In one of their Psychology Today posts, the Root-Bernsteins declare: “Teach how knowledge is made and you teach for creativity.”
Here is more from their post:
Creativity is not a “you have it” or “you don’t” kind of thing.
It isn’t a personality trait. It’s not a “one size fits all” habit of mind. It’s not, simply, a set of skills to test for or a roster of art classes.
Creativity is a response to a particular problem in a distinct context at a particular time. It involves the surprising combination of previously unconnected ideas or materials in novel and effective ways.
While an individual can rediscover or re-experience the creative insights of others, each original creative act is a unique occurrence. True, the best predictor of future creativity is past creativity, but there is no guarantee that a person who responds creatively to one task may do so with others.
So what’s a society to do? Especially one committed to constant innovation?
Foster imaginative thinking? Check. Nurture can-do attitude and audacity of vision? Check.
But most important of all, we can immerse our students in recreating creative process. In other words, we can teach them how artists, scientists, technologists and others have made discoveries and inventions as well as new ways of being in the world.
Every discipline is full of examples of how the most influential individuals and groups produced their most significant innovations. Surprisingly, these are absent from curriculum guidelines and textbooks.
Though we cram students with facts and ideas, we fail to teach them how that knowledge is forged by people like themselves.
By and large, teaching has dehumanized knowledge and in dehumanizing it, eliminated its creative spark.
We know this for a sorry fact.
Bob teaches college level physiology.
Some fifteen years ago he was talking with a group of seniors going off to medical school.
He asked them if they could tell him what insulin was and how it worked. All could do so.
He asked them who had discovered insulin. None could answer.
He asked them how insulin had been discovered. None could answer.
He asked them how they would go about isolating and characterizing insulin today. None could answer.
He asked them how insulin is manufactured. None could answer.
In sum, the knowledge these students possessed was passive. They had no conception of the wonderful, sad, surprising, infuriating, and amazing process that ushers new science into the world.
They had no models to guide them on similar paths of discovery, innovation and implementation.
Bob has since developed a course for graduating Physiology majors on the nature of biomedical discovery. …
Continued: Teaching the Creative Process
Photo: Shannon Lewis, left, Michelle Giron and Haluna Gunterman constitute half of Caltech’s all-female chemical engineering class of 2005.
(Photo by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times June 20 2005.)
Book: Sparks of Genius, The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People, by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein