Creative learners are not linear thinkers. Contrary to popular belief, while others have a plan from the beginning, creative learners are different. They might need to play first and experience the medium before they begin to come up with ideas of their own. That’s why the students in a creative classroom strive for innovative solutions to unexpected problems.
While others might have a set template to work with when solving problems, creative learners like to approach things from the bottom up. Often they’re accused of “recreating the wheel.” For this reason, they might work slower than their counterparts. They tend to think laterally rather than concretely, disregarding conventional solutions in favour of “what if …?”
Creative learners have the following 11 characteristics:
- They are courageous
- They show intuition
- They “play”
- They are expressive
- They find order in disorder
- They are motivated by a task
- They find solutions
- They challenge assumptions
- They make connections
- They push the envelope
- They like to test things
Consider the work of Mitchel Resnick, one of the co-creators of Scratch GUI. Mitchel also teaches a course called Learning Creative Learning. An online version of the course is available here. Mitchel is a great advocate for creative learners. What he says about honoring the creative learner in all of us is especially interesting. In a way, it is reminiscent of our own process of Creativity Fluency.
According to Mitchell and his team, creative learners can draw upon the 4 guiding principles or cornerstones of creative learning, referred to as the 4 Ps.
The 4 Ps of a Creative Classroom
1. Projects: Creative learners love creative classroom projects. The process is as meaningful, if not more so, than the end result. In fact, the process informs the end result. As you go on a journey through a particular project, you hope to have been changed in some way.
A distinction should be made here between projects and problem solving. Problem solving is swallowed up by the project, as projects are a meaningful construct to solve many different problems. Projects also don’t have to be concrete; one can talk about projects in terms of writing or developing intellectual property. Teachers have long recognized the power of project-based learning to encourage the creative learner.
2. Peers: Through peer interaction and sharing your work you learn about collaborating, negotiating, and being invested in the progress of others. It’s a great way of practicing empathy.
When we collaborate and share—and even when we argue and disagree—the creative classroom is most alive. Our assumptions are either affirmed or challenged, and again the process of collaboration is meaningful in the connections you make with others. Technology makes this an even richer experience, and various collaboration tools have much to offer in terms of connecting us with others locally and globally.
3. Passion: Passion means engagement. It’s a natural resource that motivates learning. We say that passion “drives innovation”—the unrelenting urge to move from where we are now to a point we want to be is fuel for creative learners. Passion can be contagious when interacting with a group because one is engaged by the passion of their friends.
As a teacher, tapping into emotions is probably one of the hardest things to do. It entails knowing how your students learn and what makes them tick. Only through establishing meaningful relationships with your learners and providing them with learning that is relevant to them can you discover this.
4. Play: Although in kindergarten this can be simply games or finger paints, play can also be seen on many levels from childhood to adulthood. It is the experimentation of medium and the joy of discovery, and a combination of experimentation and passion. It’s taking risks, tinkering, trying new things, or as one young child put it, “hard fun.” It’s also an approach to the process of creation, and of playfulness.
Putting the Ps into Practice
Mitchel and his team have put together a spiral of creative learning:
- Imagine—dreaming using your passion
- Create—making something (the project)
- Play—experimenting and putting your creation through changes
- Share—collaborating with peers
- Reflect—reviewing ideas and suggesting new ones
It should be said here that the spiral is not so much linear as it is organic. Some can only imagine after seeing what others have shared, or through playing first with no goal in mind. As the 4 Ps spiral to a larger view of the students’ creation, creative learners can appreciate the process and learn to apply it to any aspect of their adult lives.