Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Educational Perspectives

Chapter Six in the book Creativity by Mark A. Runco is titled Educational Perspectives. It looks at education and creativity from a number of angles. I am an art educator who teaches at a middle school in Western New York. What was most interesting to read about was the idea of creativity and teacher expectations.

Runco (2007) stated “The implicit theories about children’s creativity held by teachers are extremely important because they lead directly to expectations, and expectations are very powerful influences on students’ behavior” (p. 184). This statement fascinates me because I have experienced the influence of my expectations on my students. Being an art teacher, I want to foster the most creative learning environment that I can for my students. However, sometimes a child’s reputation will precede them and then my expectations of that child change. It is strange that despite my best efforts, sometimes a student’s behavior can effect my expectations of them and in turn have an adverse effect on their creative performance. I, and all educators, should give each child a level playing field, so to speak. Sometimes, I underestimate the impact of my expectations and attitude toward students. It is interesting to think that their performance in my class is a direct reflection of what I expect from them. I am trying to become more aware of this with each passing day in the classroom. Colleagues talk about how the “good” kids always do well and the “bad” kids always perform poorly. Could this be because the “bad” kids are labeled that way and expected to perform sub par and so they fulfill that expectation?

There is truth to the theory of teacher expectations and creativity. I try to be as unbiased as I can in the classroom, expecting the same level of behavior and performance from all of my students. Especially in the art classroom, many children think that they need to possess some form of innate artistic talent, that they cannot learn the skills they need to perform well. This is exactly how some people view creativity. In my classroom, it is emphasized that creativity and artistic skill can be learned and that art class is the place to learn it. Runco (2007) also talked about how people in the United States view creativity and child performance compared to how the Asian culture views creativity and performance. In the U.S., performance is attributed to innate talent. In Asian culture, performance is viewed as a “reflection of motivation and effort” (Runco, p. 187). I believe that the American culture would greatly benefit from the Asian perspective of performance. Young people are very quick to use the excuse of “I am not artistically talented”. This is also true in subjects such as math, science and music. Students’ achievement would greatly increase if they looked at performance as a reward for hard work and motivation. If teachers set their expectations of hard work and motivation high, their students will rise to meet them.

Runco, M. A (2007). Creativity theories and themes: Research, development and practice.
-- Melanie Baehre, Graduate Student

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I have felt this tension as well. I try to let go of negative preconceptions, but cannot, which in turn influences my exchange with the student negatively.

A few methods I've used which have offered some relief:

> Build classes that are not completely formed. Bring the ingredients-- a learning objective, materials, suggested activity with those materials, and a few ideas from which to pick to share in response. Be frank to the group that this is what you are supplying and ask them to fill in the gaps. I've tried this with ages as young as 12, and it works. They were put aback and uncomfortable at first, but after a few minutes of awkwardness, they eagerly figured things out. The class was fresh, each person interacted in an authentic way. At the end, everyone shares. Not all of the material may be covered, but lots of tension is created with inspirations and lessons felt by each person that can be brought up again in interactions at a later time.

> In those moments when you approach an interaction with someone with whom you understand you have a negative preconception, sink into the moment. Look carefully at their eyes. Carefully listen inside and follow your intuition or inner voice keenly. It is our habitual responses that are at fault, and that is where I would argue that something evil can creep in. Trust the moment, be mindful, and you will gain a new sense of yourself and how we as people intermesh moment by moment.