Monday, November 29, 2010

Creative thinking

This week Mikaela Huntzinger (CETL, UCDavis teaching hero) is leading a session on creativity: what do we really mean by it, how to cultivate it in learning environments, how to use writing exercises to get your creative juices flowing.

We started with some intro brainstorming: why do students think science is recitation or right/wrong? how can we enhance creative problem solving with the "right" learning environment? how can we use creativity to reach out to other disciplines? how do we foster creativity in writing?

What is creativity? Different fields may have different interpretations of what it means, so we brainstormed some definitions:

-balance of novelty within a framework, like cooking well without recipe
-combination of existing ideas into new ones, or applying existing knowledge to new contexts (synthesis)
- freedom with a purpose (more effective with some constraints rather than in a vacuum)
- making connections (easier if the parts of the systems are identified)
- flexibility to move between perspectives
-bringing self into task, self expression (ownership of a project)

How can we be more creative? Some tips:

- Relax! you cannot be creative if you are too tense/scared/stressed.
- Separate brainstorming from critiquing (coming up with 6 stupid ideas makes it more likely to come up with a 7th great idea, more effective than shooting down each stupid idea)
- Take the pressure away from yourself, e.g. by thinking that you are a conduit for creativity, instead of the generator of it.
- You need to invest time to get the creative outcome you are interested in. Great creative output is build with daily work.
- If brainstorming in writing, write continuously, don't pause. Keep your pen moving until your next thought comes up.

We did a guided activity to demonstrate the point. Here it is!

Write your question at top of page (e.g. which direction do I want my practice/research to go towards?). give yourself 30-40 min. Follow the principles above. This is just brainstorming. Guided Relaxation (~10 min). Start writing right after relaxation, i.e. you are still in a very relaxed mood. Can pause after 20 min and highlight ideas you like most. Then transfer them to next sheet and keep writing from there.

Suggested reference:

“The creative habit” by Twyla Tharp

Other good articles:

1. Teaching creativity and inventive problem-solving in science (DeHaan 2009):

2. Science as structured imagination (De Cruz and De Smedt 2010):π=2

3. Stimulating creativity: Teaching engineers to be innovators (Richards 1998):

4. Differential effects of divergent thinking, domain knowledge, and interest on creative performance in art and math (Jeon et al. 2011):

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