Is creativity an end, or a means to an end? In education, this question has no easy answer. At times, creativity serves as a vehicle for inspiration, while at other times, originality is the destination itself. For painters and poets, artistry is the conduit to new perspectives and phrases. For the basement tinkerer, innovation is the spark to invention. But schools do not produce inventions; they produce inventors. For this reason, to incubate the creative mind is a crucial role of the teacher. To foster imagination is a key pathway toward entrepreneurship and discovery. Ingenuity, therefore, resides in the upper quadrant of any educational schema.
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The four quadrants within the matrix represent different teaching models, none necessarily better or worse than the other, but each distinct in the proficiencies it elicits in the student and in the roles it envisions for the educator. In the bottom left is the traditional classroom that relies on "ritual recitation," with a teacher at the front of the room and a host of facts to memorize. As the y-axis branches upward, the teacher is still in command, aiming for higher-order skills but maintaining a fixed, "one-size fits all" approach. Along the x-axis, the skills remain basic while the students enjoy freedom without guidance, risking a stabbing-in-the-dark, "pin the tail on the donkey" method. Ultimately, the upper right quadrant cultivates hands-on experimenters. By emphasizing original ideas in an entrepreneurial classroom, teachers create a laboratory of "experiential design," where children try and fail in the security of self-confident investigation.
In this blueprint, destructive teaching does exist. Heading in the negative direction are worksheets and scripts that might enforce rote facts but that undermine any expertise of the profession. Similarly, rushed units of study may result from good intentions, but the rapid pace and incomplete reflection time do more harm than good. Finally, standardized testing does the most damage. Not only does it vitiate every virtue of a teacher's training and passion, but it also chokes creativity and genuine learning.
If you would like a .pdf version of the "Axis Of Education" graphic, please click here.