Creativity Counts

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ICAD 5 0f 61 (Flickr) by Teresa Robinson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs Generic License

I was fortunate to listen to Dr. Keith Sawyer speak recently at the IDEAS 2016 Conference, co-sponsored by the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, and the Galileo Educational Network.

He stated that some people believe creativity in schools is declining and linked this decline to three understandings that are missing: 1) how innovation works, 2) how people learn from creativity, and 3) how to redesign schools.

He described how creativity is really collaborative – a form of collective intelligence – and related it to his own experience as  an improvisational jazz musician. A key question he asked was, “How do you balance the structure with the improvisation?”

In a followup session, Dr. Sawyer described his recent work studying the teaching practices of art, design, and architecture professors. His interviewed several, asking them “How do you teach people to be creative?” He also asked them to articulate what they thought they were teaching in their art and design classes. They said they taught:

  • a deliberate, rigorous, critically engaged process
  • how to solve problems
  • how to think
  • how to communicate with the viewer
  • how to see (and learning how to see is a lot harder than learning how to make)

They also stated that skill learning was embedded in authentic practice and that often, the best students were not the most talented, in the traditional artistic sense. Rather, successful learners were curious, motivated, hardworking, and often from other disciplines of study.

The research Dr. Sawyer is currently conducting on creativity has implications for formal learning environments  of all kinds, including school makerspaces. Deliberate, rigorous, critical engagement speaks to purposeful and thoughtful design on the part of teachers. And perhaps the notion of teaching “how to see,” should become a more strategic part of this.

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About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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