Sunday, March 31, 2013

3Rs and 3Cs and encouraging students to be problem finders

Over the past few weeks I've been digging into design thinking and trying to learn more about it and how it can be used in education.   One of the questions that I had, which was answered by a keynote from Ewan McIntosh at the Design Thinking School in Wellington, New Zealand was this: can we take the lessons we have learned about creative people in businesses/companies and use these to encourage creativity in education?

Ewan discussed the traits of creative people:
  • All creative people know why they are doing what they are doing
  • They are agents provocateurs - you can't be creative if you stay in the status quo.  
  • They have a process and trust the process and use it when times are hard.  
  • These people live to perform and want to share what they have.
He then went on to talk about the work of Professor Guy Claxton and his work around the 6 pillars to make learning interesting which he called the 3Rs and the 3Cs:

  • Challenge - students want things to be difficult as this is where learning occurs.  A great example is that of video games which have the zone of proximal development coded into them so you are constantly learning how to play the game and get better at it. 
  • Collaborative - in the creative industry everyone is collaborative, schools need to encourage this.
  • Responsibility - students need to be responsible for their own learning - you can't do your most creative thinking when you have someone making decisions for you or if the only point of the learning is that it will be on the test.
  • Respect - students want respect for their creative ideas - especially those that are "off the scale".  
  • Real things - tacking real problems is motivating for students, "pseudo-problems" come across as stupid/pointless and get in the way of learning.  They are not experiential.  Interestingly enough I'm in the middle of an online course with Bernajean Porter and we are looking at student projects to determine rigor and it occurs to me that one of the problems we come across a lot in schools is this issue of "pseudo-problems" which make it difficult for students to be really rigorous in their thinking.
  • Choice - we need between 3 and 20 choices - more than this is overwhelming.  When you undertake projects you need to give students at least 3 choices.  Thinking further on this reminded me of the choices we gave our students for their Independent Studies projects - starting with 3 options in Grade 3 and working up to around 10 - 15 choices by Grade 5.
The next part of the keynote dealt with finding the time to do these challenging, collaborative, authentic tasks.  This made me think of a summer workshop I did at Project Zero which made me question (and throw out) more than half of the activities/pseudo-problems that I'd been using as learning engagements up to that point.   Ewan said that often when you look at a curriculum you see a lot of repetition/duplication (because students may never have really learned using experience so could not apply it).  When you remove the duplication it creates a lot of space and you are left with the essential things that it is important to do.

Ewan went on to talk about provocations which is something that we use a lot in the PYP programme of inquiry to get students engaged in the units - or as Ewan said to make the unit tantalizing.  He talked about how we should not be aiming for incremental improvement but for transformation, and then spoke about the SAMR model, which I used a lot in my last school to talk about how technology can transform learning.  He also talked about the importance of teachers designing open ended tasks and how it is important that the questions that are asked are not Googleable.   All of this made me think about the design of our units of inquiry - how it's important not to give students the answers in the subject/central idea and how teachers really shouldn't come up with the questions.  He had a great idea of asking all students to write their questions and then divide them into Googleable and non-Googleable.  By all means go and find out the Googleable stuff, but the most valuable time should be spent on the un-Googleable ones - that's the rich learning.  He also spoke about Problem Based Learning, most of which he said is Googleable as it is about solving problems.  Yet the really creative people are not problem solvers - they are the ones who have an eye and skills to be problem finders - they find the problem that nobody else has and then design a solution to it.

Photo Credit: MarcelGermain via Compfight cc

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