Creativity across Learning #5 – How do we develop creative learners?

This 5th asks how do we respect and build on the ‘learner’s world’ in educational provision, and develop ‘creative learners’ who are motivated and take responsibility for their own learning? Once again the following text is drawn from the unpublished report of 2011.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.
(Carl Jung)

Is it really feasible or practical to start off with what interests the learner and then build the curriculum from there? Can we find meaningful and motivating contexts for deep learning? Can school really be a place that connects with the world of learning beyond school?

There is a long tradition in education in which educational practitioners have sought to bring the classroom to life by creatively pulling in aspects of the world of their students. There is no excuse for the curriculum to be boring. Even the most difficult content can be presented with engendering intrinsic interest in mind when teachers design lessons that flow and will stimulate learners’ thinking, making them more enjoyable so that children and young people can be fully engaged and absorbed.  The capacity to motivate is not just the key to deep learning; it is also the key to creativity.

Designing learning on this basis will be demanding if the educational practitioner is an isolated individual working behind closed doors. It suggests a need for teachers and others concerned with young people’s learning to be connected to communities of practice engaged with on-going curriculum and pedagogical development and sharing ideas, practice and resources.  Increasingly this engagement will be with teachers beyond their own school, local authority and country.

All effective educators recognise that it is essential to understand the learner as well as to understand what needs to be learned and how the process of learning works as a constructed, social and cultural process. We need to know what individuals bring to learning so that we build on that and encourage them to understand and manage their own learning. This has always been vital because of the role of parents and communities in learning, but it is even more important when there is increased access to learning through technological developments.

We also need to understand learners so that we can engage with them and motivate them. One of the motivating factors most commonly cited is ‘relevance’, but not all content or approaches will be equally relevant to all learners. Personalisation and choice are established principles of Curriculum for Excellence [the Scottish curriculum], but neither can be exercised without knowledge of the learners and their active participation.

The experiences that learners bring need to be understood and respected as the building blocks for further progress. We also need to find talents and dispositions which will be foundations for further learning. Such a process also needs to involve challenge, so that learning is demanding but not out of reach, and mistakes and failures are embraced as a spur to further efforts.

All of this suggests that learning needs to be based on more carefully structured, open-ended tasks and questions. This should not be interpreted as meaning that there is no place for different and, in some instances, more didactic approaches. But such approaches need to support learning that is constructed, self-regulated, situated and collaborative, where learners also have the role of active creators and designers, not just passive consumers of content and resources.

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