Big wins, small steps

Ron Beghetto is a highly regarded academic who also writes highly practical books for teachers.

Big wins, small steps has two central ideas. The first is that teachers can infuse their teach for creativity by making small adjustments to their teaching practice (what he calls ‘instructional leadership’. The second is that teachers can develop themselves to become more creative.

The Small-steps Approach to Instructional Leadership approach (SAIL)

To illustrate the first of these two ideas, Beghetto offers a helpful framework which he illustrates with four principles:

  1. Sit with uncertainty. This is the stage where an issue has been identified but no solutions are yet found. So, for example, a maths teacher might be wondering how to create opportunities for imagination and curiosity. The advice here is not to rush to answers but to take time planning.
  2. Engage with possibility thinking. Possibility thinking is an idea from Anna Craft’s research in which she suggests teachers move from ‘what is’ to ‘what might be’. It’s an opportunity to come up with more ideas and possible solutions than you will end up using. In the maths example above a teacher might consider the idea of letting pupils plan a lesson to bring a mathematical concept alive in the most imaginative way.
  3. Prune possibilities. It’s a misunderstanding of creativity, Beghetto reminds us that criticism or critique, when done appropriately enhances creativity. He suggests helpful ground rules such as taking time, focusing on ideas not people, remaining open, being specific and constructive.
  4. Take measured action. Here Beghetto suggests teachers take modest steps with a number of do-able milestones. By ‘measured’ he means having some simple ways of

Checklists to develop teachers’ creativity

At the end of each chapter Beghetto offers a helpful list of practical reminders for teachers, for example:

Prepare yourself and others for engaging in possibility thinking

  • Start shifting away from certainty and predetermined strategies
  • Establish a supportive environment

Take small yet challenging leaps

  • Start with small yet challenging steps
  • Take reasonable risks that you are confident in taking.

Throughout this helpful book there are plenty of useful ideas for any teacher wanting to develop their own classroom practice and also wanting to engage their colleagues in teaching for creativity more effectively.

Find out more about Big wins, small steps.

Takeaway idea

Use the idea of possibility thinking to make two lists for changing the way you approach your own teaching - ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’. Get your creative juices going by focusing on what might be…

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