Sunday, April 20, 2014

Divergent Thinking

Which is more important in education, creative students or creative teachers?  The simple answer is they're both important.  If we want our students to be creative, then it is crucial that we demand the same creativity from our teachers. Neither can be compromised. 

This topic has increasingly been on my mind, especially on those occasions when I field questions from students such as, "how many sentences do I need to answer this?", or "how long do I need to talk for my presentation?", and other similar questions.  At times, I sense a student is more interested in trying to complete an assignment to match how I might do it, rather than envision their own way of completing it.  I suspect the endless standardized tests play a major role in training our students to conform into a mold and give the same answer as others.    

If you want to be inspired by a student willing to think in a divergent manner and let her creativity set her apart, you absolutely HAVE TO WATCH this video by Sarah Almeda (click HERE). I found this video on a blog post "Students Yearn for Creativity, not Tests" by Eric Sheninger, "A Principal's Reflection"  (The link was shared by @msfrenchteach on Twitter.) I recommend you browse his other inspirational blog posts while you are there.  

A divergent-thinking student (one that the non-stop "testing serum" has little to no effect on the natural curiosity for learning):
- imagines several possibilities for completing a task
- seeks ways to differentiate their work from others
- permits himself to daydream  
- doesn't hesitate when given the task to create an alternate ending to a story
- realizes a powerpoint is only one possibility to create a presentation
...and the list goes on.  Check this post, found on The Second Principle blog, for some well thought-out ideas. 

A divergent-thinking (language) teacher:
- values the students in her class with which she has been entrusted
- searches for individual and class interests to connect students to the material
- paces lessons to the needs of the students, not to the dates on a syllabus
- is open-minded when presented with new ideas from colleagues
- steps out of her comfort zone to try a new approach with technology
- ends a lesson thinking, "next time I teach this, what if I change X and do Y?"
- permits herself to daydream
- realizes the syllabus must be flexible in order to accommodate new resources and new ideas 
- understands that there will be times she will be learning along with the students 
- knows lessons that didn't go well can be a  learning experience and an opportunity to improve
- views last year's lessons as....Last Year's Lessons. (She'll need to teach the lessons geared specifically toward her current class.) 

Those are only a few ideas.  There are many, many more.

Coincidentally, when I wrote this post I didn't realize that World Creativity and Innovation Week is April 15-21 and World Creativity and Innovation Day is April 21.

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