Monday, December 23, 2013

On Innovation: An Idea from Piaget

The eminent developmental psychologist Jean Piaget has had a tremendous impact on teaching and learning over the past 50+ years and wrote prolifically about child development.

I recently came across this quote from his book Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child:

"Education means making creators...You have to make inventors, innovators--not conformists."

This got me thinking again about creativity and it's role in learning. And while I don't have a lot of answers, I have a lot of questions...

Jean Piaget
Public domain image via Cbl62
What would school look like if we tried to foster creativity?

What would school look like if we gave students room to invent?

What would school look like if we prized innovation over conformity?

What would school look like if we made deliberate physical and mental spaces for students to play with ideas and create contraptions and solve authentic problems?

Would students be more engaged? Would teachers be more engaged?

What structures would have to change? What policies might have to be modified?

How would we assess teaching and learning in this sort of environment?

How do content standards fit into this approach?

What would we be giving up by incorporating more innovation? What would we gain?

Are there places already creating innovative spaces like these? And if so, what are the results? What is working well? What should be modified? Can this approach be transplanted into other schools? Or is it organically situated and contextualized?

So much of contemporary school culture seems bent on conformity. If we made innovation and creativity the norm...would that be trying make everyone conform to innovation?


  1. Dave-
    Very thought provoking post. I have had many of your questions lately. Let me respond to one of the questions I have explored: How do content standards fit into this approach?

    I feel we spend so much time focused on content we kill the natural curiosity in our students. If we allow students to be innovative and creative they will naturally explore the content they need to succeed. They will have to read and write. Math will be infused at the needed level. The sciences will be used.

    Education is not about standards, it is about exploring life and learning how to learn what we need. Our first schools were founded on these principals. Standards were introduced to measure how employable students were for the industry of the day. Since our industries or constantly changing we need to return to the roots of education: Learning how to learn!

    1. Thanks for your response, Todd! Glad to know I'm not the only one thinking these kinds of thoughts. :-)

      Your last point really struck a chord with me; that's really how I see much of the "maker movement" currently cropping up in schools (#geniushour or #20time or pick your flavor.) It's really about helping invigorate students' innate--though perhaps inactive--curiosity to learn about things that matter to them. And in the process, hopefully we are allowing them the space they need to learn how to learn.

      Thanks for thinking with me!