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Does the Common Core Stifle Creativity in Today's Classrooms?

My colleague and I were having a discussion about creativity in today’s classrooms. With the implementation of the Common Core Standards, we see more teachers using the curricula modules and steering away from engaging, teacher-created lessons personalized to meet their students’ needs. We are reaching out on TED to get more insight from other professionals on this problem.

In Stephanie's opinion the modules are helpful to support the Common Core Standards, but do not leave much room for teachers to create their own engaging lessons. From what I have seen and heard, teachers have been advised to implement these modules in their classrooms as is, without alteration. Teachers are losing their creative, personal philosophies and instead are reciting scripted lessons to their students.

However, I think that these curricular modules are important to follow because they align directly with the standards. The modules lead to creative thinkers, and in the educational world, isn’t that more important than lessons involving “creative” presentations. If teachers are effective, they will not lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to engage students through creative means in order to motivate students to think critically and creatively. She thinks that teachers should not blame the format of the modules for their lack of creativity
For all you educators out there: What do you think?

  • May 29 2014: I don't think the intent of the Common Core standards is to stifle creativity in the classroom. As with many other initiatives, the problem lies with the implementation, not the initiative itself. The modules are not designed to be read verbatim to students. In fact, I think the creators would be horrified to hear that that is what is being done with them! In my mind, the CCSS, if implemented correctly, actually allows teachers greater ability to be creative than did NCLB. There are no "checklists" with CCSS. Go back and really study the anchor standards in the CCSS in both ELA and Math. Doug Johnson has done a lot of research on the topic of creativity, what it is, etc. Here is a link to one of his articles: Check it out.
  • Jun 9 2014: Mike

    Before I responded to this I wanted to find a quote that had pigeoned holed itself somewhere in the back of my brain. Had some difficulty finding it, as I was searching Marx when it was ole Joe Stalin.
    "Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." - Joseph Stalin

    Your response cemented my own thoughts on this and if we extrapolate this dynamic of CC we might as well lower the flag, Marx has won.

    To your question. The answer, I think, is sheep. To elaborate a little, what we are creating is a new State religion, a secular theology predicated upon the omnipotence of government.
    As the sheep herder shepherds his flock from one field to another, CC tends to the proper grazing diet of the young. From Universal Day Care to the hallowed halls of Harvard and all that is between, grasses of compliance and collectivism are fed to eager minds. Grasses of detachment and indifference to heritage and culture and to family ties are compulsory grazing fields. On occasion supplements are added to the grasses, such as guilt and moral justification for immoral behavior. Grassy fields of fear of the constant threat of pending war and climatic catastrophe caused by the vile and exploitative corporations are on the diet. Of course, as in religious belief in original sin, Man himself who must at all costs be controlled for his own good and the good of the Mother Earth is the morning mantra of all good sheep.
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    Jun 8 2014: One more thought on this matter...looking at the Common Core implementation.... there is no requirement for teaching...All that is needed is a educational material distributor, test administrator and grade recorder. Real teachers may still find employment at private schools.... where the goals are to graduate life prepared students. The real goals of CC standards seem more focused on metrics that reward educational bureaucrats and accountants. Nice folks all I am assured, but the goals of an educated citizenry have been lost in the attainment of political and social prominence.
    I could be wrong, I wish I was wrong.
    • Jun 8 2014: Mike

      Do you think that CC either minimizes the individual or nullifies the individual, promoting a collectivist or dependent mindset to a government authority?
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        Jun 9 2014: Both, but worse.... our public education system has failed a couple of generations and given us illiterate citizens who know only to be dependent. What I see with the implementation of CC material is the justification for the next generation and the rational for their dependency. The scariest part of all in the failure of our education system is we have as many illiterate citizens who didn't finish ninth grade as illiterate students who received their baccalaureates. Illiterate? Maybe that is not the right word.... what is the word for people who know not what their constitution is about, who support corrupt politicians, blindly following government authority and promoting it....
        What is the word....?
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    May 31 2014: Let's ask if parents "stifle creativity" before the child even gets into a classroom?
  • May 28 2014: What you're seeing is yet another fad and pendulum swing in pedagogy. I've seen the end result of "engaging, teacher-created" in schools: Pupils who decided they didn't need to know anything at all about Leonardo Da Vinci or van Gogh because "they ain't black", pupils IN INDIANAPOLIS who hadn't the faintest idea of what an Indy Car looked like (yes, a silly example, but it speaks volumes of how badly the teachers missed something that should be so simple as keeping students in touch with local history), pupils who could say the statement "I have a dream." but couldn't actually summarize the content of that speech and had no idea what the contents of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" are.

