“One of the real challenges is to innovate fundamentally in education. Innovation is hard because it means doing something that people don't find very easy, for the most part. It means challenging what we take for granted, things that we think are obvious. The great problem for reform or transformation is the tyranny of common sense; things that people think, "Well, it can't be done any other way because that's the way it's done."(Ken Robinson, 2010)
My exploration of creativity has led me to review the current model of education. I want to develop a better understanding of why education is in the general unimaginative state that it is. I feel that looking back at history gives me a starting point that helps me delve deeper into this area. My belief is that schools need to adopt an overall upheaval of their curriculum to focus more on harnessing the creative potential of their students. As a teacher, I want to empower my students to recognise that they are creative beings and make them look at the world with a dynamic creative lens.
My two driving questions are:
Why is education in it's current state?
What has led us to this point in education where people are calling for an educational upheaval, a complete transformation, an education “revolution”?
What are the roots of today's education?
It is important to ask questions of education because it helps you realize what is relevant and what is not. “Purpose” should underpin education and that’s what it has done in the past. The problem with education today is that it hasn’t broken away from the education system that was shaped by the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution, by the way, occurred from 1850 to around 1950. To point out, we’re in 2013. This is over 60 years since the Industrial Revolution came to an end.
Industrialists placed emphasis on:
“Instilling in children of all social classes the values and character traits, such as working hard and obeying authority, necessary for employment in industrial settings. To account for this, schools became highly formalized, hierarchical structure designed to sort students who were eligible from those who were not. An overt curriculum of reading, writing, arithmetic, and history was overlaid on a covert curriculum of punctuality, obedience, rote, and repetitive work.” (Tanner & Lackney, 2006, 6)
The purpose of education of this time was to produce students that were well prepared to enter jobs that required these sorts of skills. Consequentially, school buildings were built to facilitate this purpose and therefore lacked versatility in its use and variety of learning spaces. By the end of the 19th Century came a progressive movement, which emerged in Europe and the United States.
Several scholars were prevalent during this time - Friedrich Froebel in Germany, Maria Montessori in Italy and John Dewey in the United States. Froebel placed importance on the important role of play in developing children’s understandings. Montessori’s fundamental concept was that children have a passionate love of learning, of work, of order and self-discipline, all of which can become permanent, self-enforcing traits if the child is properly encouraged (Abbey Montessori School, 2012). Dewey believed in an integrated curriculum that placed student inquiry as the driving force behind what is being learnt. This student-centred approach has children as active participants in their learning (Brewer, 2007, 42).
It is amazing that these pioneers of education remain so relevant today. John Dewey said that, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” (Dewey, 1944, p. 167). This quote is just as significant now as it was over 50 years ago because a lot of teachers are still teaching their students in an irrelevant way. It’s not to say that what Dewey suggests and where the direction of inquiry-based education is a simple transition. Teachers are still attempting to effectively incorporate an inquiry-based curriculum to relate it more to children’s experiences, integrating the curriculum, teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills, stimulating creative thinking, supporting cooperative learning, providing hands-on activities and supporting collaborative decision making by the teaching staff (Tanner & Lackney, 2006, 9).
Stephen Heppell wryly observed that, “We have spent the last 20th Century perfecting 19th century learning.” (Whitby, 2007, 2). So the resonating question for me is why has education generally remained stagnant for so many years and why is there such a drive for creativity to take prominence in schools today.
Why are we here?
I imagine that many teachers have considered why they teach the way they do. They have a set pedagogy that they firmly believe in. I’m sure there are also teachers that look to continually learn and grow professional. They are lifelong learners that take their understandings of education further and in different directions. But I wonder how many teachers question the foundations of the education system that they teach in? Why they teach their students the way they do? Whether it’s done didactically (you should have changed) or through a constructivist-based method (there are still changes to be made). It makes sense that a teachers role is to teach students in a way that engages their curiosity. Teachers should believe in a system that views the student as having THE voice in what and how they learn. Teachers should have the job to inspire, motivate and develop passions within students. But with educational reform there is an enormous problem that involves parents, teachers, administers, the general public and governments. Our experience of education is based on an outdated system that has its roots planted in another century. It’s what we and others know. It's what makes many comfortable. But it is not right. It's time for change.
The point of this post is for us to look where current educational structures have come from. To question the current structures at your school. To get you to question your pedagogy and the way you teach.
Question education today.
Abbey Monessori School (2012). Montessori in a Nutshell. Last Accessed: 27/11/12.
Brewer, J.A. (2007). Introduction to early childhood education. Boston: Pearson
Robinson, K. (2010, February). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! Last Accessed: 28th November, 2012,
Whitby, G. (2007). Pedagogies for the 21st Century: Having the courage to see through fresh eyes. ACEL 2007 International Conference: Sydney, Australia
Tanner, C.K. & Lackney, J.A. (2006). Educational Facilities Planning: Leadership, Architecture, and Management. Pearson: Boston