This week I was working with a group of Arkansas educators examining the impacts of the Common Core Curriculum on their approach to teaching. We explored creativity and critical think skills as elements of desired learning outcomes.
From the 21st Century Partnership site, we examined the need for Learning and Innovation skills:
“Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as those that separate students who are prepared for a more and more complex life and work environment in the 21st Century and those who are not. A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.”
Under Creativity they identify three areas:
-Work creatively with others.
As I read through the elements of these skills one particularly caught my attention.
View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.
This might make a great focus for leaders and teachers to stress as they build the environments for learning at the start of a new school year.
Teachers: Do you convince students that making mistakes is critical to learning?
Sir Ken Robinson states that children are willing to make mistakes and tend to lose that willingness: “If they don’t know, they’ll have a go at it.” (Do Schools Kill Creativity?)
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”…Pablo Picasso
In Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School Kathleen Cleveland states one rule for teachers is …. “Replace boy’s negative attitudes about learning with productive perspectives about the role of risk (and even failure) as a necessary and valued part of the learning process” (page 195)
“When the children get to the point where they realize mistakes are okay and accepted, they are much more willing to take chances. Putting oneself out on a limb to take an academic risk…is where true learning happens.” (page 82)
Christopher Blake writes in Worthwhile Learning Is Risk-laden, Failure-ready,
“Rarely do we tell students that we do not know how much they will learn, that we cannot even be sure of the outcomes, that they will have to participate communally before they will learn, that learning may confront their status quo in an uncomfortable fashion or, even more important, that we all fail sometimes and so will they.”
If teachers are to create student comfort with risk taking and making mistakes, they need to do the same.
Glenn Wiebe wrote in Are You an Under-taker or a Risk-Taker>?
“One of the reasons that we as teachers don’t take risks is our fear of failure. We’re afraid that our state tests scores won’t be good enough or that we’ll look silly in front of kids or that the technology won’t work or that we’ll get calls from parents or…
But we also know that failure is often a prerequisite to success. Teachers take risks because they understand that screwing up is not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking involves possible failure. If it didn’t, it would be called Sure Thing-taking.”
School leaders need to encourage creativity among teachers to create the learning opportunities that extend student success. How might you start the year communicating the message that mistakes/failures are expected?