Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED Talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” illustrates how the traditional school system undermines children’s imagination. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, our school system not only kills children’s creativity but also takes its toll on their motivation. The poll shows that 45% of students in grade levels 5–12 are disengaged at school, with motivation decreasing as they ascend through the grades. The poll also shows that nearly 70% of K–12 teachers are not engaged in their work. In addition, long-range studies demonstrate that a student’s motivation is a better predictor of later success than his or her IQ. These alarming findings inspired Perkins+Will to dedicate our February SPARK event to the topic of student motivation.
To look at this subject from different perspectives, SPARK Education invited four panelists—Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot Public Schools and chair of the California Democrats for Education Reform; Isabelle Brocas, co-director of the Los Angeles Behavioral Economics Lab at USC; A.J. Webster, founding educator of Catalyst Education; and Viktor Venson, founder of No Right Brain Left Behind—from diverse educational fields. The panelists exchanged ideas and shared inspiring stories around the central question, “How can we create an environment where students want to succeed?” Before an eclectic audience of more than a hundred people from schools and school districts, the educational technology field, non-profit organizations, and design and architecture firms, the panelists explained why student and teacher motivation is declining, and discussed the role that teachers, new technologies, and the physical environment can play in engaging students.