What did the Pauls say?

I went to a talk by Paul Collard and Paul Gorman tonight as they explained their research into the importance of creativity in education. They are working with five Perth schools in association with FORM, which sounds like a really exciting opportunity for those schools involved.

Both Pauls spoke about the international research into the skills our young people will need to know in the future and the perceived and real gaps between being world-ready at the end of schooling, and what employers need. As an architect working in this field I have heard much of it before, but it’s always good to see it backed up and reinforced.

One interesting point shared though was from the OECD, who set the basis for the PISA assessments. Which basically then sets global educational goals around the world, as countries ‘compete’ against each other and themselves to move up the league tables. For years, the PISA tests have focussed on numeracy, literacy and science. Wonder why there’s been such a push to increase science education in recent years? Because it was considered by the OECD as a marker for education that increases a country’s economic growth. But now according to the OECD, there is an even more significant measure: creativity. It will be interesting to see how that decision will filter through our education system over the next few years.

Paul Collard from Creativity Culture and Education presented first, and discussed current research around how to keep students engaged, especially students from disadvantaged locations who have a unique perception of the purpose of education. There is a widely shared ‘statistic’ that 60% of current students need to prepare for a job that isn’t invented yet. If the job doesn’t exist, how do we know what skills are needed of our students? Combining this with data from business and industry on what they are looking for in employment entrants, Paul has come up with five key mindsets essential for students to learn: Inquisitive, Persistent, Imaginative, Disciplined and Collaborative. Together these form the basis for Learning Creative Thinking. This allows students to evolve from remembering facts and figures, to implementing them to reflect on real-world issues.

Paul Gorman started his presentation asking us to represent ‘what does learning look like?’ and then shared some student examples of kids in rows with the teacher up the front and lots of rules. Mostly, the students understood ‘learning’ as ‘the classroom’. He then presented a fantastic project he had done in schools called ‘Why Do We Need Monsters?’ which was a topic the students came up with themselves after reading Where The Wild Things Are. Such a great example of creative thinking in practice in a school setting.

He came up with eight tips for teachers to bring more creative thinking to their lessons.

  • Collaborate to find a question you don’t know the answer to.
  • Make the student the leader of learning.
  • Situate the learning in the real world.
  • Immerse yourself within the experience.
  • Allow different ways/forms of assessment like making, performing, showing or drawing.
  • Continue the questioning to make new questions from the initial premise.
  • Find the hidden curriculum
  • Inject new thinking and challenges.

He also showed a set of questions one of the groups he is working with in Perth came up with, on what they think they need to learn. It’s a quite interesting list…

  • How do you become wealthy?
  • Hoe do you become powerful?
  • Is healthcare unethical?
  • Why do we kill animals and not people?
  • How do you manipulate people to do things for you?
  • Why do we find things beautiful?
  • How do you have a fulfilled Amd meaningful life?
  • How do you find your purpose?

I found this a really interesting example of what high school students want to learn know, which could encapsulate so many subjects like history, economics, biology, ethics, politics, humanities, arts… Imagine if that was how future lessons were based, learning the why and how, rather than just the history or facts.

As often happens, the Q & A at the end with the audience is where some things started to get more heated. There are still so many issues around curriculum delivery, passing exams, high achieving scores etc, which means that this creative thinking integration into schools can often only occur at younger ages. It will be interesting to see if the OECD testing will impact on that, and how.

There is also the issue of the base impact of different socio-economic areas and how this affects student learning and behaviour, and what the outcome of education should be.

Paul C discussed Finland which is often touted as an example of education done right, because of their high PISA scores. But he shared an anecdote where Finland education officials actually think their high scores are a bad thing, as they are evidence of a compliant culture. Although students may pass test with high scores, they have low levels of interest in what they’re studying, which does not equate to long-term benefit. Eg Even though someone got a high score in science on their exam, they will not go on to study it at uni if they’re not interested in it. And therefore there won’t be more scientists in the economy. This is what Finland is currently battling to work out, for a sustainable future.

It was a big hour and a half, but really fascinating. I’m really looking forward to the projects the Pauls will be running in the WA schools and hope we can get some more updates along the way. We could all do with a bit more creativity in our lives and I think fostering that in our young students is so important.

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