PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo - SEPTEMBER 2004 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 1
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Teaching the Unteachable

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 identification.

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.
Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering Director
Connecticut TALENT Program
University of Connecticut

What do you think?
Send comments to prism@asee.org. Because of space limitations, not all submissions can be published, and those that are may be abridged.

 

 

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