An interesting cluster of articles in the Chronicle today that are relevant for Hilbert. Although we were very pleased with our CLA scores, they did indicate that our students were better at critiquing an argument than creating one. That jibed with some more impressionistic findings from looking at some of our syllabi that we may not be asking our students to do tasks at the higher orders of Bloom’s taxonomy, where “create” is at the top (hence the somewhat obscure title of this post.)
This article argues, persuasively, I think, for the need to think about creativity as an important part of our curriculum and ways that we can bring it about:
Many programs tap into recent research suggesting that creativity is not simply a product of personality or individual psychology, but rather is rooted in a set of teachable competencies, which include idea generation, improvisation, metaphorical and analogical reasoning, divergent thinking that explores many possible solutions, counterfactual reasoning, and synthesis of competing solutions. Creativity also requires an ability to communicate and persuade, and the skills and leadership to apply diverse and specialized expertise.
Developing and refining such capacities seem to be exactly what 21st-century undergraduates want.
This related commentary offers 12 specific things we can do in the classroom to develop creativity. However, I honestly don’t understand one of them, or at least the illustrative anecdote:
Recognize that knowledge is a double-edged sword. Some years ago, I was visiting a famous psychologist who lives abroad. As part of the tour he had planned for me, he invited me to visit the local zoo. We went past the cages of the primates, who were, at the time, engaged in what euphemistically could be called strange and unnatural sexual behavior. I, of course, averted my eyes. My host, however, did not. He began, to my astonishment, analyzing the sexual behavior of the primates in terms of his theory of intelligence. I realized how knowledge and expertise can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, people cannot be creative without knowledge. Quite simply, they cannot go beyond the existing state of knowledge if they do not know what that state is. On the other hand, those who have an expert level of knowledge can experience tunnel vision, narrow thinking, and entrenchment. It happens to everyone.
Many students have ideas that are creative with respect to themselves but not to a field. I tell my own students that the teaching-learning process goes two ways. I have knowledge they do not have, but they have a flexibility I do not have—precisely because they do not know as much as I do. By learning from—as well as teaching—our students, we can open channels for creativity.
Huh? Can you help me out here?
Finally, this article is not directly related, but is of crucial importance to us in the liberal arts sector. How do we do assessment of student learning (much less creativity) in a way that is meaningful to observers and allows comparisons across institutions, but still respects the diversity of the history and mission of institutions of higher learning?