Imperiled Future: Teacher Creativity As a Casualty of Standardization

According to a recent MacArthur Foundation report, fully 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet. This means that in the coming decades the only thing certain is that change is inevitable and that flexibility, resourcefulness and imagination are at a premium. Equipping young people with a capacity for innovation is key to economic competitiveness.  However, there is an inherent contradiction between the purported need for creativity and innovation in tomorrow’s workforce and the kind of education that has been mandated in successive waves of reform over the last two decades, an education marked by standardization and proscription.  

 

Nurturing innovation requires an environment that is supportive and rewarding of creative ideas. A person could have all of the internal resources needed to think creatively, but without environmental support, the creativity that a person has within him or her might never manifest itself. (Sternberg, R., 2006)  What are the implications for teaching practice? Teaching creatively and teaching for creativity are mutually reinforcing and interconnected concepts.  (Pelfrey, 2011) found that when teachers encourage collaboration, student choice, imagination, a risk-free learning environment, and inquiry to facilitate learning, student creativity is enhanced.”  (Adams, J. p. 137 -138)  Ultimately, teaching for creativity requires a teacher who is creative herself.

 

According to Olivant (2015), “teachers perceive the current high-stakes testing climate to be negatively affecting their ability to foster creativity and creative thinking in the classroom through its emphasis on compliance and conformity at the expense of teacher autonomy and self-direction” (p. 215).  This message is documented again and again by researchers that link current educational policy to a scripting of teaching, in that, teaching is de-professionalized and the craft of teaching is narrowed to prepared lessons by an outside entity.

           

Today’s children will become tomorrow’s teachers. The US education system as it stands conspires against the development of independent-minded, intellectual risk-taking creative teachers. Whether or not this was intentional, it is a consequence that will have long-last implications for tomorrow’s workforce. It is imperative that this precious resource, creativity, be resurrected as central to the mission of American education.  Take to heart Ken Burns’ prescient statement in a 2006 TED talk,  “My contention now is that creativity is as important in education as literacy and should be treated with the same status.”