Achieving our educational outcomes (college readiness, economic viability, and social change) requires a school culture that daily advances the following core educational values: creativity, innovation, collaboration, and social responsibility.
Creativity. Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. According to Bloom’s taxonomy, creativity is the highest cognitive skill and cognitive researchers have discovered that creative insights are based upon two cognitive operations that are happening at the same time in different parts of the brain. In one operation, associative or divergent thinking, thoughts are intuitive and explore an expansive range of possibilities. The other operation is convergent thinking, the ability to analyze and synthesize. Both operations need to be at play for the creative process to emerge.
Innovation. At the intersection of creativity and need is innovation. Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service or process that creates value for a community sector (business, education, government, health and human services). For example, Dr. Maria Montessori noticed that students in Rome (especially those with special needs) struggled with traditional classroom pedagogy. Through innovative thinking she developed a new approach where students would be allowed to explore their individual pursuits and in the process arrive at a much higher level of learning than their peers who were taught in traditional classrooms. Innovation is the powerful application of a creative idea to address a real social problem and the ability to see it through. Innovation involves developing a deep sense of resiliency because obstacles will be encountered and mistakes will be made as a creative idea becomes reality.
Collaboration. Aristotle’s powerful insight, “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” is the core meaning of collaboration. The late Steve Jobs of Apple Computer stated in a number of interviews that Apple products were possible only because his team believed in the power of collaboration. Cognitive research supports this approach: new solutions, models, and innovative ways of thinking usually happen among peer groups discussing and wrestling with problems together. Given the increasing complexity of the workplace and our social challenges, the synergy of collaboration will be an essential requirement for students as they enter the 21st century economy.
Social Responsibility. Social responsibility is the emerging awareness that our actions and decisions have ethical consequences. Discovering their power to be change agents within their families, schools, and communities is an essential developmental stage for adolescents. They try on and experiment with different roles as they interact with peers and adults. Cultivating an ethic of compassion and a sense of responsibility to others is a critical step in their self-discovery. Providing students with opportunities to exercise social responsibility is critical in helping them to develop a sense of purpose and to discover their unique talents.