Interviewer: Do you think scientists use creativity in their
Interviewee: I’m going to go with no because if they’re trying to draw something they can’t use their creativity
because they’re science and they have to draw the exact
thing otherwise if you’re discovering a new species and
you sketch if you can’t really use creativity. (p. 268)
This perspective of scientists as uncreative suggests students expect
to find the right answer by performing prescribed procedures for
their inquiries. On an institutional level, I have watched as International Baccalaureate’s (IB) biology curriculum has moved from an
emphasis on content to one about the nature of science. At the
same time, the expected methodology for delivering this curriculum has changed from allowing teachers to develop laboratory
assessments of their own choosing to a suite of required labs students are required to perform. As a result, it feels as if for the first
time I am being told I need to formally teach the role of curiosity
and ingenuity during the scientific process of famous discoveries,
while at the same time being forced to have limited parameters
for my students’ own discoveries.
Recently, one of my building’s most gifted teachers was filmed
for a professional development presentation telling her IB history
students prior to a Socratic seminar that their discussion was going
to be a free space to “wonder and ponder” about the reading—a
powerful statement. Unfortunately, her delivery was happening in
a classroom where the walls are covered in poster-sized checklists
of the constraints of the IB history exam. Concurrently, the administrator in charge of that professional development on inquiry-based teaching actually used inquiry-based teaching to deliver the
message, only to end the lesson declaring that doing so “was a risk.”
It is almost as if organizations are realizing inquiry is valuable but
feel as if it must fit within the self-constructed limits of what it
means to be a professional educator.
From my vantage point, it appears that we are witnessing the
potential rebirth of wonder in the classroom, but as I see it, we
are faced with a difficult decision. Are we going to adopt inquiry
and invention as another educational initiative and place it alongside literacy and math as the subjects to be taught? If so, we will
again raise the floor, moving the quality of our educational practices and schools incrementally forward. But we will also be lowering
the ceiling, effectively articulating to students that there is a time
and a place for curiosity and creativity and it is during the curiosity
and creativity block; therefore, get back to your workbook and finish your math problems.
It won’t be until we realize that wondering is the impetus behind
developing understanding in all subjects, and that the creations that
spring forth from new knowledge inspire more wonderings, that the
ceiling—and the roof—will be blown off of education. Our classrooms should be a place for students to wonder and ponder about
the curriculum but not worry about whether their thoughts are
going to be valued by an international examiner. Teachers should
be taught and encouraged to use inquiry as the basis for their
instruction and not feel as if they are taking some kind of significant
risk. Students should feel emboldened to learn from their ignorance,
not shamed into silence by it.
If we are able to embrace these principles, we won’t need to
cordon off time for students to be geniuses or make special decla-
rations that this is the week we defeat the proverbial boss; these
practices will simply be called what they should have been in the
first place: teaching. And the school will become exactly what
Dewey wanted it to be for all students: a place for wonder.
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