Monday, March 3, 2008

Creative Teaching

A reaction to: Creative Teaching: Collaborative Discussion as Desciplined Improvisation by R. Keith Sawyer

Having an idea of what education should be and what it is now, most of the ideas presented within the article that had a direct personal resonance with me can be linked to the following quote:

Should we improve schools by investing in scripted curricula - a capital intensive approach - or by investing in teacher training and professional development, a labor-intensive approach?

The answer to this question seems fairly obvious when the benefits of creative teaching is spelled out by Sawyer. What is more, I can't really think of any recent occurrences where money being thrown at a cause (usually a fear-filled reaction to an impending "crisis") by governmental types
has resulted in any recognizable advancements. Scripted curricula might improve test scores, but should we really be focusing so heavily on standardized tests to begin with? But that leads into a different issue altogether that I will admit to being only marginally informed about...

What I do agree with is the idea that structure is important within the classroom, but that too much is a bad thing. As with almost everything, moderation is the key: too much fat in the diet- heart disease, too much testosterone- male pattern baldness. Although somethings just can't be avoided, others can. Keeping away from the rigidity of scripted education and blending structure and improvisation makes sense to me. It adds to the idea of teachers as professionals (imagine that!) who can fall back on their knowledge of course material when presented with spontaneous questions from a classroom of increasingly diverse students. Also, developing a teachers ability to respond to and develop related ideas within a directed framework allows an educator to address individual learning plans that can potentially divide a classroom.

Sure, the development of teachers is a lengthy process when done correctly, but isn't that the right way of going about it? It all seems like a lot of common sense being ignored for administrative accountability purposes, creating a system or pieces of a system (like scripting) so that there are fewer unknowns in educating the next generations. But if teachers are created in a manner that fosters the development of improvisational skills as well as their subject matter knowledge, I have a hard time believing that there would be more problems with education than there is at the present moment. There are certainly many more issues at play then whether or not teachers should adopt creative principles, but it seems like a step in the right direction.

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