Book Review: Creative Schools



“The stakes have never been higher, and the outcomes could hardly matter more.” Dr. Ken Robinson,  Creative Schools

I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from Sir Ken Robinson over the last several years in the realm of creativity in education and helping students find their element (or calling as I prefer to refer to it in the Christian context).  I reviewed Robinson’s Out of Our Minds here  and The Element here.  Robinson is a Brit with an outstanding sense of humor that is passionate about making education make sense.  Creative Schools, his lastest book, continues the conversation for educators to consider what matters most.  As usual with Robinson’s writing, there are tons of practical applications to go along with his theories.  I always highlight a ton in his books, notes to post in my review, as well as other schools and organizations to look into for a visit or other opportunity to interact with what they are doing that’s innovative.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted my notes below…

  • If you could reinvent education, what would it look like?
  • The most fundamental question is, what is education for?
  • The old systems of education were not designed with this world in mind.  Improving them by raising conventional standards will not meet the challenges we now face.
  • The need for radical innovation in how we think, live, and relate to each other could hardly be more pressing.  In the meantime, we are as divided as ever by cultural differences and by economic competition for the same resources.
  • The two priorities industries are looking for are adaptability to change and creativity in generating new ideas.
  • When we were thinking about what to do with Grange, I was obsessed with whether we could find a way to harness that natural learning ability and understand what the system was doing to inhibit it.  If we could work that out, we could create an unbelievable learning environment.
  • Education is really improved only when we understand that it too is a living system and that people thrive in certain conditions and not in others.
  • Education should enable students to become economically responsible and independent.
  • Education should enable students to understand and appreciate their own cultures and to respect the diversity of others.
  • Education should enable young people to become active and compassionate citizens.
  • Education should enable young people to engage with the world within them as well as the world around them.
  • We must understand that learning comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, that kids can’t all be taught the same way, and that when students are taught in a way that best fits the way they learn and what interests them most, they can make enormous leaps.
  • A vibrant school can nourish an entire community by becoming a source of hope and creative energy.
  • The heart of education is the relationship between the student and the teacher.  Everything else depends on how productive and successful that relationship is.  If that is not working, then the system is not working.  If students are not learning, education is not happening.  Something else may be going on, but it’s not education.
  • Our school systems are now a matrix of organizational rituals and intellectual habits that do not adequately reflect the great variety of talents of the students who attend them.
  • It’s essential that all students have proper opportunities to explore the range of their abilities and sensibilities in school, including but going well beyond their capacities for to conventional academic work.  This has fundamental implications for the structure and balance of the curriculum for everyone.
  • Profound things can happen when students are given room to explore their own interests and capacities.
  • If the schedule is flexible and more personalized, it is more likely to facilitate the kind of dynamic curriculum that students now need.
  • Play in its many forms has fundamental roles in all phases of life and especially in the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of children.  The importance of play has been recognized in all cultures; it has been widely studied and endorsed in the human sciences and demonstrated in practice in enlightened schools throughout the world.
  • Play is absolutely fundamental to learning: it is the nature fruit of curiosity and imagination.
  • The core role of a teacher is to facilitate learning.
  • Great teachers understand that it’s not enough to know their disciplines.  Their job is not to teacher subjects; it is to teach students.  They need to engage, inspire, and enthuse students by creating conditions in which those students will want to learn.
  • Good teacher know that however much they have learned in the past, today is a different day and you cannot ride yesterday’s horse.
  • Teacher’s expectations have radial implications for the achievements of their students.
  • The key to raising achievement is to recognize that teaching and learning is a relationship.
  • Imagination is the root of creativity.  It is the ability to bring to mind things that aren’t present to our senses.  Creativity is putting your imagination to work.  It is applied imagination.  Innovation is putting new ideas into practice.
  • Linking industry to education makes learning relevant.
  • You reverse-engineer the content into the project.
  • One of the major players in the test-prep industry has now has a huge contempt for the tests.  “These tests measure nothing of value,” said John Katzman, co-founder of Princeton Review.  “It’s just an utter disrespect for educators and ids married to an utter incompetence.”  Studies support Katzman’s point of view, including multiple reports that show that high school GPA is a far stronger predictor of college success than SAT scores are.
  • Assessment is the process of making judgements about students’ progress and attainment.
  • Assessment has several roles.  The first is diagnostic, to help teachers understand student’s aptitude and levels of development.  The second is formative, to gather information on students’ work and activities and to support their progress.  The third is summative, which is about making judgements on overall performance at the end of a program of work.
  • If we are to find out way and make learning, not grading, the primary focus of school, then we need to abandon our mania for reducing learning and people to numbers.
  • If we are serious about curiosity and wonder, then we have to think, ‘what are the sub-habits that lead to that?’
  • Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning.  Properly conceived, both formal and informal assessments should support students learning and achievement in at least three ways: motivation, achievement, and standards.
  • At the center of any great learning experience are two essential figures—a learner and an educator.  For a school to excel, a third figure is critical: an inspired school leader who brings vision, skill ,and a keen understanding of the kind of environment where learners can and want to learn.
  • The heart of a principal’s role: appreciating the individuality of the student body, seeking potential at every turn, and constantly striving to move the school forward in the face of constant change.
  • The leaders who are most revered in any field are those who genuinely care for those they lead and whose compassion is evident not only in what they say but also in what they do.
  • Culture is about permission.
  • Great schools are continuously creative in how they connect to the wider communities of which they are part.  They are not isolated labs; they are hubs of learning for the whole community.
  • The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it is to encourage a culture where everyone has them.  From this perspective, the main role of a school’s principal is not company and control, it is climate control.
  • “When children aren’t given the space to struggle through things on their own, they don’t learn to problem-solve very well.  They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem.  The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others.  Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety.”-Dr. Chris Meno, Indiana University psychologist, Creativity in Schools by Sir Ken Robinson
  • Great systems need great leaders.
  • High-performing systems of education are well resourced.
  • Continuing professional development of teachers is not a luxury.  It is an essential investment in the success of students, their schools and their communities.
  • Revolutions are defined not only by the ideas that drive them but by the scale of their impact.
  • The stakes have never been higher, and the outcomes could hardly matter more.
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