    Of course, as is typical for "professional" pedagogy, the "solution" is to trot out another extreme that will be no better than the older extreme, build up a giant industry and lobbying coiterie around it, and then have it toppled by the next extremist pedagogical fad. This is what happens when you have a field determined entirely by dogma with zero input from actual empirical information.
    • May 29 2014: I see your point however empirical information or not there is no denying that recent evolutions in our technology have changed the value of memoriezed information and put an emphasis on creativity as the only human caracteristic that still sets us above information machines, for now.
      In a world where I can carry the internet in my pocket, soon in my glasses, what our education must bring is a very different set of skills. Fact is we live in extreme times, and this "fad" might stick for longer than you would think if you base your self on your knoledge of the past alone.
      • May 31 2014: Define "creativity" in a such a way that it can actually be taught in a sufficiently repeatable way that would be beneficial to implement on a large scale.
  • Jun 8 2014: Trish

    I have asked this question of some educators and have done some minor research on the internet, but I cannot find, what I would consider, a good answer to this question. What is the Common Core of Common Core education? Is there a political agenda? Is the intent to collectivize and centralize education to one global purpose, and if so what would that be?
  • Jun 7 2014: As a student I agree that common core stifles creativity. Not only we are taught in a way in which we have to memorize most of the things taught in class even though our teachers argue it is not about the memory but we are also constantly dealing with a way to please our teachers when they assign a "creative" homework. What I mean to say is, when we are assigned an essay we do not write what we would like to write but what the teacher would like to read, I think from all of my teachers there is only one that is actually motivating us to be creative and accepts our points of view even if they are different from the one he has. Nowadays, teachers are so strict that they only give a good grade to what agrees with their perspective. Everyday, I see the teachers from the little girls in my school (it's an all-girl school) take away their creativity, constantly teaching them how to do the things as "the big girls". For instance, they tell them to be quiet, just like the big girls would be because they are going ot be big girls soon and they should learn to behave, and that's the thing, they shouldn't be doing things thinking of how the big girls would do it; they should be doing things as little girls, enjoying everything and being capable of imagining.
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    Jun 5 2014: From the perspective of being a career student, and from having several friends and family members who are educators, the "common core" curriculum definitely threatens to stifle creativity. These standards tend to promote rote memorization over critical thought and creativity, and coerce educators to "teach to the test" by following mandated lesson plans.

    Overall, it's a tough position for both educators and students alike to be in. Most of the educators that I know have retired from teaching at primary/secondary schools in order to instruct at private and public universities, mainly due in part to the "red tape" and lack of creative leeway (due in part to "No Child Left Behind"). Those who have stuck around are trying to change the educational system from within, much to no avail.

    What I honestly don't understand is why we are placing such an emphasis on test-taking and other quantifiable metrics that really don't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Life itself is nothing like a standardized test.
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    Jun 4 2014: The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce

    STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term is typically used in the USA when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from k-12 through college to improve competitiveness in technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.

    I put both defination up to ensure we understand that Core is to ensure if you transfer from stste to state you will not lose or gain but will be at grade level. STEM infers that we are not competative on a global scale and wants to raise our standards.

    The common factor is that the textbook and test devlopers are dictating what is being taught and when in order to achieve success in the high stakes testing that is now driving education.

    Creativity was taken away ... the guide that comes with the course says what and when the lesson will be and when presented. For protection the teachers follow the guide ... and teach the test. Success in the tests means job security and future funding.

    What percentage of high school grads go on to college? about 10 to 15%? Less than that will engage in Calculus or higher level math.

    So all of this is really for less than 10% of the students .... interesting.

    This is about state and federal government ... not teachers.

