Friday, June 26, 2015

Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up, by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

In this inspiring book full of real life examples, Ken Robinson shows how seeking out the creativity of students could be the beginning of an education revolution.

Sir Ken Robinson is a British writer and advisor on education. His Ted Talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity”, is one of the most popular ever and has been seen by millions. His new book (written with collaborator Lou Aronica) is a follow-up to that talk, expanding on his ideas about the importance of thinking outside of the box when it comes to education.

The main bugbear of Creative Schools is what’s known as standardised testing. According to Robinson, this cookie cutter style of assessing students’ skill levels is too narrow and in some circumstances even a time waster. Students spend too much time learning facts and figures by rote. Any student who doesn’t fit into this frame of learning but has skills in other directions misses out. As standardised testing becomes more aggressively promoted as the only way to assess students, schools are failing those who learn better in different ways.

It should be emphasised that Robinson is not against standardised testing on the whole. It has its benefits and its place. In many educational areas, it’s certainly a must. It’s just that overall its sapping creativity, inquiry and a sense of wonder. As one of the educators that is interviewed for the book notes, modern day education is a very passive activity. Students sit back and try to absorb what the teacher says, rather than take any initiative to learn.

What’s the answer? It’s so simple you wonder no one else had thought of it. Firstly, put students and their needs at the centre of education. Ask them what they’re interested in, then try to work a curriculum around, say, an interest in sports, computers, music, whatever it is that really lights the student up. In another example, Robinson talks to a school principal  whose students had all sorts of behavioural issues. Her strategy for improving student engagement was simply to take a direct interest in their hobbies and passions. If the student played football, the teacher would go to one of their matches to watch. The results were astounding. Students could see that they were respected and valued, so they put in the effort to do well in their classes. Creative Schools abounds in examples like these, where students are asked what they’d like to do and teachers use that as a starting point to build an effective education.

This is a wonderfully inspiring book. Ken Robinson has a genuine faith in human creativity and ingenuity. He believes that everyone has some type of latent talent or skill that just needs to be brought to the surface. It is the job of educators to find that talent, nurture it and hopefully prepare it for some type of career. It’s also vital to the running of a modern economy, as so much of what we use and depend on today is the result of creativity.

Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up, by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica. Published by Allen Lane. ISBN:  9780241188330  RRP: $32.99

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