IN 2015, A GROUP OF TEACHERS FROM THE UK, FINLAND, NORWAY AND DENMARK, CAME TOGETHER TO RESOLVE A DEEP-SEATED PROBLEM EXPERIENCED BY STUDENTS: STANDARD SCHOOL-LEAVING EXAMS IMPOSE EVER GREATER DEMANDS AND HEIGHTENED STRESS LEVELS, BUT ULTIMATELY DAMPEN THE POTENTIAL FOR INNOVATIVE PRODUCTIVITY IN ADULTHOOD, AS WAS NOTED BY THE WATERLOO GLOBAL SCIENCE INITIATIVE 2030.
The teachers aimed to find a way to raise attainment for all, reduce early school leaving and make education more meaningful and practically useful for all, through the integration of formal, non-formal and informal learning. This project is proving to be remarkably successful.
ACKNOWLEDGING CREATIVE THINKING SKILLS (ACTS)
Funded by the EU Erasmus+ (Key Action 2, School Education Strategic Partnership), and described by them as a ‘paradigms shift’ in education, the Acknowledging Creative Thinking Skills (ACTS) project sought to redesign qualifications to truly meet the needs of today’s young people, growing up in a complex and uncertain world where creativity, adaptability and flexibility of thinking will be a premium alongside the competent mastery of a range of disciplines. The initial aims of the ACTS project have been decisively met and now offer schools and policymakers internationally, a significant, credible alternative to current provision.
A comprehensive open access book has been written outlining the underlying principles and exemplar methods. It is available here.
FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS
Alongside favourable reception by government departments and agencies, ACTS friends and supporters of this project include:
- Thomas C. Südhof – Joint Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine (Neuroscience)
- Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics – Waterloo Global Science Initiative 2030
- Michael Brookes – Physicist and Author
- Mark Runco – Psychologist and world-renowned Creativity Expert
…and many more each day.
THE ACTS PROJECT IS A RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT TO FACILITATE CREATIVE THINKING AND MAXIMISE POTENTIAL IN ALL STUDENTS THROUGH AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION, COMBINING THE HIGHLY FOCUSED, ANALYTICAL THINKING AND MEMORY TRAINING OFTEN INVOLVED IN FORMAL EDUCATION, WITH THE SOFTER FOCUS, NON-VERBAL EXPERIENCE OF INTERACTIONS AND CONTEXT THAT IS OFTEN FOUND IN NON-FORMAL AND INFORMAL LEARNING.
EU assessors praised the acts project design as:
- ‘forward-looking’ and highly strategic, based upon a ‘solid analysis with ambitious outputs’
- ‘offering a highly credible, valid, portable alternative with results that would not be possible or desirable if developed by a single country’
- Including ‘novel working methods to motivate students’
- ‘all phases of the project have been thoroughly considered and are designed to realise the project’s objectives and deliver robust outcomes’.
THE FIVE STRANDS OF THE ACTS PROJECT
- Curriculum Development to enable and enhance an identified spectrum of creative thinking skills within curricula that supports formal, non-formal and informal learning and is flexible across a range of national requirements. Completed 2018.
- Qualification Registration onto the English national framework, formally recognising and validating transdisciplinary integrated education and creative thinking skills. Completed 2019.
- Open Access Book: Acknowledging Creative Thinking Skills: Educating for a creative future, outlining the creative thinking skills spectrum and where they can be found, enabled and enhanced. It also offers a detailed contextual overview to the origins of the problems facing education and society and why such a paradigm shift is needed. Completed 2018.
- Teacher Training Programme: postgraduate certificate in Philosophy and practice of Integrative Education. Completed 2017 with first cohort graduating 2019.
- Conferences Workshops and Events for dissemination and continual professional development for teachers, school governors, business, higher education and policymakers, explaining the theory and practice of this approach and/or providing assessor training. Ongoing and available upon request by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
There were five school association and education partners involved in the ACTS project, representing four countries. These included:
- Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (UK and Ireland) as project lead
- Steinerkasvatuksen liitto (Finland)
- Steinerskoleforbundet (Norway)
- Sammenslutningen af Frie Rudolf Steiner Skole (Denmark)
Crossfield’s Institute (UK) as the awarding
THE CREATIVE THINKING SKILLS SPECTRUM
The key Creative Thinking Skills Spectrum, identified and defined by Elaine Holt, are developed through the integrated approach currently found in Steiner schools, and articulated by ACTS in a way that can be internationally relevant, attainable and assessable. This Creative Thinking Skills Spectrum comprises:
- Written articulation
- Verbal articulation
- Non-linguistic images in thinking in 2-dimensions
- Structures metamorphoses in thinking in 3-dimensions and over time
- Resonance and patterns in thinking
- Heuristic thinking/improvisation
- Observational thinking
- Coordinated thinking
- Critical analysis
- Reflection on perception
This broad range of specific creative thinking skills, enhances and enables meaningful creativity across all disciplines both in education and the workplace, providing for improved creativity and innovation to be embedded alongside technical expertise. While some of these creative thinking skills are already recognised and acknowledged through standardised testing, others are not. Because of this, these other skills – like the unseen part of the iceberg – are often overlooked in assessment practices. They are also often underdeveloped and poorly integrated into primary and secondary (high school) education, leading to inevitable imbalance and the current shortage of the effective creativity and innovation so needed in higher education, healthy social function and the workplace. Further background and information is available in the open access book Acknowledging Creative Thinking Skills: Educating for a creative future.
