I saw a link on my Twitter feed the other day to a post done by Eric Sheninger called, “Students Yearn for Creativity, Not Tests.” It’s from March of this year, and I can’t believe I missed it back then. However, that’s the great thing about Twitter – the treasures come around more than once.
Featured in the post are a few videos created by students based on an assignment they were given which involved reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. One of the student videos really resonated with me because of so many other experiences I’ve had in recent weeks that emphasize the value of making mistakes. The video is by Sarah Almeda, and I highly recommend you watch the video, “Let’s Make Some Good Art” and her “afterword” video which appears at the end of the post. Her tribute to the educators who fostered her creativity in the latter one is very inspiring.
This year, I really plan to make it my mission to motivate my students to take more risks and challenge themselves. As Sarah says in her video, though, schools inherently discourage this by punishing mistakes and only rewarding “right answers.” I have a couple of ideas for changing this in my classroom as I continue to teach my students about having a Growth Mindset (check out my Pinterest Board if you would like some more information about this).
This weeks’s TED Radio Hour was all about making mistakes. And one of the speakers, Margaret Heffernan, mentioned this about schools: “… we do bring children up to imagine that there is a right answer, and that intelligence is about knowing that right answer, and therefore if you get a wrong answer, you’re stupid. So what we do is we teach people not even so much to have a passion for the right answer, but have great talent for second-guessing what everybody wants the answer to be.” As Sarah Almeda draws in her video, this is the inevitable outcome in schools that foster this type of thinking:
Even James Dyson, in an interview with Science Friday, said the following: “In life, you don’t have the right answers available all the time. You have to work them out. So I would actually mark children by the number of mistakes they make because they’ve experienced failure and learned from it. Whereas the brilliant child who gets it right the first time because they remembered the answer isn’t necessarily the one who is going to change the world or succeed in life.” (I’m assuming he meant that students who make more mistakes would get higher grades as opposed to the current system.)
How can we change our current system? We need to create a learning environment that encourages taking risks in thinking and finding the value in mistakes. As teachers, it will help for us to admit our own mistakes and to tell how they changed us. And, though there are times that only one right answer is acceptable, we should also give our students plenty of opportunities to engage in thinking that is open-ended.
I have a small idea germinating about a tangible way to show this in the classroom that I may share later this week…