may not be enthused to learn and that’s the crux of the matter. Schools are places of learning. Children learn in different ways. Children should be being guided to learn by engaged teachers, who know their talents and their learning needs.
Last, slightly sad, word from a past Prime Minister. You’d think that with a little imagination we could come up with a stimulating, life-enhancing education system across the board. Maybe this is a reality check.
Perfect solutions of our difficulties are not to be looked for in an imperfect world. Winston Churchill 1874-1965 statesman, author, artist.
But then, maybe Churchill was prepared to work with imperfection, if it offered a temporary solution to the problems facing him, giving him time to come up with a better solution when circumstances improved. And maybe by making one thing better, the situation shifted sufficiently to allow the next steps to be imagined.