less curriculum + less criteria = no limit

What my students had to say about cultures of innovation.

Photo of Gel Hannan
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When I asked some of my students to spend some time thinking about cultures of innovation, their responses revealed some interesting results and insights. 

Whilst the vast majority of them believed that innovation was a skill that could be learnt, almost 30% of them thought that you had to be born with it. I felt this to be a sad indictment of how we're neglecting to teach them how they can cultivate innovation in themselves now. To leave high school without this growth mindset is not the best start to life in the 'big bad world.' 

When I asked them to rate the variables which would help develop innovation with a class or the skills for innovation within a student, none of them believed that learning how to learn or completing tasks that have high expectations helped. Instead, they overwhelmingly thought that being able to suggest 'crazy' and original ideas without fear of being laughed at, as well as when others (especially teachers) nurture what it is that makes them curious, were two factors which helped foster a sense of innovation and a desire to be creative. From this, I've learnt that teaching them how to 'fall forward,' and building a sense of resilience in students so that they have the confidence to take risks is key. 

It taught me that students are concerned about their marks rather than the process because of course, assessment tasks and exams reward achievement rather than effort or approach. They also mentioned that they felt restricted by the curriculum and the criteria and by limiting these, they would be freed to be innovative. 

From now on I am going to start asking my students one question: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? And then I will challenge them to do it.  

And I will ask myself: In what ways am I as an educator inhibiting the capacity for innovation in my students? Teachers face restrictions too: there is a lot of content to work through, a lot of administrative tasks to process, etc. So how can we be innovative all the time (or do we need to be innovative all the time?) in light of this? 

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Photo of Bob

First of all, I love that you asked this question of your students. Often we think that we know what they think, but we only really know by asking them...and by creating an environment (as you have obviously done) where they will be honest and open and not just tell us what we want to hear! You also point out an important challenge- even if we create the most innovative classroom environment, there are outside pressures to conform (standardized testing, community norms, etc.) And these imagination/creativity-sapping forces seem to increase as students go through school, as Sir Ken Robinson so passionately described in his TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? Keep doing what you are doing- it's counter-culture and so important!

Photo of Gel

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Bob! I agree with you re Sir Ken's speech - each day I am constantly trying to reconcile the fact that I love being a teacher and I work in a system (as many of us do) that most certainly does kill creativity!

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