Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Assessment/Testing
Are these statements reasonable or unreasonable? That question was asked of each student in Mrs. Platt’s fifth grade classroom, followed by a moderated group discussion about the topics. Having an open discussion required the students to see things from different points of view. Getting her troublesome student, Gertrude, to stand up front and moderate the conversation, helped get Gertrude engaged in the classroom and made her gain a new respect for the teacher (Myers, R.E., Torrance, E.P., 1970). Is it important for students to learn creativity, and working with abstract ideas, like Mrs. Platt tried to do? What are the benefits of this type of learning, and if any, how do we test it?
Importance of Creativity and Teamwork
|“||Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.||”|
It is of course hoped that experiences in creative thinking at their own level will help students develop a characteristic way of looking at things that will, for some individuals, ultimately result in the creation of ideas and products that are truly original and useful for the culture at large (Osborn, 1963, Cited: Ford, B.G, Renzulli, M.J., 1976). In life, being creative and looking at abstracts from numerous perspectives is imperative. Not only does working creatively with teams help children maneuver through life, but it will be a tool needed in many of the areas they choose to work after high school and in college.
|“||The starting point of all science and all inquires is, 'I wonder why...'||”|
—(Egan, K., 2005, p.80)
In countless professions, such as marketing, entertainment, science, engineering, and entrepreneurship, thinking “Outside of the box” is necessary for success. There is a good deal of research evidence which shows that persons who have engaged in systematic creativity training exercises can be expected to increase their capacity for creative thinking in a variety of fields (Osborn, 1963, Cited: Ford, B.G, Renzulli, M.J.,1976). There have been special teachers throughout the years, that we (Generation X, Y, and M) can remember, that used creative projects and student-centered work to teach our classes. But at one time student-centered work was rare, and teacher lead direct style teaching was dominant in the schools. You will still find direct style teaching within the classroom today. This can be a classroom mangagement or control issue. If a lesson is well thought out, the teacher can incorporate creative group work and still be able to maintain classroom control. The extra time spent to prepare equipment and special lessons are worth the effort. Studies have shown students retained more of what they learned when they were actively involved in assignments. This suggest Student-centered and hands-on lessons can be more productive than teacher-centered lessons. Rob Sternberg, a Yale Psychology professor, came up with the “Rainbow Project” which provided a supplementary test of analytical, practical, and creative skills to augment the SAT in predicting validity for college GPA relative to high school GPA and the SAT and decreased ethnic-group disparities in test scores (Cavanagn, S., 2003). His premise is the belief that the SAT, measures primarily memory and analytical ability, rather than creative or practical skills. He has also come up with the “Aurora Project” that uses creativity and problem solving to identify gifted students. WIC, acronym for Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity- which was also designed for college admissions offices to use to assess a student in a way that is beyond just academics. WIC suggest attributes like good citizenship and positive leadership should be considered along side grades and test scores (Sternberg, R.J., 2007). Since college admissions incorporate creative, practical, and elaborative thinking, shouldn’t we as teachers at primary levels, teach and prepare our students with those skills?
One study called “Effects of Cooperative Learning and Perceived status of Male and Female Pupils” found varying results, depending on if the students were put in groups with or without having designated roles for each student. When put into groups to work on a problem solving project with no assigned duties for each team member, the male students tended to dominant the team overtime and the female students played less of a role in the decisions of the team. But once teams were divided and each person had a part to contribute to the team, an equalizing effect occurred. When the students had to cooperate to accomplish the task, overtime there were no significant differences between female and male group members in achievement, verbal participation, perceived leadership, and status(Peterson, R.P., p.717-735). This study proves, that teamwork with individual accountability is crucial for developing critical thinking and problem solving skills among boys and girls. Another study, called PACER, done among a 6th grade Physical Education classroom, found when working in teams low skilled students performed as well as their average and highly skilled counterparts. The study also found that cooperative efforts resulted in higher achievement on higher level learning task, than individualistic efforts did. As well, engaging in and receiving verbal comments are significantly related with achievement (Barrett, T., 2005).
