Journey to Excellence

Creativity - Dylan Wiliam

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Dylan Wiliam reviews the changing nature of literacy in our society and the importance of developing creative thinking skills in young people.


In the past we have emphasized what I call the 19th century skills. We have emphasised the skills that you needed to do in the world of work in the 19th century - basic numeracy and literacy, those things would be important. But the biggest difference in terms of moving into the 21st century is that the purpose of the school now is to prepare students for situations that we cannot envisage. The world that we are preparing students for - in the 19th as much as the 20th century was relatively stable. You would go; leave school; get a job and they would actually practise the same sort of skills over and over again. Although we didn’t do a wonderful job at it - at least we knew the kind of world we were preparing them for. We cannot imagine the kind of world that we are preparing our students for today - and that is what we have to do. We have to prepare students for situations which we cannot envisage; which we cannot prepare them for specifically and that is why creativity is so important.Creativity and ownership is what makes students who - when they are stuck with something they have never seen before - actually choose to think rather than choose to remember. We need students who when faced with challenging situations, they have no idea what this problem is about, there are two responses: one is to say its too hard I am going to run away from the problem - and the other is to say what can I use? What do I know? How can I think my way through this problem? And increasingly the kinds of problems… the kind of challenges that our students are going to face are ones that we can’t imagine - and therefore we have to make sure that our student’s initial response to those challenging problems is how can I be creative here? How can I think my way around the problem? Is it a way of thinking about the problem that means there are different kind of solutions as possible? That’s why we have to encourage creativity in our students. It is the only way we can develop the problem-solving skills that work when you don’t know what it is specifically you have to do.

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