Creativity in Schools Revisited

“The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” – Deepak Chopra

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My Perspective and a Little Rehash on Creativity

Since June 2013 when I retired, I have looked back fondly to an exciting 35-year career in public school teaching, examining the purpose and impact of teaching music education to literally thousands of students. Being assigned to band/choral/orchestra ensembles, music theory and general music classes, as well as directing extracurricular chamber groups, plays, and musicals, I willingly embraced that hectic 24/7 schedule to have access to (and hopefully “inspire” creative self-expression in) my kids before, during and after school hours. Yes, we had musicians, singers, actors, and dancers who chose for themselves a career in the arts, and even more who entered into the noble quest of “giving back” by seeking employment as music educators. However, the largest majority of those students who studied with me went on to non-musical careers.

So, in reflection, was all of this worth it?

Sure it was, but not just to master the course content or complete so many concerts, theater productions, or music lessons. At this point, I have come to peace knowing that the main purpose of my job was to somehow motivate, engage, encourage, guide, and facilitate my students to realize their own success in creativity and self-expression… hopefully to last a lifetime.

Remember, in education, it is the “process” that truly matters, not solely the “product.”

“Creativity is as important as literacy”- Ken Robinson

sign-1268930Two years ago, I wrote a three-part series on the critical need, rationale of, and techniques for developing skills in teaching creativity as well as teaching more creatively. I based my compilations on the February 2013 issue “Creativity Now!” of the ASCD Educational Leadership magazine, and passed on the research and insight of creativity experts, self-expression advocates, and/or self-proclaimed ”right-brain” educational gurus Ronald Beghetto, Dr. Curtis Bonk, Eric Booth, Susan Brookhart, Roger von Oech, Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, and Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein.

With 2016 about to make its grand entrance, where are we now with creativity in the public schools? In Pennsylvania, the writing of meaningful and extensive “scope and sequence” creativity curriculum, and its implementation of essential questions, lesson targets, and pedagogy, still take a backseat to the highly politicized Common (and much more limited) Core subjects and standardized achievement tests, which the latter, in my opinion, measures very little of an individual’s potential for success. To this day, a focus on “Whole Child” and “customized learning” priorities remains to be lacking throughout the country. We need to “take action,” mandate further research, and propose teaching creativity as an art and a science, all along bringing the necessary courage and vision to make significant changes in our educational systems.

Thinking “Outside the Box”

thinking-out-of-the-box-2-1237525The continued fixation on “error-free” convergent thinking, a priority of the one-answer-only mentality, baffles me. 1+1+1 does not always equal three. I can give you at least two alternative answers: 11 or 1 (the sum in a binary system for the former and the result of drawing the Roman numeral “I” with one vertical line and two horizontal lines for the latter). This is an example of divergent thinking (“process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions”), and sits at the top of the charts for higher order of thinking skills (HOTS) and depth of knowledge (DOK). Use of divergent thinking is much more valued in higher education circles, future employment, and especially research and development in a host of careers from medicine to engineering to technology innovation to consumer markets… probably the foundation of future success in our whole economy.

Review the Literature on Creativity in Education

Are you interested in joining the bandwagon of creativity education advocates? First, review my other three articles and absorb the thoughts of some of our greatest educational innovators. Go to the following links:

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Inspiration from… Who Else? Adobe!

Next, take look at the recent research of Adobe, Inc., posted on the company website: http://www.adobe.com/education/creativity-in-education.html. Gathering data by polling educated professionals (2012), educators and parents (2013), and hiring managers (2014), the crucial role of creativity in education was illustrated.

Based on a survey taken in early 2013, Adobe published the following findings:

  • Parents and educators are strongly aligned in their concerns and desires for the educational system.
  • The education system is stifling creativity; a transformative change is needed.
  • The demand for creativity and creative thinking is increasing and will fuel economies in the future, yet students are less prepared to become innovative thinkers of tomorrow.

According to Adobe, the top two reasons educators struggle to incorporate creativity into the classroom in the United States are lack of resources (56% of the survey responses) and the current education system doesn’t value creativity (54%).

In addition, Adobe reported that the top 3 most important steps to promote and foster creativity in education (in the U.S.) are the following:

  • Provide tools and training that enable educators to teach creativity.
  • Make creativity something that is integral to the curriculum.
  • Reduce mandates that hinder creativity.

In another study sponsored by Adobe (2012), several key headlines were released:

  • 57% of college-educated professionals believe creativity is a learned skill that can be learned in their career, while 65% believe it is a personality trait that is innate.
  • 88% agree creativity should be built into education curriculums and 72% agree they were more focused on subject matter than creative thinking in school.
  • 85% agree creative thinking is critical for problem solving in their career, but nearly one-third (32%) do not feel comfortable thinking creatively at work.

Finally, from July through August 2014, Adobe sampled HR administrators’ attitudes and beliefs about the skills required for success in the workplace of tomorrow. In its report “Seeking Creative Candidates: Hiring for the Future,” Adobe summarized with the following:

  • 75% of hiring managers believe creativity is required for economic growth and valuable to society (85%), but only 51% think businesses grasp the importance of creativity.
  • Problem solving (51%) and creativity (47%) have gained the most value in driving salary increases in the last five years.
  • 75% of hiring managers agree the job market will change significantly in the next five years. Tech-savvy (88%), the ability to communicate through digital and visual media (82%), and creativity (76%) are cited as becoming essential skills.
  • Hiring managers indicate that problem solving skills and critical thinking (58%) and creativity innovation (41%) will be among the most “in-demand” skills over the next 12 months, along with technical/specialist skills (42%).
  • 94% agree creativity is key when evaluating candidates and prefer those with creative skills over conventional skills by more than five to one.

creative-cubes-1509571My next blog on the subject of creativity in education will explore additional resources, including new websites and books on the subjects of innovation, ingenuity, originality, and self-expression released over the last several years.

