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Thing 6 – Teaching Creativity in Any Discipline


I came across this blog post today that I really got me thinking about my teaching goals. For years now I have been trying to incorporate more and more inquiry experiences/labs for my science students. Each year I tweek various activities as I learn through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Last year I had a really eye opening experience with my IB juniors. All year we had been working on developing their lab skills through “design your own” lab experiences. As I watched the students, I was in awe at how hesitant they were to use the equipment for fear that they would “mess up” or “get the wrong answer”. Even down to the point where they were not even able to use the on/off switch without getting my approval first. I couldn’t believe it. When we talked about these observations, they told me they were nervous about getting a bad grade. I tried to assure them that I was more concerned that they develop a deeper understanding of the process of science rather than get a correct answer. That is more realistic of what science experimentation is all about. It is a lot of trial and error based on observations and some research and more often than not a “correct” answer is not obtained. A lot of failure often occurs along the way and much can be learned from failure.

Toward the end of the year, I took so time to have these same students test out a new lab for me. I wasn’t sure how it would work and I simply asked the students to carry out the lab and provide me with their constructive feedback. This was the best teaching moment of the year for me. The students not only worked well with each other but they were asking such thoughtful questions and offering suggestions for improvement each step of the  way to me and each other. They thoroughly enjoyed the lab and I enjoyed watching their growth unfold right before my very eyes. Everything I had tried to get them to in labs prior to this one, they resisted. However, with this learning opportunity they didn’t hold back. They said that they were more open to the lab because they didn’t feel pressure of a grade. It is so sad that these kids feel so much grade anxiety. I started thinking if there were small changes I make to try to alleviate some of this and still meet the goals of the curriculum.

When I came across this recent blog post about flipping Bloom’s Taxomy and instead of having creativity be at the top, educators can begin with creativity at the base of the learning environment. So how can an educational community encourage teachers to teach creativity? According to another post, teachers who continue to create themselves and model the process are in a good position to help students tap into their own creativity. Also, teachers need to think about what they are assessing because they will get what they ask for. This is where I started to think about my rubric for my inquiry labs. Is it designed to get a “right” answer from students or is my lab rubric assessing their ability to work through the process and deal appropriately with challenges, unknowns, and mistakes? It didn’t take me long to realize that I have to re-work my rubric to assess the creative lab experience and test it out this year to see if I can help students tap into their ability to create and play with scientific concepts.  



by posted under k12learning2.0 | 2 Comments »    
2 Comments to

“Thing 6 – Teaching Creativity in Any Discipline”

  1. June 26th, 2012 at 2:38 pm      Reply charliewoodward Says:

    Great thoughts, Paulette–thanks for sharing. I remember seeing Shelly Wright’s post a few weeks back (I follow the PLP blog), and thinking it was really interesting. I agree with her premise, sort of–I think that we should really be working in both directions with regard to the ordering of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

    The creativity part is so hard for our students when they’re in core academic classes. I had big problems with “grade fears” this year, too, when I tried a creative group project on immigration. What do we do to foster curiosity and an interest in learning in the classroom, in place of an obsession with grades?

    • June 26th, 2012 at 5:18 pm      Reply ungerp Says:

      Not sure if there is any quick solution to helping kids overcome the obsession with grades. That lab I did that just required them to give me feedback was so eye-opening and I think the students really still learned a lot from the experience. So perhaps we can try to give the kids more formative assessments and assignments that have minimal, if any, grade attached to it. We can always follow up later with a summative assessment on the concepts. Most certainly there will still be kids who don’t complete it. Maybe have the assignment be used on the summative assessment in some way and then completing it will have additional weight later on but not in a right or wrong sort of way. More like the kids can use their findings on the previous assignment to help answer a question on the assessment later on.

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