Besides bridging gender boundaries and higher achievement, teamwork and cooperative learning can also facilitate peer acceptance of students with disabilities. Studies have shown problem solving and group work create confidence among diverse types of students. That is why a set of alternative instructional methods, called CL, were developed. CL stands for Cooperative Learning. With CL, students, in general and special education settings, work in small groups to help one another learn academic material (Johnson, 1981; Kagan, 1992; Slavin, 1995). CL has demonstrated academic gains. For instance, it increased student achievement and social gains, such as improved inter group relations, acceptance of academically handicapped classmates, and increased self esteem (Johnson et al, 1981). So as we can see, creative and collaborative learning not only help students learn, but can also help with social acceptance issues, and confidence.
|“||Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.||”|
Incorporating creative and abstract thinking into lesson plans engages the students. It can change:
- Troublesome behavior into outstanding performance
- Apathy to enthusiasm about learning
- Lack of self expression to creative self expression
- Non-reader to average or superior reader (Myers, R.E., Torrance, E.P., 1970)
Since we now know creativity, working with abstracts, and teams are essential to a well rounded student; how should we create lesson plans and test to incorporate it into the classroom? In order for students to reap the benefits of thinking abstract, teachers must be creative themselves while making up their lesson plans, quizzes, and test. Lesson plans should work up to the test. For teachers the creative process should start when brainstorming and writing lesson plans and exams. Some suggest writing your final exam first, then writing the lesson plans to incorporate everything that you want your students to retain from the semester(Bartel, Marvin, 2006). Think about what your objectives for the class are, then add the imaginative formats for teaching them. Adding versatility in your lesson plans by using technology, skits, and team projects, keeps the students attentive. There are no longer any excuses to have pupils just sitting listening to a boring lectures everyday!
One format for testing abstract thinking can be open ended questions, which are questions with no real definite answer. You can give higher grades for less ordinary answers. These questions can allow the student to elaborate. In the “Rainbow Project” students were asked to write 2 stories, taking 15 minutes each, based on a list of fictitious titles. A team of judges rated those stories on originality, evocativeness, complexity, and descriptiveness. In another section, the students were given cartoons from the New Yorker and were asked to write captions for them (Cavanagn, S.,2003). Various categories you can test are logical reasoning, ideational fluency, spontaneous flexibility, originality, elaboration, redefinition, sensitivity to problems, and judgment (Myers, R.E., Torrance, E.P., 2007). Torrance's Tests of Creative Thinking, is highly recommended in the educational field. You can use these pre-formatted test as a guide, or you can be clever and invent your own. See goshen.edu for ideas.
One benefit of making up your own test, is you can formulate team test. On example of assessing cohesiveness, & problem solving skills within teams could be: a class projects which requires each team member to find a piece of a puzzle in order to find the final answer. This could be used in a history class with historical facts on each piece or in English with different quotes on each section from one author. Then when the teams fit together the completed puzzles, they would reveal a shape or picture of something representing a major event in time or the outline of something representing the author. Then the students can guess, which event the picture, along with all the cumulatively individual facts on each piece represents. The teams that put the puzzles together and come up with the answer in the fastest time bracket get As, and second fastest bracket Bs, and so on down. You can make the clues more difficult for higher grade levels. Determining standards for each grade will be decided beforehand, providing the teacher with a guide to grade upon. The students should also know in advance the requirements and how the project will be graded. In addition, teachers can calculate in participation points for each individual’s contribution within the group.
With so many resources available to teachers today, the sky is not the limit for creativity in the classroom. I challenge you to expand your student’s minds. Press them to see perspectives bigger than themselves. Being creative might take more time to plan, but the end product will be well worth it. Who knows you might grow and learn something new yourself.
Multiple Choice Questions
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- Barrett, T. (2005). Journal of teaching in Physical education. (Vol. 24, p.88-102) Effects of cooperative learning on the performance of sixth-grade Physical education students. Ohio State University.
- Bartel, Marvin (2004; Updated July, 2006). How to write a test for Both Creativity and Knowledge. Retrieved September , 2007, from http://www.goshen.edu/~marvinpb/arted/testing/drawtest.html.
- Cavanagh, S. (2003). Researchers call SAT alternative better predictor of college success. In Education week.(Vol. 22, Issue 20).
- Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Ford, B.G, Renzulli, M. J. (1976). New directions in creativity. Mark A. New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
- Myers, R.E., Torrance,E.P. (1970). Creative learning and teaching. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Company.
- Peterson, R.P. Journal of Social Psychology. (1930-2007). (p.717-735) Effects of Cooperative learning on Perceived Status of Male and Female Pupils.
- Johnson, D., Johnson, R., Maruyama, G., Nelson, C., & Skon, L. (1981).Psychological bulletin. (Vol. 89, p. 47-62). Cooperative learning and group contingencies.
- Sternberg, R.J.(2007). Chronicle of Higher Education. (Vol. 53, Issue 44). Finding students who are wise, practical, and creative.
- Vandervert, L.R. (2007). Creativity Research Journal (1995-Present).(Vol. 19, Issue 1, p.1-18,18p). ‘’How working memory and the cerebellum collaborate to produce creativity and innovation.’’
- Zakia, Richard D. (Complied, 1995). Quotes for Teachers. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.rit.edu/~andpph/text-quotations.html