In this TED talk, Ken Robinson argues for unleashing teachers and students from too many constraints on creativity in teaching. He does not call for the absolute abolition of standardized testing, but for a primary shift to teachers being able to creatively modify their ‘in the front lines’ practices to suit the particular students they interact with on any particular day.
There are problems that likely would arise in this model. Firstly, many and perhaps most teachers are not themselves creative and more importantly were themselves trained from their earliest childhood in the rigid system that fears creativity. Secondly is money. A system predicated on testing according to what Ken Robinson calls ‘command and control’ is accorded funds based on test results. Without standardized test results how could this existing system assess results? The creative system only sees results years in the future in the overall success (however one defines ‘success’) of graduates.
For the purposes of this blog, which is post secondary, online education, what is the meaning of all this? Class sizes in the early years of an undergraduate degree are far greater than can accommodate individualized attention to students. Today a classroom of 60 students is considered small in the first two years. My introductory History course in 1969 had two dozen students, whereas today 200 and more is usual.
Online courses, on the other hand, do allow for individual attention and creativity in classes of 100 or more. Email, conference groups, Skype and so on provide a variety of means to encourage, facilitate and guide individual students. The overall layout of the study material – both in course notes and in links to other sources – provides the foundation for the class as a whole. But learning happens in the creative interaction of student and instructor.