Over the past few years, with the increasing pressure from the government and OfSTed to “perform”, I have become particularly interested in the relationship between consistency, creativity and conformity. The “three C’s”, as I will call them, seem to sit quite uncomfortably together and often seem to work in opposition; getting a balance between them seems imperative to creating a positive and effective environment for learning.
Consistency is something both outside bodies and schools strive for – the argument is that if a child in one year group learns in one class, his twin, in another class will receive the same, or a similar experience to his/her twin. This in itself is hard to argue against – quality education for all! However, I have seen schools go too far along this route, asking their teachers to produce Flip Charts for each of their lessons that all classes in that year group must follow at the same time. I have been in schools where they have insisted on having the same displays in every classroom. You have consistency, yes, but all the joy and creativity is gone and, I would argue, this teaching model is heading towards conformity – a one size fits all approach to teaching. No room for the children’s ideas; no room for assessment for learning; no room for individuality; no room for joy.
I have also worked in schools that highly value the creativity and individuality of their teachers and students. These schools have not been so “hung up” on consistency, allowing teachers to play to their strengths and create learning with the children. In this model, the children’s ideas and interests are valued and taken into account. Teachers have the space to take ideas from their students and “go off piste”. Classes become creative hubs, where ideas from the students feed into the teacher’s planning and vice versa. It wouldn’t take a genius to realise I thrive in the latter environment! However, it could be argued, where is the consistency? How are we making sure that all children receive a similar experience to their peers?
And that’s where the missing link comes in, the fourth C … collaboration. The key is great collaboration. Between the students and teachers, but also between the teachers an leaders of schools. In order to empower teachers and students to be creative in their teaching and learning, great ideas must be shared and valued. A culture of collaboration must actively live within a school, so that teachers and learners can feed off one another’s ideas and, in this way, create a consistency, where the learning isn’t quite identical in each class but the outcomes and the level of inspiration are.
Let’s not conform; let’s collaborate and create!