Fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion is cre­ativ­ity, says ed­u­ca­tor who is now a co-au­thor


The key to en­sur­ing kids are pre­pared for the un­pre­dictable world that awaits is to make sure to­day’s schools al­low them to take risks, try new things and learn how to adapt to change, says ed­u­ca­tor Nancy Stein­hauer.

The Toronto school prin­ci­pal teamed up with lawyer and ed­u­ca­tion activist Kelly Gal­lagher-Mackay to lay out a vi­sion for the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion in the book “Push­ing the Lim­its,” out this week.

They pro­file sev­eral public schools that are al­ready cham­pi­oning harder-to-mea­sure skills in­clud­ing high-or­der think­ing and so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing.

Cur­rent achieve­ment tests — which mea­sure math and read­ing lev­els — are still im­por­tant pieces of in­for­ma­tion, but they’re only part of the pic­ture, Stein­hauer says.

“The kinds of things peo­ple were learn­ing 50 years ago, 75 years ago, in school — that’s not go­ing to pre­pare our kids for the world they live in,” she says.

Stein­hauer doc­u­ments the five years she spent at an un­der­per­form­ing school where many stu­dents were refugees and new im­mi­grants, and most lived in poverty.

She says a shift in pri­or­i­ties — and an in­flux of funds and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment through a spe­cial pro­gram tar­get­ing in­nercity schools — helped turn things around.

She says this isn’t an iso­lated case, and that par­ents can be en­cour­aged by a grow­ing move­ment to em­ploy in­no­va­tive ap­proaches at Canada’s schools.

CP: I hear a lot about teach­ing the four C’s — crit­i­cal think­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and cre­ativ­ity. How broadly em­braced is that?

Stein­hauer: Many of the pro­vin­cial sys­tems are re­ally look­ing at that whole idea of 21st-cen­tury learn­ing: what do our kids need to know to thrive in a world that is con­stantly chang­ing?

It’s com­mon knowl­edge now that most of the jobs that will be the best jobs in 10 years don’t even ex­ist right now.

So it’s not enough to teach chil­dren ba­sic skills any­more ... stu­dents need to learn about cre­ativ­ity, about prob­lem-solv­ing, they need to learn emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, they need to learn how to think about think­ing, learn about learn­ing.

CP: Does this con­flict with the si­mul­ta­ne­ous push for STEM ed­u­ca­tion, which em­pha­sizes sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math?

Stein­hauer: I don’t think it has to be op­posed at all. Re­ally, STEM-based learn­ing is about think­ing about prob­lems and com­ing up with so­lu­tions and de­sign-think­ing and us­ing the tools that we have be­fore us to try and be cre­ative ...

It’s harder to mea­sure cre­ativ­ity, it’s harder to mea­sure so­cial and emo­tional learn­ing, but what we were find­ing as we were talk­ing to peo­ple — es­pe­cially to kids who had re­ally ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences in schools — was that it was that so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing piece, it was what they learned about them­selves, it was op­por­tu­ni­ties to think cre­atively that re­ally kept them mo­ti­vated and made them feel like the learn­ing was mean­ing­ful and worth do­ing. CP: Does any province mea­sure cre­ativ­ity? Stein­hauer: Most prov­inces as far as I un­der­stand are re­ly­ing on achieve­ment data for the most part.

(As part of the Model Schools for In­ner Cities pro­gram) we were also look­ing at things like re­silience sur­veys and the Early Devel­op­ment In­stru­ment, which mea­sures a num­ber of things in­clud­ing so­cial-emo­tional fac­tors in young chil­dren.

And we were us­ing par­ent sur­veys and stu­dent sur­veys and teacher sur­veys, staff sur­veys ...

We were able to see, for ex­am­ple, that our re­silience scores were re­ally high. Our kids were feel­ing re­ally se­cure in the school. Our par­ents’ sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys were ex­tremely high, they were feel­ing re­ally good. We dis­cov­ered that the vast ma­jor­ity of our par­ents had ex­pec­ta­tions that their chil­dren would con­tinue be­yond high school to post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. That was re­ally a good thing to know. CP: What would you like to see changed? Stein­hauer: One thing I would make sure of is that there is time for teach­ers to learn to­gether about their stu­dents and what their stu­dents need.

Time to col­lab­o­rate ... A sec­ond thing would be to have schools look at high-or­der think­ing and how much of the time is spent on ba­sic knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing and how much of the time is spent on ap­ply­ing those to new sit­u­a­tions.

This in­ter­view has been con­densed and edited for clar­ity.


The key to en­sur­ing our kids are pre­pared for the un­pre­dictable world is for schools to al­low them to take risks, says Nancy Stein­hauer, an ed­u­ca­tor and co-au­thor of a new book.

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