Seize the chance for creativity

19th April 2013 at 01:00

Teachers are fleeing the classroom because of the stress and pressure caused by constant observation by authorities and the "climate of fear" this creates.

But arguably the greatest victims of this are students. Those taught a rigid curriculum by an overwrought teacher are likely to parrot correct, if unimaginative, information in order to pass their exams. Or, as Denise de Souza Fleith found in her 2000 research: "in a climate in which fear, one right answer, little acceptance for a variety of students' products, extreme levels of competition and many extrinsic rewards are predominant, it is difficult to foster high levels of creativity".

Could this be about to change? The government says so, claiming that the new national curriculum planned for 2014 will encourage greater creativity in the classroom. Of course, there are many who have fair grounds - and experience - to dismiss this as rubbish. But they cannot deny that too many teachers have spent years trapped in defensive practice, teaching students only what they need to know to scrape through exams. We call it teaching to the test.

Whether the reforms allow more freedom, they certainly should not stop you bringing creativity into the classroom. Many teachers have already found ways of doing this. For example, when students stray slightly from the lesson objective, let them: especially if it pricks their curiosity and leads to more in-depth learning. With a research assignment, why not allow students to present their findings in a style of their choosing or even perform an experiment?

As teachers you are still holding the reins. But you are also empowering the students by giving them the chance to study or research in their own creative style. This should motivate them to do their best.

Creativity is intangible and means different things to different people. Finding the most effective way to draw it from each student is yet another challenge. Let's hope that when the new curriculum is delivered it belies critics' predictions, giving students and teachers more than just a superficial gloss of paint over the existing, exam-focused, educational woodwork. We can but dream.

Jo Knowsley is acting editor of TESpro, @tes.

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