My previous post was an outline of a leading educational idea that I would like to pursue (see the fabulous comments). Here is the actual proposal that I have submitted. Your thoughts and ideas would be appreciated. There is a link to the Google doc where you can comment or you can just comment on the blog or both
“Assessment tail wagging the curriculum dog”
This statement has reverberated around my head for weeks now since David Clarke mentioned it during his and Lihua Xu’s presentation on alignment. His further musings regarding “why assessment should be relegated to the tail of the dog as an afterthought appendage?” coupled with his notion that “assessment is the most explicit statement of those performances that a school system values” (Clarke 2011) has had a profound impact on my thinking about creativity in education. That is, if we were to turn assessment on its head and predominantly, or possibly only, assess for key indicators of creativity across all curriculum areas, I wonder what the impact on curriculum design and therefore teacher instruction would be.
Alignment suggests an endorsement of values (Clarke 2011). It is what is valued that describes the causality of the tensions between what Michael Fullan refers to as inside-out and outside-in approaches to assessment, curriculum and teacher instruction (Fullan 2000). Inside is best described as what goes on in a school, for example teacher instruction, lesson design and assessment. Outside could best be described as those agencies external to the school which organize themselves to be effective in accomplishing large-scale reform at the school level and how they impinge on teacher instruction and therefore student learning (Fullan 2000). With this in mind I would like to make the claim around the notion that creativity is a highly valued phenomenon that is valued by all who operate in both inside and outside worlds. For example the ‘insiders’ pay homage to Bloom’s taxonomy where creativity is seen as the guiding principle in achieving high order thinking and therefore ensuring a deeper level of understanding. The ‘outsiders’ see innovation as a driver of global economic activity, and in this context link it to economic growth. That is without the ability to reinvent itself or to create something new markets may face becoming obsolete (Craft 2003). Reflecting this, creativity is seen as ‘continual innovation and resourcefulness that is a necessity for economic survival’ (Craft 2003). The implication here is that the economy demands innovative thought and creativity, and a healthy economy is linked to a wealthy society (Craft 2003).
On a micro scale Maslow asserts that the creative individual is also a fulfilled one. He also puts forward the notion that creativity is not experienced by only a few, but rather it is an everyday phenomenon experienced by everyday people (Maslow 1970). Maslow’s assumption here is that creativity is evident in everyday occurrences such as doing housework or professional occurrences where there is specialisation of knowledge and experience and that it’s not exclusive to individuals who participate in art. Goldman et al (1992) also argue that much innovation and problem solving occurs in everyday life. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi goes on to say “Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important and human are the result of creativity.” (Csikszentmihalyi 1996). The idea that an element of a fulfilled individual is one who is creative emphasises the importance of linking creativity and innovation in education.
For my leading educational idea I would like to explore the idea that if we were to assess for the key indicators of creativity and then if we were to apply alignment theory, curriculum and teacher instruction would have to adapt in alignment, thus shifting us away from the current malaise where we are fixated on reductive methods of teaching to a narrowing curriculum to a place where ‘teaching to the test’ is valued because creativity produces an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of ones future. (Csikszentmihalyi 1996)
Alignment: Alignment has been defined as the extent to which curricular expectations and assessments are in agreement and work together to provide guidance for educators’ efforts to facilitate students’ progress toward desired academic outcomes. (Roach, Niebling, Kurz 2008)
Creativity: Creativity applies both to the quality of particular outcomes and the thinking activity that led to them. Thought is creative when it produces something that is both novel and interesting or valuable (Simon, 2001). In its simplest form it is the birth of “imaginative new ideas” (Miller 1987) or “the imaginatively gifted recombination of known elements into something new” (Ciardi 1956).
Inside: What we know about how schools change for the better in terms of their internal dynamics (Fullan 2000).
Inside-out: What effective schools do as they contemplate the plethora of outside forces impinging on them (Fullan 2000).
Outside-in: How agencies external to the school organize themselves to be effective in accomplishing large-scale reform at the school level (Fullan 2000).
The first aspect of my inquiry will be devoted to the idea of alignment. Using David Clarke’s notion of the ripple effect through his investigation of alignment in VCE maths and science curriculum, I will attempt to demonstrate that assessment and teacher instruction are closely aligned and therefore reform in curriculum alone “fails to do anything more than generate new policy documents or exchange one form of professional rhetoric for another without any substantive change in classroom practice” (Clarke 2011). Using the idea of alignment I would like to make a case that because schools are forced to place a heavy focus on NAPLAN, teacher instruction has become overly focussed on Numeracy and Literacy to the detriment of other important areas of the curriculum. By reviewing alignment theory I want to demonstrate that “assessment informs instruction – the goals of instruction and even the tasks employed should be a direct reflection of the anticipated assessment” (Clarke 2011). Therefore if we want to ensure that there is reform in curriculum where creativity is an essential component then we need to first figure out how to assess for creativity.
The second part of my inquiry will be devoted to a small investigation into what creativity is and what models of the creative process could be used to provide a scaffold for the possibility that creativity can be assessed. Through a literature review I would like to draw on Arthur Cropley’s stage model along with Urban’s computational model (Cropley 2010). I may also bring in the ideas of Robert J Sternberg and James C Kaufman who have both written extensively on the assessment of creativity. I can foresee that I may have to refer to Stanley Cavell’s notion of speaking for the community through ones subjective account of what is criteria (Mulhall 1994). This will help support my discussion of how to asses for creativity. Underpinning this investigation will be Csikszentmihalyi and Maslow’s aforementioned ideas that creativity is an essential everyday occurrence that distinguishes us from other life forms on the planet and therefore justifying its importance in any form of assessment.
The purpose of this inquiry is to provide some illumination into the possibility that assessment for creativity would have a positive effect on teacher instruction. According to alignment theory this will then offer some hope for curriculum reform and therefore opening up avenues for new thoughts and ideas on how to align assessment, curriculum and teacher instruction for all stakeholders in education.
Craft, A (2003) The Limits To Creativity, British Journal of Educational Studies, ISSN 0007-1005 Vol. 51, No. 2, June (2003), pp 113 – 127
Cropley, J (2010) Creativity in education and Learning a guide for teachers and educators, RoutledgeFalmer (London and NewYork) pp 73-109
Csikszentmihalyi, M (1996, 2011) http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199607/the-creative-personality
Fullan, M (2000) The Three Stories Of Education Reform, Phi Delta Kappan
Maslow, A (1970) Motivation and Personality, Third Edition (London, Harper Collins).
Miller, W. C. (1987). The creative edge. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Mulhall 1994, Stanley Cavell: Philosophy’s Recounting of the Ordinary
Roach A, Niebling B, Kurz A (2008) Evaluation The Alignment Among Curriculum, Instruction, And Assessments: Implications And Applications For Research And Practice. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(2) Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Simon H. A. (2001) Creativity in the arts and the sciences The Kenyon Review 23, (2), 203-