Creating a climate for creativity
A driver on the freeway can use more of his car’s potential than he can on a narrow obstructed road; the individual can use more of his creative potential when he is in a creative climate -thus Sidney Parnes defines the role of the adult in fostering creativity.
Implications of this concept are loud and clear. What does the role of a parent and a teacher in creating a climate where creativity can flourish, imply? — i) The need to help the child build a positive self- image. ii) Placing few restrictions on imaginative behaviour, and iii) Providing multifaceted experiences as part of the environment in which creativity can grow.
It is very important for both the teacher and parent to understand the need of the child to be free to think-out-of-the-box, to express his ideas, to try solving problems, to experiment, to create and innovate without fear of ridicule or criticism which stultifies his creative efforts. If given the time, freedom, materials, experiences, skills and above all, the motivation, as he needs them, the child will translate his imagination, his feelings, his ideas into some artistic and/or scientific media through which he expresses and communicates. It is during the moment of creating that the child moves beyond the boundaries of the everyday – work-a-day-world and soars to outer space if the adults in his life leave him free from the threat of failure and embarrassment; and this eagerness to express himself can be nurtured through the ensuing years.
Providing a setting for Creative Learning
Unless a child sees a need, has a desire, is curious about, or is tickled by an idea, there is no real learning. As Paul Goodman puts it, ‘Unless there is a reaching from within, the learning cannot become second nature as Aristotle called true learning.’
Learning creatively is the child’s most natural way of learning. It also brings him the most satisfaction. And creative teaching is the natural catalyst for the process of learning.
The setting which motivates creative learning comprises the best elements of wide teaching in a classroom, at home, a laboratory, a creative arts centre or a Scouts/Guides Patrol Corner. It must say to the child, ‘Come and Explore’, ‘Come and Discover’, ‘Come and Experiment’, ‘Come and Communicate’, ‘Come and be Resourceful’, ‘Come and Create’. Of course, the adult himself must be competent to use these strategies to stimulate the child to creative learning. In the classroom, provision should be made for individual differences and interests of students.
To provide a setting for creative learning, one must plan and organize learning experiences which involve the application of creative thinking, creative problem-solving, the techniques of discovery, the spirit of inquiry. Team-teaching, teacher-pupil interaction, individualized projects, group projects, exciting scouts/guides patrol activities should be used to provide children with the guidance they need in learning creatively.
In a setting where strengths of several teachers are pooled, where they are free to carry out self-initiated activities, there is much promise for self-realization of teachers and pupils alike. Not only is the talent of the pupil developed, but of equal importance is the joint planning, the division of labour, the evaluation and specialized utilization of teacher talent. This means a more productive, creative teacher.
Portrait of a classroom where creativity is fostered
In a study of certain classes designed to foster creativity, we were concerned primarily with creating an environment that would encourage creativity at all times. For example, the sixth grade had to depict the Equatorial Forest Region. The basic assumption was that creativity just does not happen. But it could be encouraged through an atmosphere conducive to creative endeavour and through direct instructional patterns.
The teachers were concerned first with creating a climate of mutual respect and acceptance. Only after this, did the class move into creative activities: – art, writing, dramatics, sometimes merging varied creative activities into a single presentation. Artists in the class constructed a backdrop by drawing on sheets of paper and pasting them together for projection by a projector on the walls. A blazing sun, as part of the ceiling décor, shone through the foliage of trees cleverly embedded in mud on the ground, where also was depicted the wild life, the life of the pygmies, life on the outskirts. etc. To this scenic depiction, they added tape recorded music and sound effects. Four boys made the weapons/war equipment for the warriors. A group of five girls created a Pygmy tribal dance. Chants, songs, tribal calls, and poetry were written by a group of three who had a special interest in music and poetry. A girl who had an excellent voice worked out a song as a burial chant. Although costumes were minimal, the group felt that it would be necessary to make costumes which would be suggestive of the tribe. Food was imagined and prepared. Creativity was high during the development of the project. The backdrop and sound accompaniment added further dimensions to the report which summarized life in the equatorial region.
The findings of the study indicated that the class gained on four aspects of creativity—- redefinition, fluency, originality, sensitivity.
At the culmination of the unit, parents expressed appreciation for the learning that occurred.
There are some who fear that subject matter will be ignored in a creative learning situation. Nothing could be further from the truth! Subject matter or content need not be sacrificed. The creative teacher motivates students to correlate with other subjects, to extend their knowledge at the same time that they are developing the skills of problem-solving. This he does by making use of the motive best suited to challenge a child to move beyond a vague interest about phenomena in his world to solving problems designed to help him see answers and solutions.
One can meet with soul-satisfying results when a child who is in need of a warm, personal relationship with an interested adult, is motivated by warmth and encouragement to work on his strengths. Of the many instances, I’d like to cite one: Roque was a seventh grader, shy and withdrawn. Though there were flashes of intelligence that shone from time to time, he did poorly at school and sadly was the inadvertent target of barbs of some thoughtless teachers and students.
A class project on oil refineries and how crude oil was conduited, threw up a challenge for the class. I noticed a spark in Roque’s eyes and decided to speak to him privately. We talked about the project and not surprisingly, for me at least, he warmed up to the topic and came out with novel, creative ideas. So while the rest of the class opted for another part of the project, we decided that Roque work on the original project on his own, much to his delight. With no class fuel to boost his confidence, negative vibes and a lot of jibes , but quietly determined to prove his classmates wrong, Roque worked secretly through the nights, resourcefully making use of waste materials, skillfully using his hands and arduously seeking for information from books / material provided to him. The day for evaluation and judging dawned. To the chagrin and surprise of all the doubting Thomases, Roque faced the team of judges with a new confidence, answering all their intricate questions with alacrity. His project was adjudged as outstanding. He was the winner! After this experience, there was no looking back for Roque. He shone academically and otherwise. Working on his strengths, he overcame his weaknesses.
Indeed to arouse the interest and creativity of a child with high anxiety and low performance, it is essential to be interested in the child, to display overt interest in him and his ideas, to act in a warmly encouraging manner.
A group which is motivated by curiosity (cognitive motivation) is a delight to the creative teacher. He needs to create a problem-solving environment through the use of units, experimentation, group work, role play and dramatics. He should plan activities that capitalize on inquiry skills, brainstorming or creative thinking. In a classroom environment in which the curiosity motive is the catalyst, children express ideas freely and imaginatively as they seek solutions to problems.
The child, who is free from the pressure of external evaluation, is free to explore, to experiment or innovate without worrying that his work will be criticized, his ideas rejected, his product scorned. He will be free to make aesthetic choices on the basis of his own performance. Most importantly, it is the feeling of self-worth, the development of independence in thought and action which self-evaluation brings in its wake.
Cleta H Lobo, B A (Hons),M Ed,is the honorary Principal of Mater Dei Institution, a pioneering English medium high school in Goa, which stands for quality and an all-round education. Well-known as an educationist with a brilliant academic career, she has rendered valuable service without compromising on principles and educational standards in the field of education as well as in other fields in which she has held key positions. She was awarded a Fellowship in the U.K. in Environmental Education and Modern Contemporary Dance & Drama. She was the State Commissioner for Girl Guides, and is the recipient of the State Award for Long and Meritorious Service in the Scout/Guide Movement. As Vice- President of the Association for Social Health in India, and of the A.I.W.C. she organized Drug Awareness Programmes in schools and colleges and has contributed articles, delivered talks on Education, Culture, Sports, etc. She was selected to lead the Goa Troupe for the Festival of India in France and the French Caribbean Islands, and is the recipient of the State Cultural Award for Excellence in the field of Culture-Folk Art.