Please feel free to comment. More to follow…

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” – Anthony Jay

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

The “Alphabet Soup” of Educational Acronyms

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

pmeaArticle submitted for future publication in PMEA News – the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association

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Preparing for an employment interview? Looking for that first job or interested in transferring to a new school district?

How well do you know current trends, key “buzz words,” and jargon in education? Even though no music teacher would have trouble identifying the meaning of our own abbreviations like D.C. al Coda or GM (G Major or General Music), administrators would expect that you know relevant and evolving general education terms, such as the following:

  • The Common Core
  • Customization and Differentiation of Instruction
  • The Four Cs – Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking (21st Century Learning Skills)
  • Flipped Classrooms and Blended Schools
  • HOTS – Higher Order Thinking Skills and DOK – Depth of Knowledge
  • Assessments – Diagnostic, Formative, Summative, Authentic
  • PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) SAS (Standards Aligned Systems) Portal
  • UBD (Understanding By Design) Curriculum Development with EU (Enduring Understandings) and EQ (Essential Questions)

Keeping up with the formation of new acronyms is quite a challenge… something you will have to do throughout your entire career. Get started by looking up any of these with which you feel unfamiliar. You can never predict when one of these will pop-up at a job interview!

Just for the fun and the challenge of it, try taking this crossword puzzle. For a printable copy of this article, full-size puzzle grid, clues, the answers and definitions, click on the link at the bottom of the page. Enjoy! PKF

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Across

1. A multi-tier approach to the early identification, intervention, and support of students with learning and behavioral needs.
3. Statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom – what students should understand – not just know or do.
4. A web-based resource for districts/schools to communicate performance results to various constituencies and assist districts and schools in aligning and focusing resources for continuous improvement.
7. A psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems of attention hyperactivity or acting impulsively that are not age-appropriate.
8. Standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards in reading, writing, math, and science.
10. Staff or programs to facilitate the acquisition of English language skills of students whose native or first language is not English.
11. Framework of study in science, technology, engineering, arts, in mathematics, bridging the gap between business and educational goals, and blending of science, the arts, and creativity in school.
13. A comprehensive, researched-based resource identifying six elements for improvement of student achievement developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
15. Developed by Norman L. Webb, the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment-related item.

Down

2. A customized statement of a child’s present level of performance, annual educational goals, modifications, accommodations, and special education supports and services to meet these goals.
5. A statistical analysis of Pennsylvania state assessments of growth and achievement data, allowing educators to make data-informed instructional decisions to promote student progress.
6. Using a backwards-design focus on the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, a tool utilize for educational planning in “Teaching for Understanding,” advocated by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.
8. An extended learning opportunity such as a grade-level teaching team or a school committee form to foster collaborative learning among colleagues in order to improve student achievement.
9. Statewide nonprofit organization of over 4500 members, dedicated to promoting the musical development of all Pennsylvania residents, your number one professional development resource.
12. Inquiries focusing on the key concepts in the curriculum, the big ideas and core content, provoking deep thought, lively discussion, and new understanding as well as more questions.
14. A process to document a measure of educator effectiveness based on student achievement of content standards developed for Pennsylvania’s new Educator Effectiveness System.

Click here: Alphabet Soup Educational Acronyms puzzle with answers

Terms used in alphabetical order

ADHD…………. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems of attention, hyperactivity, or acting impulsively that are not age-appropriate.

DOK……………. Depth of Knowledge: Developed by Norman L. Webb, the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment related item.

EQ………………. Essential Questions (UBD): Inquiries focusing on the key concepts in the curriculum, the big ideas and core content, provoking deep thought, lively discussion, and new understanding as well as more questions.

ESL……………… English as a Second Language: Staff or programs to facilitate the acquisition of English language skills of students whose native or first language is not English.

EU………………. Enduring Understandings (UBD): Statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom—what students should understand—not just know or do.

IEP………………. Individualized Education Program: A customized statement of a child’s present level of performance, annual educational goals, modifications, accommodations, and special education supports and services to meet these goals.

PLC…………….. Professional Learning Communities: An extended learning opportunity such as a grade-level teaching team or a school committee formed to foster collaborative learning among colleagues in order to improve student achievement.

PMEA………….. Pennsylvania Music Educators Association: Statewide nonprofit organization of over 4,500 members, dedicated to promoting the musical development of all PA residents – your number one professional development resource.

PSSA…………… Pennsylvania System of School Assessment: Standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency.

PVAAS………… Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System: A statistical analysis of PA state assessments of growth and achievement data, allowing educators to make data-informed instructional decisions to promote student progress.

RTI……………… Response to Intervention: A multi-tier approach to the early identification, intervention, and support of students with learning and behavioral needs.

SAS…………….. Standards Aligned Systems: A comprehensive, researched-based resource identifying six elements for improvement of student achievement developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

SLO…………….. Student Learning Objectives: A process to document a measure of educator effectiveness based on student achievement of content standards developed for Pennsylvania’s new Educator Effectiveness System.

SPP……………… School Performance Profile: A web-based resource for districts/schools to communicate performance results to various constituencies and assist districts and schools in aligning and focusing resources for continuous improvement.

STEAM……….. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics: Framework of study in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, bridging the gap between business and educational goals, and blending of science, the arts, and creativity in school.

UBD   Understanding By Design: Using a backwards-design focus on the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, a tool utilized for educational planning in “teaching for understanding” advocated by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.

© 2015 Paul K. Fox