I read with interest Dan McGraw's article about creativity, ("Expanding
the Mind," Summer 2004). I am in the group that believes
creativity cannot be taught. However, as a proud grandfather
I have rediscovered the tremendous creativity in young people
(our oldest grandchild just completed first grade). Observing
and interacting with them—now with the advantage of
almost 25 years of teaching experience—I am amazed at
their curiosity and creativity. Using an interactive classroom
activity that I have used with learners of all ages, I was
not surprised when my grandson's first-grade class addressed
the assignments often more creatively and always as quickly
and as well as groups of graduate students and K-12 teachers.
So maybe the question is how we as educators blunt their creativity.
In seeking to prepare my students for meaningful and successful
personal lives and careers, I encourage them to consider their
problem-solving procedures and try to help them make those
procedures as effective as possible. I believe there
are two characteristics of an effective problem-solving procedure: "embracing
ambiguity" and "a regular self-assessment"
of how things are going. These characteristics promote
creativity not by worrying about what you know at the beginning
but by identifying important topics believed to be related
and regularly asking how the learning of information about
those topics is progressing. Additionally, the self-assessment
of progress often identifies the current concerns (or failures)
and leads to their resolution as a result of their conscious
Finally, I would suggest that the documentation of outcomes,
also an important part of effective problem-solving, make
any recommended change more acceptable.
Bottom line, I think we need to honestly seek to understand
what destroys the creativity in young people and counteract
it. We also need to encourage all learners to develop an effective
problem-solving procedure that they can use for all situations
that come up.
John C. Bennett, Jr.
Mechanical Engineering Director
Connecticut TALENT Program
University of Connecticut
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