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Achieving Creative Goals Through Key Processes

Mel Pontious, State Fine Arts Consultant, Department of Public Instruction

My article in the September issue described three im- portant and related initiatives that are synergistic: the Part- nership for 21st

Cen-

tury Skills (P21); the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and

Creativity in Education and the new music curriculum guide, Planning Curriculum in Music. That article described how the curriculum guide’s recommendations provided the comprehensive musical un- derstandings embodied in the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. My article in the January issue detailed how the student-centered processes of instruction/ assessment recommended by the guide help students achieve the 21st

century

skills. This article will show how those same processes can help students and teachers achieve goals of the task force’s action plan, which are an important aspect of P21.

Creativity Factors

Research and teacher practice show that, rather than a single cause, creativity ap- pears to be the result of the flowing to- gether (confluence) of several factors.

• Climate • Dispositions • Habits of mind • Motivation • Higher order thinking • Disciplinary knowledge

• Problem attack strategies (heuristics)

These will be described below, as well as strategies to implement them in the classroom and rehearsal.

Climate. There is a mutual influence among the factors above. Climate has been termed the seedbed of learning and creativity, one that encourages risk-taking, autonomy, collaboration and mutual support. It also fosters motivation and a disposition to learn. The teacher’s interac- tion with the students, from the teacher’s respect for and manner of greeting the students to the instructional/assessment strategies, sets the climate of the class. On pages 41-42, the guide describes some methods used by teachers for develop- ing and maintaining a positive learning environment.

Dispositions. These are one’s tendencies to react in certain ways. They are often innate but can be influenced and developed through suggestion, modeling, question- ing, and, at times, direct instruction.

All students bring different strengths and challenges to the learning environment. This is also true of dispositions. Some will be:

• innately curious • self-directed • self-confident

• imaginative • “inquirers” • risk-taking

• observant • willing to work hard • outside-the-box thinkers

While these qualities enhance students’ learning, they are also the vital factors in creativity. The major difference between accomplished learners and those who are creative is the degree to which these dispositions influence a person’s actions, especially curiosity and imagination.

Preschool children, unaware of the stric- tures on thinking and staying inside the lines, are fearlessly creative. Soon, how- ever, schooling practices and the desire to “fit in” often smother the creative spark. Teachers can help students rediscover

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their preschool creative tendencies and develop these attitudes and values by mod- eling, asking questions, even using direct instruction. For instance, asking ques- tions like, “What do you think?“ – “What if…?” – “What is another possibility?” – can encourage curiosity and imagination. Perseverance and self-direction seem to be directly related to motivation. Risk-taking and thinking outside the box flourishes best in a supportive climate. Teachers should model these qualities, name them and devise ways to help students make them their own (metacognition). This is described in more detail in an issue paper, “Creativity in the Classroom” at http:// www.dpi.wi.gov/cal/musiced.html.

Habits of Mind. This area, closely allied with dispositions, is defined variously. Some examples are:

• flexibility • visualization • imaginative thinking • metaphoric/analogic thinking • metacognition • careful perception • impulse control • reflection • playfulness • use of prior knowledge • open-mindedness

While certain dispositions may be innate in some students, most habits of mind need to be developed through teacher model- ing, guidance, and strategic questioning. For instance, imaginative thinking can be modeled by teachers and used as a group activity in addressing a musical problem. By thinking aloud during such activities, the teacher can help students identify these approaches and consciously transfer them to other situations in school and life. This helps students gain executive control of their thinking processes (metacognition).

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