A recent conversion with colleagues raised the question how do our classes compare to what we say we do? In other words, are the messages our admission materials attempt to communicate consistent with the educational experience of our students? This blog attempts to not only articulate our academic goals as a school, but to show the journey that occurs between the time a student arrives at Proctor and the time they graduate.
Much time is spent in Proctor's American Literature curriculum discussing transcendentalism and Thoreau's notion of civil disobedience. A similar concept of knowingly resisting the confines of creativity in the classroom can manifest itself through creative disobedience. Thankfully, at the heart of Proctor's academic curriculum is a focus on teaching creative disobedience as a fundamental core to student learning.
In this blog post from Scientific American Andrea Kuszewski discusses two hypotheses for best emphasizing creative disobedience in our education system, with the second, in particular, speaking directly to Proctor's goals as an educational institution:
Hypothesis I: Teaching and encouraging kids to learn by rote memorization and imitation shapes their brain and behavior, making them more inclined towards linear thinking, and less prone to original, creative thinking.
Hypothesis II: Teaching kids to ask questions and think about problems before receiving the solution encourages more non-linear, divergent and creative thinking, to produce better innovators, problem-solvers, and problem-finders.
Perhaps the most salient point to this article, however, lies in the simple statement, "Once data has been provided that demonstrates the usefulness of a new educational method...we are obligated to make sure steps are taken to put it to actual use."
Put simply: How do you implement what you know is best for your classrooms?
"In an age of innovation", Kuszewski writes, "even more effective than being a problem solver is being a problem finder. It's one thing to look at a problem and generate a solution; it is another thing to be able to look at an abiguous situation, and decide if there is a problem that needs to be solved."
Experiential learning permeates Proctor's classrooms, as this post illustrates, however, no learning experience better emphasizes divergent and creative problem identification and solving than our off-campus programs that former faculty member Chris Norris describes in the following video clip.
Encouraging strategic risk taking allows students to explore with direction. The following video provides a glimpse into sophomore and senior English classes and the student-led exploration we talk about in our formal publications.
We can write about all the great courses at Proctor and laud the impact of those experiences, but in the end, current students are the best ambassadors to the non-linear learning that takes place at Proctor. The following video of a student panel discussing their favorite parts of Proctor illustrates the dynamism of programs offered.
We should undoubtedly celebrate the comments from the student panel, however, we must never become complacent in how we do what we do. We must constantly reevaluate the experiences we are providing our students in the classroom to ensure we all are encouraging the creative disobedience we strive to instill in our students.
Creative disobedience is a term used to describe an individual willing to take creative risks during the learning process.
Since there is little doubt according to current research that we should be structuring classrooms in a way that allows independent exploration of concepts, the question then becomes how are we implementing these teaching practices.
The process of building a boat, start to finish, unquestionably presents a student with unique problems they must solve.
The same can be said for a project in kinetic metal sculpture, but students must not only be problem solvers, but problem finders.
Allowing students the freedom to take strategic risks and explore their own path to knowledge occurs both on and off campus at Proctor.
It is our goal as teachers to help students navigate this learning process, redirecting at times and providing the tools necessary to conduct effective research.