18 March 2015
By Nadia Morad
“Some students do not wish to accept more responsibility for their own learning. They… are quite happy to do little more than take notes and read books as directed. The analogy with doctors and patients is quite strong: we even ‘prescribe’ texts.” (David Boud, Developing Student Autonomy in Learning, 1988.)
In light of the above statement, is it preferable for teachers to dictate learning, tell pupils what to think and act the role of omniscient being?
Clearly, it appeals to some pupils, it keeps them in their comfort zone and they’re bound to still learn something. Yet isn’t this a recipe for failure and under-achievement? If students are overly-dependent, blindly following the teacher’s guidance without individual thought, then what is the purpose of educating them?
“The analogy with doctors and patients is quite strong.” Of course, a doctor may cure illness or facilitate recovery, but a teacher must encourage students to discover learning for themselves—what is there for us to ‘cure’ or ‘prescribe,’ if a student doesn’t take the first steps independently?
These independent steps can be encouraged through two creative strategies, which value peer-teaching and pupil-led approaches. If you’re keen to reduce the time spent preparing resources, to incorporate simple technology into peer-assessment and to enrich pupil learning through creativity, then read on.
Thomas A. Edison: ‘To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.’
1: Use objects as inspiration
- Use everyday objects to symbolise ideas or represent aspects of a topic.
- The pupils can question and guess the link between object and topic and can then explain these connections, deepening their understanding.
- Nothing! Don’t add to your workload by buying or bringing in objects.
- Instead, set a creative homework for pupils to bring in an object that links to a topic or represents an idea related to their work. (You could set a size or weight limit to the object if necessary!)
Why do it?
- It’s a useful way of facilitating peer-teaching, freedom and curiosity.
- Helps to reduce teacher talk and lesson-planning.
- The lesson becomes pupil-led and encourages active learning.
- Consolidates and enhances knowledge.
- Reminds pupils (and teachers!) of the relevance and connections between their studies and everyday life.
Louis L’Amour: ‘Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate.’
2: Capture the moment
- Set a written task with clear instructions and success criteria.
- Towards the end of the activity, circulate the room and skim- read pupil responses, looking for a model answer.
- Using a tablet, camera or smartphone, photograph the model pupil response and connect it to your computer and IWB in minimal time. Display the model answer to the class and discuss it in relation to the success criteria, allowing pupils to learn from each other’s knowledge.
- An IWB, computer and something that takes a decent quality photo (eg) iPad.
Why do it?
- By getting the students to produce the model answer, you reduce unnecessary workload and model an answer that perfectly matches pupil ability. With the model writer’s permission, you can save the example and use it another time with a different class.
- Pupils are likely to learn better as they will be more interested to see what their peer has written than what the teacher can write.
- The writer of the model answer will receive a confidence boost, other pupils will be motivated to write to the highest standard and you will have saved yourself extra work.
It’s crucial that such creativity is used with pupils of all age groups and not just the young ones. However, sadly, as pupils reach KS4 and begin their GCSE courses, the pressure to ensure pupils are exam-ready becomes all-encompassing for teachers. Creativity often gets sidelined, replaced by lecture-style teaching, rigid plans and rushed learning, with no time for holistic understanding or wider thinking.
This is completely understandable: the over-arching need for visible progress is infectious, passing from Ofsted to school leaders to teachers, and ultimately to the pupils themselves. Worryingly, a GCSE pupil confirmed this to me last year, admitting that creative tasks ‘don’t feel serious and GCSEs mean we need to work more seriously.’
Are students and teachers alike being led to equate creativity with frivolity?
It’s vital that we recognise that creativity and learning go hand in hand. Of course, exam-skills must be taught, assessments have their place and sometimes teacher-led lessons are essential. Creativity is not about letting pupils have free rein, ignoring the boring parts of a topic or losing authority as a teacher. Instead, creativity should reawaken the classroom, enrich communication and the development of ideas and nurture a love of learning in both teachers and pupils.
See also The Creative Classroom part 1
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