TEACHING WITH HEART
A new idea is the product of both "creativity" and "critical thinking". The two concepts are inextricably intertwined. If any one of these ingredients is applied in isolation, an idea may be created, but it perhaps would remain unworkable.
Creativity connotes freedom to explore and critical thinking represents preparedness, which is made available by having and appropriately using skills pertinent to developing new ideas. A combination of the two is required for innovation. In the past, the effectiveness of teaching was measured by how much and how well students reproduced facts (orally or written) taught to them.
The 21st century requires a different kind of measure of instructional success. Teachers need to think of ways to genuinely engage students by allowing the freedom to explore and preparing them with thinking skills that enable the creation of innovative ideas, solutions and products for present and future use.
Freedom to explore
An expert on creativity, Roger van Oech, in his book on the creative process, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, states that "the hallmark of creative people is their mental flexibility". According to him, creative people are able to shift in and out of different types of thinking depending on the needs of the situation at hand. As such, all children are creative at the start of their lives.
According to another creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, school educates the creativity out of children. This is a sad, but true, reality about our current education system.
Evidence of this is seen in children before they start school. At first, they are very comfortable creating their own songs, games, events, vocabulary and techniques of doing things. While entertaining in nature, these are true forms of creativity in its most inventive forms.
By the time children enter school, freedom to explore is curbed by the need to conform to uniformity in behaviour, thinking, stimulus-response patterns, and rules and regulations. Despite these restrictions, students are still able to think creatively, evidenced in how well they constantly succeed in getting out of trouble.
It is the challenge of every teacher to redirect students' creativity to more constructive uses. This could be accomplished by following some of the tips suggested by Oech and reinforcing them in day-to-day lessons: don't get hooked on finding one right answer, don't always be logical (don't ignore your intuitive hunches), break the rules sometimes, be impractical (practicality can narrow the scope of ideas), switch to play mode (relaxed people generate new ideas easily), entertain crazy ideas, be prepared to fail, and always consider yourself creative (if you think otherwise, you won't even try).
Preparedness: Understanding 'thinking'
The first step to mastering critical thinking is to understand the daily workings of the mind. Educators Frank Lyman, Arlene Mindus and Charlene Lopez identified the mind's actions by using a system called Thinktrix in 1979.
Thinktrix consists of seven fundamental thinking processes (seven mind actions) that represent the ways students think all the time.
They are recalling facts, identifying similarities, recognising differences, establishing cause and effect, making generalisations, giving examples to substantiate/explain an idea, and providing value judgments/evaluating.
When freedom to explore accompanies the application of the seven mind actions, students would have the confidence and skills required to innovate, solve problems and make decisions.
In short, a combination of creativity and critical thinking allows students to live up to the expectations of education for the 21st century and beyond.
Dr Edward Roy Krishnan is the director of strategic planning at Wells International School (http://www.wells-school.com). He also lectures in the Graduate School of Psychology, Assumption University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To access additional articles by him, visit http://www.affectiveteaching.com.
About the author
- Writer: Edward Roy Krishnan, PHD