What is the most important question for students ? And are schools helping provide an answer?

Who am I ?
The question for all learners ; Who Am I? ‘
Readings Sunday 19th May 1980
Years ago New Zealand artist Colin McCahon created a controversial large abstract painting called I Am.
For us the message was answering the question that we all

struggle with – who am I? What things are important to me? What makes me who I am?

The questions above should underpin all the activities in our education system. That so many young people leave education with these questions unanswered ought to be of great concern and worse still leaves students open to becoming to become involved in

Making your mark!!

anti-social behaviour. The outbreak of graffiti in our society is a sign of young people making their mark as a protest against the way many of them feel they have been treated by their school experience. For many students it is schools that are dysfunctional.

It is our belief that an education system premised on the arts would ensure all students leave schooling with a positive learning identity.
The current reactionary emphasis on literacy and numeracy is

a distraction literacy still  remains a problem for far too many students and, as maths educator Jo Boaler (who has recently presented in New Zealand) has said, far too many students leave schooling suffering from maths anxiety’.

Dr Beeby
It is time for a real change of direction or for many back to the future to the exciting days of Dr Beeby best represented in Elwyn Richardsons book In the Early World first printed in the 1960s and thankfully recently reprinted by the NZCER. This inspirational book gives todays teachers insight into the power of personal creativity through art, language, movement, drama and inquiry learning. Another pioneer teacher Sylvia Ashton Warner wrote in Teacher that students were like a volcano with two vents one vent if tapped led to creativity, the other to violence.
Today we have educationalists like Sir Ken Robinson powerfully asking for schools to place creativity central to learning creativity in its widest interpretation. Sir Ken believes creativity is important as literacy and numeracy but few schools follow his advice.
Sadly, today the arts play a marginal role in our schools and most to be seen is not about personal expression but more facile decoration and, as a result of a formulaic intentional approach to learning, results in art work well done but ‘clone like’ in appearance.
Eliot Eisner, an art educationalist, writes the arts are rooted in mans need to give form to his experience, to come to know the world in ways only the arts can make possible. Learners experience their world through their senses and from such experience curiosity is enlivened, questions asked, and realistic inquiries undertaken. Such realistic studies are open to be solved in all the ways open to being human the arts, media, words, maths, music and drama integrated learning.
Our observation is that literacy and numeracy have all but

Beyond literacy and numeracy – the real

squeezed out the importance of experiential learning and related arts and this is not helped by the destructive use of ability grouping and inquiry learning overly focused on  learning through the internet.

No wonder many students, even the most successful, fail to develop a positive view of themselves.
We see the metaphor for a classroom (whether ILEs or self-contained) as mini Te Papa   – a challenging mix of an science/technology laboratory, a media centre , an arts and drama

Te Papa – a metaphor for a school

studio, and an exhibition centre with students seeking, using and creating their own knowledge as it states in the New Zealand Curriculum. And integral to this providing opportunities to integrate, in realistic contexts, literacy and numeracy. The arts help learners secure new and deeper meanings from experience with students not only makers of their own reality but creators of their own minds

Howard Gardner

(Eisner). This view of learning aligns with the multiple intelligences of Howard Gardner each intelligence providing a frame of reference to interpret experience. 

The teachers role, as Jerome Bruner wisely says, is the canny art of intellectual temptation providing a learning environment that captures students curiosity and, when students become involved, providing guidance lightly, and helping individual gain missing skills to allow them to achieve their

Eliot Eisner

personal bestEisner writes ‘teachers need to help without being hurtful and to guide without being overbearing, and to explain without being pedantic’. Most of all teachers give their students achievements the attention and respect it deserves. Teaching in this respect is an art in itself the highest form of creativity.  Elwyn Richardson saw his students as a community of artist and scientists exploring their environment and personal worlds, and also said that his students were as much his teacher as he was theirs.

This vision is the opposite to the teacher dominated formulaic assessment environment currently is to be seen an environment that is not helping students ( nor teachers) express who they are. Imagine an education system premise on developing the gift and talents of all learners.
For teachers interested in developing arts based programmes our last blog has some good reads. 
Another blog full of great readings
Looking back to the early days of NZ Creative Education 
All too often we can get so mired in the present that we are unable to see beyond whatever is taking our attention. Teachers, trying to interpret what is currently expected of them, are in such a position. All it causes is stress and confusion. Having some sort of insight into the past can put the present into perspective and better still give ideas for future directions.’
For those interested in Play Based Learning might be interested in the forgotten genesis of progressive early education
Since ‘Tomorrows Schools’ (1986) teachers would be excused if they thought all ideas about teaching and learning came from those distant from the classroom – and more recently imposed by technocrats and politicians. This was not always the case. Play based learning was once a feature of junior classes.’
Art has long been recognized as an important part of a well-rounded education — but when it comes down to setting budget priorities, the arts rarely rise to the top despite the many studies showing that exposure to the arts can help with academics too. A few schools are taking the research to heart, weaving the arts into everything they do and finding that the approach not only boosts academic achievement but also promotes creativity, self-confidence and school pride.’
Reclaiming the joy of learning the philosophy of Elwyn Richardson
Art from Elwyn’s school
It seems proper when thinking of creativity our classrooms to reflect on the writings of 1950s pioneer creative teacher Elwyn Richardson. His ideas are to be found in his inspirational book In the Early World first published by the NZCER in 1964 (reprinted 1994).
A World of Difference: the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher – Bill Guild
I believe that schools must be learning communities where

students learn, with our assistance, the things they want to learn; when they want to learn them; how they want to learn them; and why they want to learn them; all through their own curiosity’

Why is teaching kids to draw not a more important part of the curriculum?
Drawing plays a big role in our cognitive development. It can help us learn to write and think creatively, develop hand-eye co-ordination, hone analytic skills, and conceptualise ideas.But drawing is rarely used as a tool for learning in schools. Generally, most  school teachers arent trained in visual education.’
Why drawing isnt just an art
There’s a growing understanding that drawing is much more than an art form: it’s a powerful tool for learning.’
Are technologies making us smarter? Wiser? More compassionate?
By Jamie McKenzie
50 years ago and the potential of computing to enhance learning was enormous but also virgin territory. Since then we have seen many foolish and wasteful efforts along with some that were magical and quite beneficial. Half a century later, it seems worthwhile to pause and reflect upon the impact computers and computing have had upon schools, learning, and the society as a whole.’
Differentiating by Offering Choices
Elementary students have a better chance of showing what theyve learned when they have a choice about how to show it.’
 Innovative Learning Environments
‘If well-designed environments improve learning for students, what are the features of a well-designed environment? Research suggests that when the following elements are in place, student learning is likely to accelerate.
Education reform has led to the “death of the teacher” new book argues.
‘Just when you think you have a firm grip on the theories, politics, practices and trends affecting education in Australia, a book like Flip the System Australia arrives to shake you out of your comfort zone. Thats what happened to me when I read this book, which stems from what appears to be a global education movement against neoliberalism. The Flip the System organisation holds that the neoliberal shift in reform has led, in a more postmodern sense, to the death of the teacher. That hooked me.’
Cultivating Creative Thinking

‘By encouraging our children to approach situations as problem solvers, and giving them the tools to think for themselves, we will grow adults who arent afraid to ask tough questions of politicians, doctors, college professors, and anyone else. And, they will take an active role in understanding situations before forming opinions or voting.’

Categories: Education