The innovative suites of core and extended school-leaving qualifications, developed by ACTS, have now been launched by the awarding body, Crossfield’s Institute and are available to all schools, both nationally and internationally, as follows:
- Crossfield’s Institute Level II Integrated Education Certificate (Age 14+)
- Crossfield’s Institute Level III Integrated Education Certificate (Age 16+)
These qualifications each contain two modules:
- An Independent Project, which allows students to follow their passion and explore an interest or career aspiration in-depth whilst developing the ability to self-direct and coordinate their own learning.
- A Creative Thinking Skills Module, which develops skills in making connections and using different perspectives to communicate ideas or concepts, deepens reflection on the basis of recent judgements. It can draw on formal and in non-formal and informal learning and any area of the taught curriculum.
The Integrated Education Certificates can stand alone or form part of the following Diplomas, maximising flexibility and making the approach relevant and accessible across the widest possible demographic, including disadvantaged students. These diplomas include:
- Crossfield’s Institute Level II Integrated Education Core Diploma (Age 14+)
- Crossfield’s Institute Level III Integrated Education Extended Diploma (Age 16+)
The qualifications deliver a broad curriculum which will be taught and assessed using transdisciplinary work with a focus on collaborative and individual project work and problem solving. These are now open for registrations and interested schools are invited to seek centre approval by contacting email@example.com
Creative Thinking Skills
Over fifty delegates participated collaboratively in the ACTS dialogic research and development conferences held in the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Their invaluable collaborative working helped identify key shared aims and requirements. Without their outstanding efforts, in good faith, this project would have not been able to manifest so quickly or successfully.
The participants included
Alison Richards, Alistair Pugh, Allegra Brunnborg,Andrea Brandao-Berglund,Charlotte Rostrup, Charlotte Von Bulow, Christine Reier-Røberg, Claus Dahl, Connie Wagner, Eeva Raunela, Eli Vantoch-Wood, Elisabeth Zoellner, Hanne Alterhaug, Hanne Teigen, Helle Alesci, Henrik Thaulow, Ingvild Øverland, Jason Pond, Jon Syed, Judy Foster, Juha Eskelinen, Kai Koskimies, Kati Heikkilä-Huhta, Kerstin Bruggemann, Kevin Avison, Kirsi Peräjärvi, Kjell Helge Johansen, Kjetil Sørensen, Lars K Thetmark, Liisa Poikkimäki, Liz Attwell, Louise Tiley, Maria Virkkilä, Marianne Law-Lindberg, Martin Lauesen,
Mervin Wiik, Mette Petersen, Miia Bergman, Morten Klinkvort, Ole Graf, Ole Graf 2, Oren Lieberman, Outi Rousu, Pia de Leeuw van Weenen, Rachel Gatehouse, Sørren Devarc, Trond Skaftesmo, Tuire Matikainen, Tuula Karkia, Tytti Mecklin, Ulrike Mὒller, Vivienne Kravik, Wenche, Odegård, Randi Pisani, Frederikke Torpp-Larssons, Kirsi Perttola-Ylinampa, Henrikke Mørck, Elaine Holt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can any school use the ACTS suite of qualifications?
These qualifications will be available to any schools that are interested in delivering them anywhere in the world. The key requirement for schools will be that they have a passion for innovative approaches to teaching and learning, an interest in teaching a broadly integrated curriculum, encouraging a transdisciplinary approach to education where students are challenged to think creatively, show initiative and take greater responsibility for their own learning.
Although the project was initiated by the Steiner Fellowships in the four partner countries, these qualifications have been designed to be widely relevant and are not directly tied to the Steiner Curriculum. Other schools that meet the requirements will be encouraged to participate. To date we have had interest from a variety of schools all over the world, including Southern Africa, Brazil and the USA.
Where can I find out more about Creative Thinking Skills?
What subjects will be included?
