A social problem
The call for more creativity is loud.
Greater creativity and wellbeing are being called for by our social, environmental, industrial and political sectors. They are faced with ‘wicked problems’ and seek our collaborators, project workers and problem solvers.
Our children want greater creativity and wellness too … they know they are faced with problems and yearn to be our collaborators, project workers and problem solvers and our educational sector asks our schools to integrate these needs.
The problem is that, despite the call, creativity is not encultured in Australian education.
Furthermore, research shows our academic process actively disables creativity.
Knowing this, should we consciously ask, is it true? Do we really allow our schools to kill creativity? Are we choosing, consciously or otherwise, to disable our kids’ creativity?
If our answer is “yes”, can we intentionally ask, why are we doing that? What purpose will it serve? And most importantly, what can we do about it?
After all, we have a duty of care.
In the U.S.A., creative education is viewed as a children’s rights issue.
We don’t talk about that in Australia.
What we talk about is the children who struggle in education. 25% drop out. Frustrated, bored, intelligent, questioning, rebellious, distracted, disengaged, tenacious, they slip through the cracks.
A social solution
Research shows the creative process over the academic process:
• enables creativity
• develops academic skills and knowledge
• enhances wellbeing, and
• is a natural educator.
Creativity is even predicted to create a more just society.
On top of these arguments for creative education, research shows:
- global social, ecological and industrial sectors are calling loudly for more creativity
- our children are more likely to be able to deal with the social and ecological problems facing them if their creativity is empowered
- the creative industry is growing 40% faster than any other
- the creative process is an equally, if not more effective approach to learning as the academic process
- creativity and its capacities grow only by being creative… by being immersed and practiced.
For a list of the resources that have affected SoCE’s thinking, please click here.
The creative process is possibly mans’ most natural teacher. Learning through it about us, the world and our relationship with it is an effective, efficient learning method with a growing body of global research behind it.
Creativity requires the integration of the creative person, the creative process, and the creative product. These three elements generate a creative experience, and this experience informs and builds skills, knowledge, and creative capacities.
Creativity is a pathway into projects including academic research and is also rich with collaborative, democratic, and community engagement opportunities. It also enables the growth of creative capabilities and practices that academic methods don’t promote.
In creative education, inquiry-based learning integrates a democratic environment. Inquiry-based learning incorporates many learning methods, each one slightly different to another. They are experiential and personalised by nature.
- project-based learning
- place-based learning
- problem-solving learning
- passion-based learning
- team-based learning
- studio-based learning
- community-based learning, and
- design-based learning.
Self-direction is the experience and responsibility of the creative, and usually their greatest desire. In school, it is experienced personally and communally, as each student is encouraged to participate in the design and development of their culture, facilities, programs and projects.
Implementing the creative process, students are required to:
- prepare project plan
- document the development of their project from an inner and outer point of view
- create the project
- reflect upon and evaluate their learning outcomes including skill development, new knowledge, and understanding of self along the way with their educator, and
- exhibit or present it formally to the project’s beneficiary (if any) and the school community.
Students will participate in self-directed, personalised, individual and concurrent projects called
- Gift Enhancement Projects, which seek to enhance a unique, natural ability of a student
- Knowledge Enhancement Projects which seek to enhance a student’s innate curiosity about one area of the world, without judgement
- Zen Enhancement Projects which seek to enhance each student’s ability to build strategy for zen-out time, through a project that may be in the crafts, sciences or sports
Projects will be formed by small groups or classes, and the full school community. Projects can partner with and / or benefit local, national and international communities. Many projects will have a view to a social or ecological solution to a question, inquiry and problem.
These projects do not work in isolation or act as rewards for other learning or behaviour, rather they are integrated into daily learning experiences.
Over their time, students develop a digital portfolio of projects which demonstrate students’ creative, academic, and entrepreneurial achievements.
This portfolio contains evidence of progress through the Australian curriculum and International Baccalaureate. Students upload evidence of their learning twice a term. Students may choose to add to their portfolio more often. Students and educators will include work samples that reflect subjects, as well as Zen Enhancement, Knowledge Enhancement and Gift Enhancement projects. Creative and experiential learning may be recorded as voice recording, video or photos. Documentation regarding inquiry plans and design projects will also be required in the portfolio.
Democratic education compliments and enhances creative education. It teaches students to employ and further enable their creative practices in a group setting.
Creative practices begin with the self. They include self-direction, self-regulation, self-governance, self-contemplation, self-evaluation, self-awareness. To offer them in a group setting means the group must also be self-directed, self-regulated, self-governed, self-contemplative, self-reflective, self-evaluative and self-aware… equaling a democratic learning environment.
Being a democratic school, students and staff will participate equally in whole school meetings where they will raise ideas and problems, and democratically decide for themselves their best courses of action.
The school body may use these meetings to consider establishing or enforcing their rules, build upon projects, or design and vote upon the nature of their school. The board of directors will focus their attention upon ensuring the business and well-being needs of the school are met, while the students and educators will be in the role of self-governance.
