I am preparing a workshop presentation for middle and high school teachers titled Teaching with and for Creativity and Critical Thinking. The current writing regarding 21st century skills that are necessary for students to be college ready and career ready stresses the need for both.
Here is a partial list of skills students should be developing:
- Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
- Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
- Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
- Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
- Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes
- Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
- Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
- Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts.
So some will ask is there time and space in the current curriculum and state standards for such skills to be taught, practiced and internalized?
A Newsweek article on creativity suggested…“creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can’t teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. Scholars argue that current curriculum standards can still be met, if taught in a different way. “
The focus of my workshop session will be on the good news is that instructional options designed for students to develop critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills also enhance the internalization of important content knowledge. The right mix of direct instruction with less structured real world problem solving can set the stage for higher ability students and low achievers to master crucial content and important process skills. My workshop will explore the “why” and “how” of planning for these learning options.
The Newsweek article includes a great example from teachers who came up with a project for the fifth graders to figure out how to reduce the noise in the library. Its windows faced a public space and, even when closed, let through too much noise. The students had four weeks to design proposals. An intense study of sound preceded brainstorming ideas and then testing out possibilities.
Here is another strategy from Thom Markham in a piece titled, Can We Really Teach Creativity?
“Use breakthrough assessments. Rubrics with a ‘breakthrough’ category—a blank column that invites students to deliver a product that cannot be anticipated or easily defined in words. It’s not the ‘A’ category—that’s Mastery or Commended or a similar high-ranking indicator. The breakthrough column goes beyond the A, rewarding innovation, creativity, and something new outside the formal curriculum. It’s a ‘show me’ category. Students like it, and so do teachers. It particularly appeals to high-end students who feel current offerings are drab, or to the middling student who will not work just for a grade, but who seeks the psychic reward of creating something cool. For samples of these rubrics, visit Thom Markham’s website and click on ‘PBL Resources’.”
I’d love to hear examples you’ve seen or done to combine creativity, critical thinking and standard curriculum.