Do Schools Kill Creativity ? 10 IDEAs to transform the education system from uniformity to personalized education
I am not an educator. I am simply an average guy in most respects. These are some thoughts.
While creating a more personalized education, we should keep one goal in mind. Students who successfully graduate from a secondary education should have the knowledge, skills, and temperament to enter the work force. Even if their goal is to further their education immediately, the ability to earn a living instills a sense of confidence and accomplishment.
2. Primary education seems to be doing OK.
Educators should be able to tailor their materials, approach, and time spent with each student, but overall things seem OK in the early grades.
3. Teachers need more time.
This means both less material in the curriculum and smaller class sizes.
4. From middle school on, students should have much more say into their curriculum.
Yes, there will still be mandatory subjects that need to be covered, but how they get covered can be more flexible, depending on the students' ability and interests. Biology may be boring but what about Biology of the Athlete, or Marine Biology? The course will still contain the same core, but a simple shift in focus will engage a larger portion of the students.
5. More standardized testing, not less.
But not for grades. For aptitudes and interests. Let's use the U.S. military ASVAB as an (imperfect example). The goal here is with a simple but comprehensive multiple-choice test, the military is trying to gauge not only what career fields you may qualify for but which ones you may have a natural knack or interest in. Focus on your strengths. StrengthFinder is a similar program often used with adult leadership students. Figure out where the kids' naturally abilities and interests lie and let that be your guide for mapping out a more personalized study program.
6. Hybrid learning space.
Just as the workplace has undergone a huge shift in the past two years, education can too. We all learn differently. In different styles and different speeds. You shouldn't have to spend 180 days inside the classroom to get credit for a course. Many times, a trip to a museum or a 2-month project on how to mitigate increasing global tides will teach more than rote learning from a book. For others, daily directed readings and discussions with a teacher is the best approach. A system needs to be created that can somehow quantify the material learned and not the time spent learning it.
7. Why is high school 4 years? Why do we take the summers off in the U.S.?
Simply changing the education calendar could easily give educators more of the time and flexibility necessary for a more creative and individualized curriculum.
8. Define standard mile posts of achievement. And stick to them.
For each grade level (Is 12 the right number?) define what is the necessary training / education that a student needs to show proficiency in before advancing. Time spent is immaterial. If it takes one student 2 years to advance from the 6th mile post to the 7th, so be it. If another student shows proficiency with 8th, 9th, and 10th mile posts in a single weekend, so be it.
9. All exams for advancement should be a combination of written and oral boards with professional faculty.
No multiple-choice. No short answer. All subjects should either be essay / thesis work or an in-depth question and answer session with your instructors. Students of technical subjects will need to either display or prove the topics being tested. The social sciences will have to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge and the ability to not only draw conclusions based on the material, but to defend or refute it.
And with standard boards of academic advancement, it would no longer matter how one acquired the pertinent knowledge. Did one student memorize all the patents for the internal combustion engine? Did another rebuild the family car? If both can explain and demonstrate the mechanical, chemical, and thermal principles that make the car go, they pass.
10. The 10/80/10 Rule.
This is my hypothesis on the current public education model. Assuming this hypothesis is true this is the paradigm we are trying to break.
1) No matter how much or how few resources you give to your students, approximately 10% of them will excel in the current public school system. Unfortunately, many of them will spend the time bored and uninspired.
2) No matter how much or how few resources you give to your students, approximately 10% of them will fail to complete their secondary education. Maybe this can be improved with a individualized, creative curriculum that better suits the student. I really don't know. There will always be poor performers.
3) The 80% in the middle can go either way and it can depend on the educators and the curriculum. If they can stay interested and inspired, they can achieve personal greatness. If the system leaves them bored, struggling, or overwhelmed, they may decide the fight isn't worth it. This is where the hybrid, individualized, and creative learning environment needs to be focused. Use conversation and aptitude testing to discover what inspires these kids and how will they best gain the skills and knowledge needed. Once you have that, turn them loose. But keep them in the corral. A creative learning environment requires that both students and faculty learn responsibility and independence.
11. I never learned how to study.
High school was incredibly boring for me. In a small, rural school district, I was taking all the "advanced" math and science classes offered and still wasn't actively engaged. They were interesting, but not gripping. I never studied and still managed to do well in all my classes. Why put forth more effort if the result didn't change. Maybe if I had been challenged sooner, things would have been different,
College was a totally different experience. I saw new paths to explore and challenges to conquer everywhere I looked. From the mixers at the student union to helping the grad students with their thesis. The problem was that I had no idea how to properly study or manage my time. I flamed out and crashed spectacularly.
Looking back on it, I see similarities in both examples. In each case, I was in an environment where I was not able to match my personal strengths AND weaknesses to the education "system" provided.
Everyone expresses their creativity in a different manner. By building a more personalized, yet broadly structured secondary education, we will serve more students and allow their creativity to bloom in ways yet unseen.