It’s all about “things”

thingsAt the beginning of the second millennium, educators followed the latest trend, focusing on changing students with the idea of making them “better people.” What students learned or produced was secondary. However, creativity is driven by the desire to produce an important, lasting work.

According to DiSC, a personality inventory often administered to college students and adults, the creative person’s desire is for a major achievement, of both high originality and high quality. The “weakness” with this group is that they are often private and closed-natured, not informing others of their thoughts. So the teachers never feel that they are improving their personalities.

Proponents of group interaction encourage these students to open up and express themselves more freely. Further reading about DiSC indicates why the creative types are not always open, People have a tendency to dislike them when they are open because they correct other’s errors.[1]  I talked to one of these people privately who was honest enough to say “Most people really don’t want to hear what I have to say. They are wrapped up in how I view them and have no desire to really look at things critically.” The emphasis on “things” is the key.

Often we judge people on appearance, speaking ability, an attitude of optimism and confidence. The creative person values what is produced. Helping a budding creative student take ideas scattered across several spiral notebooks and consolidate them into real products is one of the most helpful things a teacher can do.

For example, a student sits in a class and listens, reads and takes notes. The student then completes the answer sheet for a test, which is basically a meaningless list of letters and numbers unless viewed with the test. Occasionally, the student writes about a subject, using a pencil to regurgitate what was said in class on a piece of notebook paper. The result is no more professional or original than the cast of characters that some students doodle in the spiral notebooks. The student leaves high school with few products worth keeping.

Many students desire to turn knowledge into something that can be seen, heard or touched. They want to create their own portfolio. Technology has eliminated some of the logistical problems with keeping portfolios of work. Performances are preserved as video, artwork as visual files, and writing as text documents. Technology has even becomes the media itself resulting in applications and multimedia creations. (However, be aware that the program platforms of today maybe be incompatible with the electronic devices of tomorrow.) The problem that still remains is the effort required to make original, quality products, in an environment that focuses on rapid absorption of information.

The major drawback of making products in school is time. Much time is used in researching, brainstorming, creating, evaluating and reworking to produce something that is quality, not cheap and cookie-cutter in design. But that is also the value of this approach.

“If I talk about children as constructing meaning, or the need for critical and creative thinking, I lose my parents. Not all of them are eager to have children who raise questions or who want to go away when they go to college. Instead, I have to find a local basis for the changes I need to make. So, for instance, when it comes time to talk about portfolios, I don’t spend much time on the usual lines about student choice and ownership, or mathematical power. There isn’t one of my families that doesn’t worry about their kids always wanting new things, or not knowing how to fix or value the things they have.  One of them calls it “mall fever.” So, I explain that portfolios are about helping kids to learn to take care of things, to work hard at getting something right, for valuing hard work, for repairing things.”

From Denny Palmer Wolf’s interview with Kentucky teacher

[2] Honig, B. & Alexander, F. (1995). Rewriting the tests: Lessons from the California state assessment system. In J.B.Baron & D.P.Wolf (Eds.), Performance-based student assessment: Challenges and Possibilities. Ninety-fifth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I (pp. 143-165). Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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