Why Focus on Creativity?

1) Struggling students do not think creatively (at least about the topic they struggle with)
2) Learning from the Experts

I am guessing that every teacher reading this was a good student.  An interest in teaching, research, or pedagogy in general rarely arises in someone for whom school is a struggle, or even a nightmare.

So how are we, good students who have achieved advanced or multiple degrees, to understand the struggling student?  What did we do that they fail to do?

Of the struggling students with whom I have spoken, I have discovered that they neither make connections between concepts or facts they are learning in a field or connections between concepts or facts they learn in diverse fields.  They rarely ask internal questions about their reading or while studying, and I would guess while listening to you lecture.

They usually rely on memorization using flash cards and study questions.  This is not an approach that creates a love of learning, a greater interest in a topic, new ideas for a rapidly changing planet and society, or a particularly successful student.

So can we teach struggling students to make connections when they listen and read?  Can we teach struggling students to organize information in ways that make sense and are of interest to them?  Can we teach struggling students to become more creative learners and thinkers?  I believe that we can and we must.

One of the first steps is to open up our own definitions of the word creativity to include the synthesis of ideas and the creation of new and unique connections between facts and ideas.

Following is an excerpt from an article about the importance of creativity by Sir Ken Robinson

Educational Leadership, September 009, Volume 67, #1, pp 22 – 26
“Teaching for the 21st Century”

“One (misconception about creativity) is that it’s about special people – that only a few people are really creative.  Everybody has tremendous creative capacities.  A policy for creativity in education needs to be about everybody, not just a few.

The second misconception is that creativity is about special activities.  People associate creativity with the arts only.  I’m a great advocate of the arts, but creativity is really a function of everything we do.  So education for creativity is about the whole curriculum, not just part of it.

The third misconception is that creativity is just about letting yourself go, kind of running around the room and going a bit crazy.  Really, creativity is a disciplined process that requires skill, knowledge, and control.  Obviously, it also requires imagination and inspiration.  But it’s not simply a question of venting:  It’s a disciplined path of daily education.  If you look at some of the people we most respect for their creative achievements, it’s because of the extraordinary insights, breakthroughs, and discipline they have brought to their work.”

I hope this inspires you to recognize your own creativity and to help your students find their creativity as well!
Here is a link to an incredible video “Changing Education Paradigms” from Sir Ken Robinson.  This video utilizes a very creative animation style and is well worth the 11 minute length


2) Learning From Experts

In The Executive Summary from How People Learn: brain, mind, experience, and school (e-edition, pp xii – xiii). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.  Bransford, et al. sum up the activities of experts that can inform our learning, and of course, our teaching.

“Key conclusions (from studies of people who have developed expertise in a variety of fields of study):

“Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.

“Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized, and their organization of information reflects a deep understanding of the subject matter.

“Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability, i.e., it is ‘conditionalized.’

“Experts are able to retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.

“Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to instruct others about the topic.

“Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approaches to new situations.”

Some of these qualities involve the ability to make inter-field and intra-field connections, as well as flexibility of thought.   Sounds kid of like creativity, doesn’t it?  Increasing creative thinking in the class and while studying may help students achieve some of the behaviors of ‘good students’ and even of ‘experts.’

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