Monday, August 3, 2009

Teaching and the creative process

To create a clay dinosaur the young artist (age 9)had to have some idea of what she wanted to make before she started and then have the skills to shape the idea in clay and finally to glaze the model.In this last process the young artist had the help of an adult potter who knew about glazes and resulting colours. The result, when it emerged from the kiln, was a moment of real excitement - a transformational experience.

Creativity is a word often heard in classrooms but, all too often, what is called creative is often derivative or , through over teaching, the results for all students much the same. Quality maybe but not creativity.

Creativity is all about making choices and the results should reflect the 'voice' or individuality of the students whether a piece of writing, art, or scientific report.

And although there are steps to be taken most of the important decision are made intuitively as the artist becomes engrossed in the 'flow' of the process.

This is best seen in the process of painting. A conventional artist knows what they want to paint before they start and hold to their original intention until finished. By holding onto preconceived notions, without responding, the painting will lack a sense of creativity.

This is the case with much of the art ones sees in school where teacher work from pre-planned intention or defined criteria.

Original artists , with equal technical skills, start with a deeply felt needs but they are prepared to modify their goal as the painting unfolds in response to the unexpected colours and shapes emerging.The finished work may not even resemble the original intention.

Such an artist is responsive to their inner feelings and know intuitively what they want as the painting 'emerges'.

The appreciation of the importance of making choices, while involved in the process is, in is any area of learning, vitally important if we really value developing students with creative mindsets.

Creative people start with an often vague idea of what they want to accomplish and are prepared to discover as they go along using feedback gained in the process to suggest new developments. To work like this a person must have knowledge of the area involved and the confidence to be able to cope with open ended situations by choosing or discarding the right elements.

Creative leaders and teachers work in the same way.Unfortunately this is all too often in conflict of those who 'manage' schools or who teach in school systems that hold on to the limiting desire to measure a narrow range of standards. Teachers, who teach in such uncreative situations, will resort to 'painting by numbers' or 'teaching to the tests'.

The role for teachers, or leaders, who understand the creative process, is to create the conditions to encourage ideas to 'emerge'.Teachers can help people with idea generation, particularly those who have lost the confidence, to take responsibility for their own actions.

As the process unfolds , by means of 'learning conversations', teachers can help their students focus on the important things
but aways only as much as is needed to keep the 'flow' going. Even encouraging people just to make a start and then to keep what works is valuable. Appreciating the creative process is a messy one is important for both learners and teachers as is the need to encourage the perseverance and 'stickability' to keep going.

Students should be helped to assess their work as it progresses and teachers can introduce idea they 'could' ( not should) think about.

When the creative process is understood all students can develop creativity and classrooms should celebrate and reflect the diversity of ideas and styles of the students.

If anything is done really well, to the point that the results 'surprise' the students, then this feeling of success can literally transform the attitudes of the students themselves.

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