The traditional classroom didn't work that well for Albert Einstein. Since Einstein's death 56 years ago, high stakes testing (shown to have a negative impact on creativity) has only increased. What would Einstein tell today's students and teachers? I found some answers a few weeks ago in his obituary which the New York Times reposted. Einstein claimed: "it is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry." http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0314.html. As an aside, the obituary mentioned that Einstein created the theory of relativity from notes scribbled while he took his infant son for walks in his pram.
Far too many teachers and students agree with Einstein.
So, how does a teacher make changes that will foster curiosity and creativity? Sadly, there's not much consensus. Ask a teacher how to cultivate Creativity* or creativity, and you’re likely to get a bunch of different answers: “It has to do with Maslow and self-actualization.” “Freud!” “Happens in permissive societies.” “Happens when people struggle.” “Just happens.”
I’ve gleaned greater insight after studying creativity for the past few months:
My first insight: Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy ("Revised Bloom’s") is not the be all and end all of critical and creative thinking. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that the Revised Bloom’s is part of the Common Core, but shame on any teacher who relies exclusively on the Revised Bloom's to drive innovation and learning.
Second insight: The teacher has to be able to think critically and creatively. He has to model his thinking process for his students. He also needs to establish a classroom environment that is conducive to thinking and creating. The Revised Bloom’s can be a tool for this instruction, but if the teacher can't create or describe the creative process, his students aren’t going to reach their full potential. As for creating the proper learning environment, I urge teachers to come up with new designs for their classrooms. Move desks around so students can see each other and interact during discussions. Get students outside. Take them on field trips. There is so much to observe outside of the classroom.
Third insight: Creativity is a process, not a one shot deal. Consider the best minds--Einstein, Edison, and Picasso; they made observations, noted differences, and labored for years. Draft after draft. Design after design. Experiment after experiment. These great minds didn’t give up, but rather reflected upon mistakes, and turned to others for suggestions on improving their ideas. Showing your students marked up drafts written by a noted writer or speaker is a powerful way to send the message that there’s no easy route to celebrity, achievement, and contribution.
Fourth insight: Space is needed to identify and develop creative passions. Einstein was emphatic on this issue: “for this delicate little plant [child], aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.” http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0314.html What would a student do with a huge block of free choice time? PONDER. REFLECT. CREATE. One of my former students spent two years writing his first novel during his "spare" time at school.
Fifth insight: Dialogue! Ask a peer about the purpose behind an experiment or product. Consider the aesthetics of a “creation.” Evaluate the benefit the student/creator is getting from working on this project. Think about whether the public can benefit from the project.
Work should not be done in isolation. We are a community of learners, observers, and explorers. Scrap the power point for lively debate. Towards the end of his life, Einstein feared “the day that technology will surpass human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/724791.
Take this message to heart. Look up from your computers, telephones, and i-pads and be awed by human potential in your surroundings!
*Einstein is called Creative with a capital “C” because he is a giant in his field, recognized globally for his vast contributions; we use lower case "c “ for mere creative mortals.
Filed under: Uncategorized