Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to create the conditions for promoting creativity?

New research has shown that creativity requires convergent thinking, the ability to sharpen focus, to narrow down, to synthesize ideas and information. Schools need to offer students opportunities to do both divergent and convergent thinking.
The new article from the Harvard Educational Review, in which Susan Engel from Williams College calls for a “shift in the way we see the traditional role of a teacher, from one who answers questions to one who elicits them.”
Eliciting questions from students is a noble goal. The ability to generate questions serves as a renewable source of intellectual energy that makes it possible for students to continuously inquire, explore, problem-solve and, indeed, create in setting after setting. But, far too few students learn to ask their own questions.
What is the simplest way to promote curiosity and creative thinking in any classroom?
Dan Rothstein, codirector of The Right Question Institute (RQI) and coauthor of Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions (Harvard Education Press), developed the Question Formulation Technique. This technique promotes both divergent and convergent thinking—exactly the two ingredients required to promote creativity. Teachers in urban as well as suburban and rural schools whose students had weak reading and writing skills demonstrated that their students became intellectually curious and moved to a very high level of creative thinking when they became adept at asking their own questions.
They also learned from teachers that when their students used another step in the process to name what they had learned, how they had learned it, and how they could apply what they learned, they often had creative breakthroughs in their understanding of ideas and materials. They had just used another invaluable ingredient for creative thinking, metacognition, and that catapulted them directly into the rarefied company of sophisticated thinkers. They took the exact same process and taught it to students well equipped with advanced reading and writing skills (such as students at various graduate schools at Harvard University, including the Law School and the School of Education), and they were struck by how they could more effectively produce their own questions, improve them, and strategize on how to use them.
Sometimes the challenges in education are so enormous that they demand complex solutions. But, the goal of sparking curiosity and creativity may be accomplished more simply and more directly, by teaching students how to ask their own questions.

Source from: Setting Off and Sustaining Sparks of Curiosity and Creativity by Dan Rothstein on January 13, 2012

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