February 02, 2012

Making a creativity-friendly school timetable

Danger Zone
School timetables work for so few people, yet it's only a few daring souls that seem to be prepared to change them. A new piece of research adds to the evidence that more flexibility is required to make the most of the latent creativity in our learners and teachers.

At NoTosh we're working with several schools on reshaping their school timetables to create space for teachers and students to conference, one-on-one, on how the day and/or week will look for each student, personalising content and the way learning will be undertaken. We've also been taken with trying to map the energy levels of students and staff to better shape the overall day, discovering, for example, in one school that no-one was fit for learning well first thing on a Monday (quelle surprise), and suggesting we should start and end the day later.

Last night, via Mike Press, I found a new piece of research showing a counterintuitive effect of energy on creativity: the less fresh you are the better it is for your ability to think and act creatively:

"...Tasks involving creativity might benefit from a nonoptimal time of day.”  What this means in everyday language is that morning people should try to solve problems requiring creative thought in the late afternoon, and evening people should undertake them in the morning.

So, where an entire school is fatigued first thing on a Monday is where people should be engaged in creative problem-finding projects, perhaps, rather than in learning the core content elements that might act as a foundation for some project work. 

This is counterintuitive to many who believe that when we're fresh and full of energy we should invest our efforts in our "best" work - if you want to approach it creatively, it might be best to approach it when you're feeling less than your best.

Comments

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Hi! I've been thinking about the timetabling issue for some time now, and I very much appreciate your reflections on this.

I would love to read the original research that you cited on energy and creativity!

Hello again,

Your post reminded me of a piece that I wrote back in the fall:

http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/stephen-hurley/2011/09/3/its-not-time-imagination

I think it also makes sense for schools to accept the need for "down time" - One thing which is important here too is time out - this means ensuring children and young people have break times (and outside always offered as an option even during inclement weather) and that spaces and places are available for children and young people to freely socialise - together or alone - inside and out.

Have you seen research which is linked to the impact of place on creative processes? I think this is frequently overlooked in education.

@Juliet: There's a ton on outdoor learning which has become a strong part of the SCottish curriculum:
http://reviewing.co.uk/research/links.htm is just one example of what you get when you google for it. Common sense and our own kids spell it out though - would you ever keep your own kids indoors all day, bar 15 mins here or there?

Yes, making a friendly timetable really helps in studying in a well manner. I found this post great. I haven't ever read about such topics in any site. But you put here such a nice issue what must be raised by everyone.

Interesting idea. I have to say I observed something like this on Friday. After a day of running seminars on creating class blogs, I was faced with a 3pm-5pm graveyard slot. The students were obviously tired, and were not hugely receptive to the news that they had another assignment due by the end of Easter. However, this group exhibiting strong signs of weariness actually came up with the most creative ideas for class blog posts to get children actively engaged.

This post is great. It gives some interesting ideas about a school timetable.

Interesting idea. I have to say I observed something like this on Friday. After a day of running seminars on creating class blogs, I was faced with a 3pm-5pm graveyard slot. The students were obviously tired, and were not hugely receptive to the news that they had another assignment due by the end of Easter. However, this group exhibiting strong signs of weariness actually came up with the most creative ideas for class blog posts to get children actively engaged.

Exactly when we are freshest can we do our best work! Thats what I have always believed. Thanks for sharing.

I like this post.And i want to admire you because of sharing this useful information. You shared very interesting idea.

It is really thought-provoking. Thank you for your sharing.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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