There is an Integrated Education Certificate which combines a Creative Thinking Skills Module that can over-arch any content, and which will draw evidence for assessment from all areas of the curriculum, alongside an Independent Project Module. These modules combined can be awarded as a standalone qualification or as the core of the Diplomas.
The proposed Diploma curriculum will include:
- Language and Literature (first/native language)
- Natural Science
- Movement and Physical Education
- Foreign (acquired) Language
- Global Awareness (Humanities)
- Art, Craft and Design
- Performing Arts
Can my child use it to get into university?
This qualification is equivalent in level and scope to a range of other access to HE qualifications.
What will it cost?
The costs are broadly in line with those for similar high school qualifications. The qualifications will be awarded by Crossfields Institute, which is a charity so their intention is not to make a profit. There will be an annual school/centre approval fee for any participating school and a registration fee for each learner that registers to take the Diploma as is typical for any qualification such as this.
When will it be ready?
The Integrated Education Certificates are now available at Levels 2 and 3. It is expected that there will be a phased launch of the Core and Extended Diplomas during the course of 2019.
What will teachers need?
Any schools delivering these Diplomas will need to ensure that a minimum of two teachers undertake a specialist teacher education programme that we are developing to align with the needs of the qualifications. It will be a part-time, work-based learning programme which involves approximately 500 hours of learning over two years. Most can be undertaken as distance learning supported by a small number of intensive residential weeks. The programme will be certified within the Crossfields International University partnership and will be delivered as a Postgraduate Certificate in collaboration with Alanus University, Germany.
Who should I contact about piloting or adopting ACTS qualifications?
If you are interested in finding out more we suggest that you contact the national representative in your country or Crossfields Institute direct ,using the contact information below:
- UK: Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crossfields Institute: email@example.com
- Norway: Steinerskoleforbundet: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Finland: Steinerkasvatuksen Liitto: email@example.com
- Denmark: Sammenslutningen Af Frie Rudolf Steiner Skoler: firstname.lastname@example.org
What Qualifications are being developed?
The Acknowledging Creative Thinking Skills (ACTS) project was a 3 year EU-funded project (2015 – 2018) that has successfully developed a valid alternative suite of high school Diplomas. The aim has been to create two levels of qualifications, one for 14 – 16 year olds, another for 16 – 18 year olds as realistic and valid alternatives to what is currently available in most countries at UK Levels 2 and 3 (European Qualification Framework Levels 3 and 4). This process has reached the stage of formal piloting and launch.
The ACTS suite of Certificates and Diplomas take a transdisciplinary approach to develop an experience of interconnection and context alongside the capacity to use creative thinking across the entire curriculum.
The suite of qualifications is called ‘Integrated Education’, and includes a Certificate in the Creative Thinking Skills Spectrum and feature an Independent Project. This certificate can stand alone or form part of the Core Diploma at each level. The core Diploma, in turn, can stand alone or form part of the Extended Diploma. This will make the suite of qualifications relevant and accessible across the widest possible demographic, including disadvantaged students.
We have developed a two-part Certificate with a Creative Thinking Skills module that can over-arch any content from which appropriate evidence can be drawn, alongside an Independent Project component, allowing schools or training courses to trial this approach in a managed way alongside existing provision. This has attracted positive interest within UK and overseas. The Diploma modules have content aims but with an emphasis on trans-discipline working, personal projects or studies and the incorporation of non-formal and informal learning, in order to allow the unique talents and interests of each student to be acknowledged. There will be no required exams as such.
The Erasmus+ bid was extensively reviewed by the Erasmus+ programme reviewers. They said our proposal was “a forward looking, highly strategic proposal… based on research and solid analysis with ambitious outputs”. Furthermore it includes “Novel working methods to motivate students….and is a “highly credible, valid, portable alternative.”
We are deeply proud of the results.
Why Creative Thinking Skills?
A number of reports from employers and research organisations including the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics have reported that whilst school leavers and university graduates are leaving with ever increasing qualifications, many are not well equipped for the world beyond the classroom. Employers in particular are noting this and recognise that in many ways the education systems internationally are failing to develop young people with the skills they need to succeed in the world such as good communication, the ability to work as part of a team, the ability to think creatively and situational awareness. This project represents a commitment to address this problem.
A set of creative thinking skills have been identified as being key to success, these include:
- Written Linguistic Articulation
- Verbal Linguistic Articulation
- Imaginative, Non-Linguistic Thought Pictures in 2 dimensions
- Imagined Inner Structure/systems in 3 dimensions and over time
- Resonance and Patterns in Thinking
- Heuristic Thinking/Improvisation
- Co-ordinated Thinking
- Observational Thinking:
- Critical Analysis
- Reflection on Perception
The aim is to encourage independence, self-confidence, curiosity, problem solving, innovation, imagination and the ability to self-direct.
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