Summary of 24 tips for teaching creativity (part 1)

(The original article can be found in library/articles/teaching_creativity.php.)

Here, I extract some main points from R. Sternberg and W.M. Williams’ 24 tips for teaching creativity.

The Investment Theory of Creativity - Buying Low and Selling High
Creative thinkers buy low and sell high. Creative ideas are both novel and valuable. However, when creative ideas are proposed, they often are viewed as useless and even foolish. Because the creative innovator stands up to vested interests and defies the crowd.

From the investment view, the creative person buys low by presenting a unique idea and attempting to convince other people of its value. After convincing others that the idea is valuable, which increases the perceived value of the investment, the creative person sells high by leaving the idea to others and then moving on to another idea.

We routinely witness creativity in young children, but it is hard to find in older children and adults because their creative potential has been suppressed by a society that encourages intellectual conformity. We begin to suppress children's natural creativity when we expect them to color within the lines in their coloring books.

Balancing Analytic, Synthetic, and Practical Abilities
Creative work requires applying and balancing three abilities that can all be developed.
Synthetic ability is the ability to generate novel and interesting ideas by making connections between things that others do not think of.

Analytic ability is the critical thinking ability. Without well-developed analytic ability, the creative thinker is as likely to pursue bad ideas as to pursue good ones. The creative individual uses analytic ability to work out the implications of a creative idea and to test it.

Practical ability is the ability to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical accomplishments. The creative person uses practical ability to convince other people that an idea is worthy.

24 Tips
1. Be a good role model for students
Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them.

2. Build Self-Efficacy
Help students believe in their own ability to be creative.

3. Question Assumptions
Some creative people question so many things so often that others stop taking them seriously. Everyone has to learn which assumptions are worth questioning and which battles are worth fighting.

Help your students evaluate their questions by discouraging the idea that you ask questions and they simply answer them. Your role is not simply to teach students the facts. Help your students learn how to formulate good questions and how to answer questions.

We all tend to make a mistake by emphasizing the answering and not the asking of questions. The good student is perceived as the one who rapidly furnishes the right answers. We need to teach students how to ask the right questions (good, thought-provoking, and interesting ones) and lessen the emphasis on rote learning.

4. How to Define and Redefine Problems
Promote creative performance by encouraging your students to define and redefine problems and projects. Encourage creative thinking by having students choose their own topics for papers or presentations, choose their own ways of solving problems, and sometimes choose again if they discover that their selection was a mistake. Allow your students to pick their own topics, subject to your approval, on at least one paper each term. Approval ensures that the topic is relevant to the lesson and has a chance of leading to a successful project.

A successful project (1) is appropriate to the course's goals, (2) illustrates a student's mastery of at least some of what has been taught, and (3) can earn a good grade.

5. Encourage Idea Generation
Once the problem is defined or redefined, it is time for students to generate ideas and solutions. The environment for generating ideas must be relatively free of criticism. The students may acknowledge that some ideas are better or worse, but you must not be harsh or critical. Aim to identify and encourage any creative aspects of the ideas presented and suggest new approaches to any ideas that are simply uncreative. Praise your students for generating many ideas, regardless of whether some are silly or unrelated, while encouraging them to identify and develop their best ideas into high-quality projects.

6. Cross-Fertilize Ideas
Teaching students to cross-fertilize draws on their skills, interests, and abilities, regardless of the subject. For example, if your students are having trouble understanding math, you might ask them to draft test questions related to their special interests-ask the baseball fan to devise geometry problems based on the game. The context may spur creative ideas because the student finds the topic (baseball) enjoyable and it may counteract some of the anxiety caused by geometry. Cross-fertilization motivates students who aren't interested in subjects taught in the abstract.

7. Allow Time for Creative Thinking
Most creative insights, however, do not happen in a rush (Gruber, 1986). We need time to understand a problem and to toss it around. If you stuff questions into your tests or give your students more homework than they can complete, then you are not allowing them time to think creatively.

8. Instruct and Assess Creatively
If you want to encourage creativity, you need to include at least some opportunities for creative thought in assignments and tests. Ask questions that require factual recall, analytic thinking, and creative thinking. For example, students might be asked to learn about a law, analyze the law, and then think about how the law might be improved.

9. Reward Creative Ideas and Products
Reward creative efforts. For example, assign a project and remind students that you are looking for them to demonstrate their knowledge, analytical and writing skills, and creativity. Let them know that creativity does not depend on your agreement with what they write, only that they express ideas that represent a synthesis between existing ideas and their own thoughts. You need to care only that the ideas are creative from the students' perspectives, not necessarily creative with regard to the state of the art. Students may generate an idea that someone else has already had.

10. Encourage Sensible Risks
Defying the crowd means risking the crowd's wrath. Creative people take sensible risks and produce ideas that others ultimately admire and respect as trend setting. In taking these risks, creative people sometimes make mistakes, fail, and fall flat on their faces. Helping students to develop a sense of how to assess risks.

Given the learning opportunities that derive from taking risks and the achievement that learning makes possible, why are so few children willing to take risks in school? The reason is that perfect test scores and papers receive praise; failure may mean extra work. Failure to attain a certain academic standard is perceived as a lack of ability and motivation rather than as reflecting a desire to grow. Teachers advocate playing it safe when they give assignments without choices and allow only particular answers to questions.

11. Allow Mistakes
Mistakes allowed others to profit from the ideas and go beyond the earlier ideas. However, schools are often unforgiving of mistakes.
When your students make mistakes, ask them to analyze and discuss these mistakes. Often, mistakes or weak ideas contain the germ of correct answers or good ideas. In Japan, teachers spend entire class periods asking children to analyze the mistakes in their mathematical thinking. For the teacher who wants to make a difference, exploring mistakes can be a learning and growing opportunity.

12. Tolerate Ambiguity
Tolerating ambiguity is uncomfortable. When a student has almost the right topic for a paper or almost the right science project, it's tempting to accept the near miss. To help students become creative, encourage them to accept and extend the period in which their ideas do not quite converge. Ultimately, they may come up with better ideas.

(continue on 24 Tips for teaching creativity (part 2))

No comments:

Post a Comment