For my creativity class… I have been asked what creativity theory I am drawn to and how can I work into my class?
My first thought? Just as Aristotle and Gardner felt that creativity can be the result of thoughtful and strong work within a disciple, so I believe that my classroom activities should have times for students to take the skills and knowledge and fit them in known as well as new ways.
However, I’ve also learned that creativity is cultural.
If there is something I have truly taken out of these chapters is that there is no one approach…no one belief on what creativity is and how it can be harnessed. If anything, it seems to flux between consciousness and unconscious thought…between discipline and rigor versus bizarre thinking. I think there is evidence for all of these models…and in teaching gifted and talented…I find there are truly different types of children.
Still…if I had to choose one…I would choose Vygotsky. His research on creativity over time has led to the well know quote of how teachers should approach instruction as a “guide on the side”.
I have found success working ‘with’ children….
and not just teaching ‘to’ them.
Beginning with play, Vygotsky felt that creativity is founded on the development of imagination…first through child’s play…reproductive imagination…when we use objects to recreate experiences we have seen before (a stick for a horse). Building upon what we know, we then use ‘combinatory imagination’ – linking experiences and tools in new ways to ‘create’ new situations, new behaviors, new things.
How does this apply to teaching?
Add to this that Vygotsky believed adults strongly impacted a child’s ability to imagine. Initial ‘symbolic play experiences are influenced (and perhaps directed) by social interactions, such as adult’s” suggestions. (I wonder if I give students enough time to ‘play’…experiment, try out, roleplay, work through, fail and try again.) I feel need to be more aware of how to create ‘play’ in each subject…and deeply consider the influence I might be having on developing their imaginations.
Vygotsky also felt that adult creativity should be richer than a child’s…moving away from separate strands and linked together into new concepts…’purposefully used’. I agree…but do we see that in modern-day? When I look around…I feel as we become older, we are playing less. We become more set in the structure of our lives and many adults may not work on creativity…they might not feel very creative. So I want to teach children that creativity is something they need to grow…plan for…give time to…long term. Model how I do it…as a teacher and a person.
Although Vygotsky noted that speech gave people the ability to reflect, I would argue that all types of literacy, specially writing and now symbolic communication, are giving people ways to deeper reflect on and synthesis experiences and ideas in more creative ways.
Without communication, there would be no creativity.
Therefore, I want children to have a wide base of experiences, to value and learn how to communicate their thoughts and ideas in different ways and on different topics. If I am influencing their experiences, I want their classrooms to have a sense of play…with the sense that they are able to impact their classroom, have a voice, move things around…try out different ways…new things…do overs… just like we do when we play.
We still need to play more…
How do I work that into my class now?
I try to develop classrooms where children have clear voices…that they can ask, inquire, disagree (respectfully) and be heard. I feel they see that in the questions I ask and the sincerity in which I listen. At the same time, a quality to their reflection is expected. It’s not just throwing out a request without thought… its difficult to put into words but there are times the ideas are just thrown out quickly and rushed…and there are others when they are expected to think, reflect, ask questions, learn more and then state.
It’s about giving them time to express their ideas when there is no ‘right answer’ that I am looking for.
I ask my students what they would like to learn…fitting in the standards into their choices…teaching them about learning styles and having them experience different ones. Sharing my weakness and asking them if they have suggestions (for example, I have asked my 3rd and 6th grade gifted how I can better integrate music into my lessons because many in the class feel they have musical intelligence.) I role model communicating, asking, making mistakes, trying new ideas and reflecting on them.
Truly….even with math…I think integrating creativity fits.
There is some criticism that creativity is being lost in the classroom…the students I interviewed for my case study all said their teachers (except for the sewing teacher) did not help them be creative. I hope that in giving children a voice and giving them time to try, practice, fail, reflect, try again in new ways, communicate (in no particular order)…they will gain the ability to be more creative and less boxed in their thinking and approached. I hope I guide them…
But this has taught me that I am ‘playing’ enough…not giving myself time to be creative. If I am not developing an adult level of creativity how can I guide children? hmmm….