One of the organisations Jane worked with to create the SoCE model is the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) in New York. Jerry Mintz, AERO’s founder, says
“There is no monolithic definition of democratic education. But what we mean here is ‘education in which young people organize their daily activities, and in which there is equality and democratic decision-making among young people and adults’.”
(AERO’s Directory of Democratic Education)
Creative and democratic schools implement democracy in various ways, depending upon the nature (the experience and culture) of the school that the students, educators, committees and board are continuously building.
Weekly whole school meetings held in the community room bring students and staff together to raise ideas and problems, and democratically decide for themselves their best courses of action.
In effect, if the staff, students or committees want to solve a whole or partial school issue, come up with rules of engagement or enforce their rules, enhance resources for projects, develop whole or partial school project ideas, or vote upon the direction and design of their school, they must be proposed and decided upon at a democratic meeting.
As well as whole school meetings, spontaneous meetings can occur any time of the day on any weekday and will be called by the Initiator by a special bell ring across the school. Students and staff can elect to attend.
At each meeting, there is:
- an agenda that can be added to any time
- a chairperson (student preference)
- a minute taker (student preference)
- sharing of ideas, concerns and thoughts, then…
- “If a minority opinion is indicated, others listen very carefully to that minority opinion, and allow it to be fully expressed, perhaps changing the decision of the whole group. But ultimately, if
they feel that the minority opinion is fully explored and that there is no options offered, the decision of the majority becomes the decision.” – Jerry Mintz
“The meetings often make many creative decisions, decisions that might not be thought of by any individual operating on their own. It is important to note that we go into a meeting without having a pre-set idea about the decisions that the meeting “should” make, but rather, fully expect that the meeting will be greater than the sum of its parts, and may find a creative solution that no one individual could foresee.” – Jerry Mintz
Individual Education Programs
IEPs reflect integrated creative education with the Australian curriculum and International Baccalaureate. In the primary school, within each IEP, inquiry-based learning is combined with the Australian Curriculum in the eight learning areas.
IEPS are designed to meet the individual learning needs of the student regardless of the level (grade) they have been placed within the school’s multi-age classes. Each student’s academic needs are assessed by the home-group educator at the beginning of the year using formal and informal assessments to determine the Australian curriculum levels to appropriately teach and suggest goals for.
Each IEP contains learning outcomes stated as goals for the following Australian curriculum learning areas:
- The Arts
- Health and Physical Education
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Sciences, and
- Information and Communication Technologies.
as well as Creativity; the subject.
The IEP also includes Gift Enhancement, Knowledge Enhancement, and Zen Enhancement projects within any of the eight key learning areas of the Australian curriculum, that may be developed by individuals, small groups, whole classes, or the whole school.
Every term, each student will develop their Individual Education Programs (IEP’s) with their home-group educator, reflecting their goals and evaluation strategies (criteria) for their studies, weekly timetable for classes, and their projects. IEP’s are founded upon areas of interest, skill sets and diversity, through projects and subjects of the Australian curriculum.
Review and development
IEP’s will be reviewed every Friday in a democratic meeting between student and home-group educator and assessed and monitored against the Australian curriculum by the students’ home-group and specialist educators. Parents will be encouraged to participate in these reviews. This is an opportunity for students, educators and parents to meet to reflect on student participation the previous week and identify learning outcomes and strategies for the week ahead.
Self-directed learning and its principles are key to the IEP, as it empowers students to be aware of their learning progress through opportunities for ongoing self-evaluation and independence in their learning. Each project is self-evaluated by the student or student group and the cohort who participate in its presentation.
IEPs will be reviewed formally at the end of terms 2, 3 & 4 at the Parent Educator Child Review (PEC review).
Timeline for the development, evaluation and reporting of IEPs
- assessments and IEP meetings and development completed by the end of the 3rd week for terms 1 and 3, and by the end of the 2nd week for terms 2 and 4, according to the Student Learning Outcomes Policy
- IEPS uploaded by the end of the 3rd week and submitted to the Chief Creative Director, recommending any changes if required, otherwise the Chief Creative Director signs them
- administration will give a copy of the signed IEP to the student, educator, send a copy to the family, and upload a copy to the portfolios.
- end of semester assessments and student evaluations begin no later than week 7 of the term, including the compilation of the semester’s portfolio of project artifacts, project documentation, and journals
- parents and carers invited to a Parent – Educator Interview
- the semester’s Student Progress Reports completed and submitted to the Chief Creative Director by the end of the week 8
- the Chief Creative Director recommends changes to the reports and Educators are to make these changes if agreed and re-submit by the end of the last week with their signature
- all reports are filed into portfolios
- during weeks 9/10 of terms 2 and 4, the school will host a whole school Project Exhibition open to all members of the school community and beyond. Assessment, reflection or feedback is uploaded to students’ portfolios
- administration will send the signed original report to the parents and carers.