    Be well. Bob.
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    Jun 4 2014: CCSS, Common Core State Standards: Is there a clear blueprint that every school can follow so that the core curriculum are standard in every school in every state? Is there a common way of measuring the performance of school administrators, teachers, and students to determine if the standards are being met or exceeded?

    "There are several potential ramifications of having a shared assessment system. Many of these ramifications will be positive for education and many will no doubt be negative. First of all the pressure placed on students, teachers, and school administrators will be greater than ever. For the first time in educational history states will be able to accurately compare their students’ achievement to students in neighboring states. This factor alone will cause the pressures of high stakes testing to go through the roof.

    Politicians will be forced to pay more attention and increase funding in education. They will not want to be a low performing state. The unfortunate reality is that many excellent teachers will lose their jobs and others will choose to enter another field simply because the pressure of getting students to perform well on these assessments will be to large.

    The microscope for which teachers and school administrators will be under will be massive. The truth is that even the best teachers can have students perform poorly on an assessment. There are so many external factors that attribute to student performance that many would argue that basing the worth of a teacher on a single assessment is simply not valid. However, with the Common Core assessments, this will most likely be overlooked..."
  • Jun 3 2014: Yes common core dose stifle creativity in classrooms today. They make kids write what ever they want insted of what you want. We don't need these common core books as a way to teach kids. All we need to teach kids are free writes from teachers, teachers with fun ways to teach what kids have to learn other then just from a set of books. We have better ways to teach stuff in school. In ways like poetry slams, math games, and spelling bees. This will be fun ways to teach stuff to kids and easy for them to learn and make them work even harder to learn the objects.
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    Jun 2 2014: Creativity can not be stifled. I think emphasis should be on making the best of the situation; instead of waiting for some time in the future when the fantasy perfect education system would be implemented.
    Creative people do not see themselves as victims.
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    Jun 2 2014: As an ex-educator, it is not so much a common core of standards that students should strive.... lofty goals...
    It's the travel not the destination.

    The modules and the testing are the questionable areas. In my home state, we were presented with a new and..... should I say "pointed history"... it seems that the European immigrants that came here were ruthless and murderous, driving off the Original Americans, Stealing the lands from a neighboring nation and oppressing those citizens, holding slaves, suppressing women, and finally exploiting natural resources that will end the world as we know it. Now, I will admit we have a colorful history, but really.... are we to make our children so spiteful of their homes as to want run away from the shame of it all?
    History was bad enough, then came civics... according to the standards, our constitution is just for guidance, and it went down hill from there.... I read the reports and looked for the author(s) I expected to see names like Marx, but didn't recognize any of them, when googled, I got an eyeful....let's just say they appeared to have political agendas.

    The most effective teachers that I had and I tried to emulate where those that didn't even tell me that they were teaching me, it seemed as they led me to the information and let me find it. I was so proud when I did.
    Oh, and one more thing about my great teachers.... I never knew of either their religion or politics, couldn't even hazard an educated guess. There are not many students today who can make that claim. Ain't it a shame.
  • Jun 2 2014: Hi Dear Trish,maybe because of different background culture,I feel strange when I read the topic.Because you know in China we all have the same common core teaching textbooks,curriculums...all over the country,the same common core.And the result has been proven:it does stifle creativity.Because of common core,it is easy to evaluate students' level by exams only.If just test students' level in exams,it would caused big stifle in creativity.Because you can't imagine all over the country teachers and students just focus on the common core of exams curriculum to memory,to get high scores...where come creativity?where come innovation?None!

    So Now China is trying to reform in education,advocating teachers to exploit local learning curriculum to teach students.But it is really not easy to do so,because you know why China has the former common core curriculum?One reason:such a large population,another:long history of people background culture education isn't easy to change...

    I don't against curricular modules or common core idea...But how to get balance among personal creativity,innovation and cirrucular modules and common core...about it discussing the more the better,don't you think so?
  • Jun 2 2014: I think there is a fear that we will miss something if we vary from the modules. I personally feel that the modules should be viewed as examples not rigid guidelines. Teaching is still communication between the teacher and the student. In all communication, there must be flexibility and like war, plans need to change with the situation.