In his Ted talk do schools kill creativity?, Sir Ken Robinson talked of that fact that all children have tremendous talent, but we squander them.
He talked about the fact that the education system was created as a reverse funnel to enter university. This in itself isn’t bad but what it means is that anyone who doesn’t fit this academic mould gets left to the wayside.
In this system which we have created, there is no space for creativity and any other activities that are difficult to assess and test. Just think about how in exams, we see an increasing amount of multiple choice question format justified by the fact that this is what can easily and speedily be marked by a computer.
His whole talk is fascinating and I highly recommend a watch.
A system where we stigmatise mistakes. – Teaching for the answer rather than understanding.
Have you ever met someone say in a job interview that asks you a question then says there are no right or wrong answers yet at the back of your mind you think, of course there is a right or wrong answer. This is because we’ve been so conditioned to think in terms of right answer or wrong answer. There is no room for debate or discussion.
This is so ingrained in us that even parents relate to their children like this. You ask your child what colour is this? , they give you the right answer then you praise them. Or we ask, how many flowers are there? They answer the “right” or “wrong” answer then we react based on that. “yes well done!” or, “nooo count again”, or worse, No [Insert answer, there are 4” (watch the reaction of the child with disappointment if they get it wrong. The next time, they might even be hesitant to respond to the question for fear of getting it wrong.
Instead of focusing on the “answer”, we should focus on the methodology. What exactly are we trying to achieve? If it’s to count, then let’s take them on the journey with us where there truly are no right or wrong answers because it’s not about getting the answer right, it’s about learning how to count! Have you ever seen a 3 year old count the same item twice when being asked to deliver the answer to the question? Then we make them “wrong” because they said 7 instead of 5. Never mind that they successfully did the counting correctly!!
I am not suggesting that we give children 5th place trophies even after they have gotten an answer wrong, what I question is the question itself. The adults/parents/teachers, need to put a lot more thought into what they are trying to achieve and “ask the question” appropriately to attain the result they want. You need to ask the right question. Re-evaluate the approach to the “assessment”.
So in the example of the 3 year, if your aim is to get the child counting, instead of asking “How many sheep are there?” You could say “Look at all those sheep, shall we count there together?” then proceed to count.