Thursday we will identify the kind of “learners” that we are. Students will take a quiz to discover the ways they best learn and interact with others. To show what we learned, students will be making a “Student Inventory Sheet (SIS),” which will contain this information. Both the students and I will have a copy to reference throughout the year. Understanding the way we learn is crucial. It helps us feel comfortable and succeed in school by choosing the appropriate partners, projects and study habits. Later, this knowledge becomes an important factor in deciding our careers. Starting to identify ourselves now has been very helpful to students, not to mention a little fun.
Take the Learning Styles Quiz Here: This uses the Multiple Intelligences theory (Howard Gardner), identifying the 8 major “kinds of smart” that students are. Students find out what their areas of strength are, as well as weaknesses. This has been the most interesting so far. This is what your test result should look like…..
Read the rest here.
Howard Gardner has also written extensively on creativity in Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century , Extraordinairy Minds and Five Minds for the Future. Gardner tends to take a restrictive view of creative thinking that aligns him somewhat with the ideas of Charles Murray and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly:
My definition of creativity has revealing parallels with, and differences from, my definition of intelligence….
….People are creative when they can solve problems, create products or raise issues in a domain in a way that is initially novel but is eventually accepted in one or more cultural settings…The acid test of creativity is simple: in the wake of a putatively creative work, has the domain subsequently been changed?
….Let me underscore the relationship between my definitions of intelligence and creativity. Both involve solving problems and creating products. Creativity includes the additional category of asking new questions- something that is not expected of someone who is”merely” intelligent, in my terms. Creativity differs from intelligence in two additional respects. First, the creative person is always operating in a discipline or craft. One is not creative or noncreative in general; even Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps the Western World’s ultimate Rnaissance man….was creative in certain domains, like painting and invention, and not nearly as creative in others. Most creators stand out in one domain or, at most, in two.
This argument is problematic for several reasons.
First, and most importantly, it is not particularly useful advice in terms of educating children.
“Creativity” is not a single activity, momentary event or cognitive function but a collection of related ones like divergent thinking, lateral/horizontal thinking, analogous/metaphoric thinking, synthesis, insight, “tweaking”, free play and collaboration. Development of skill in these activities requires practice and the early efforts, however feeble, are also creative – just not significantly so when measured on a scale against, say, Albert Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci.
The truth is, even Einstein wasn’t “Einstein” when he was in the fourth grade, so when considering how to inculcate or assess more creative thinking in our students, we need to use more realistic benchmarks than what Professor Gardner is offering..
Secondly, A clearer a priori rejection of synthesis, horizontal thinking and consilience could hardly be written. One that is profoundly weird, in my view ,given that some of the more highly significant acts of scientific discovery were precipitated by seemingly trivial observation of mundane events that yielded a moment when a sweeping insight crystallized. A history that begins with Archimedes of Syracuse and works forward to the present day.
Gardner is correct that highly creative people are not able to be equally creative in all fields in which they have no reference or skill mastery as where they have demonstrated expertise but that is akin to saying that because Michael Jordan could not hit a baseball as well as he could a jump shot, therefore he has no intrinsic athletic ability. Put Jordan up against a couch potato in a sport neither have ever played or seen before and lay odds on who will have the best initial performance. How can “kinesthetic intelligence” be intrinsic but not “creativity” ?
Finally, Gardner’s bias against lateral/horizontal thinking across domains conflicts with the nature of intellectual creativity itself which struggles against the constraining rules that constitute the definitional standards, official orthodoxy and received wisdom of the field’s trained experts. How, for example, was Einstein’s ” Big C “ creativity ( to use Gardner’s term) possible when Relativity theory and quantum mechanics violated the precepts of the long established scientific world of Newtonian physics ?
Creative people work not merely in domains but, especially, across them. Something Howard Gardner ought to know better than most people. Teaching children to think in a domain or subject area is not harmed by teaching them to see connections across different disciplines!!
I divide each Social Studies unit into content and conceptual mastery, analysis and creative interpretation because public education as a k-12 and beyond system has three primary objectives:
1. To impart a body of knowledge and academic skills deemed valuable by society.
2. To teach the students to think analytically, critically and independently.
3. To render the students capable of having original insights and pursuing the discovery of new knowledge or invention.
The first goal has been delved into depth by educational researchers and gurus like E.D. Hirsh of “Cultural Literacy” fame, Chester Finn, William Bennett, Diane Ravitch and others, and is reflected in such legislation as NCLB, which has put tremendous pressure on school districts to focus on test scores in a Math and Reading and expanding the amount of instructional time in those subjects in the curriculum by increasing the time spent on rote memorization exercises and skill-based drills. Breadth but not depth.
This has proven to have adverse effects, causing original supporters of NCLB like Diane Ravitch to change their position and call for the law’s repeal or modification of the law. Another effort at education reform, the Common Core Standards have been implemented by 45 states to increase content depth and the amount of reading in non-fiction content areas. like science and history.
The second goal is reflected in what used to be termed ” liberal education” or “Great Books” programs or the upper tiers of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Schools do this less effectively across the nation but there is still a fair emphasis on eliciting critical thinking in public education, most of all in Honors and AP classes, gifted and talented classes and special programs like and Paideia and International Baccalaureate though all students benefit from learning critical thinking skills. Colleges and universities, of course, are also intended to focus on liberal education but the degree to which this is true in practice has declined since the 1960′s.
The final objective, made possible by the teaching of creative thinking, divergent thinking and synthesis to students, public education as a system does not do well at all at present, here or in any industrialized nation, where measurable declines in the creativity and problem-solving abilities of k-12 students appear across the board. Some people even consider creative thinking to be inimical to mastering content or logical analysis; this is untrue. One cannot think creatively or engage in analysis without content knowledge and content is itself meaningless unless the student can effectively put it to use in the real world. Content knowledge, critical thinking and creativity are like the three legs of a stool – our students need them all.
The Eide Neurolearning Blog run by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, has long been one of my favorite blogs – here’s an example of why:
High Conceptual Thinkers are often…
– Omnivorous Learners: The world may be their oyster. Because of their quest for the “interesting”, they may love the Internet, read entire encyclopedias, or incessantly question adults about the real world, and so learn a little bit about everything. They may not hit ceiling scores on the conceptual knowledge IQ subtests because their omnivorous approach to figuring out the world around them.
– New is the Thing: HCTs prefer novelty (this is how they develop new conceptual categories) and are tickled by unconventional viewpoints or discoveries.
– Big Picture, Not Little Details: HCTs don’t always transition well to the “precision years” of late elementary, middle school, or beyond.
– Boredom is Death: Although using the ‘b’ word is notoriously a “no-no” word when talking to teachers, these kids rebel against what they see as boredom. Boredom may really seem like death to young HCTs.
If young HCTs seem “driven by a motor”, it’s intellectual restlessness and it can be a blessing as well as a burden.Not surprisingly, these kids often find classroom learning unsatisfying. After all, much of early education is focused on mastering basic skills or established facts, this is not what these kids are about. They’d rather be finding new worlds to conquer.
Although these kids are challenging to teach and parent, they are also a delight, and Dan Pink and others have suggested that the Conceptual Age is upon us and this pattern of thinking should be what we should be encouraging.
“High conceptual thinkers” – those with an insatiable intellectual curiosity, who see meta-level patterns and excel at constructing paradigms, extrapolation, synthesis and consilience are probably not a large percentage of the population and, most likely, they include eccentrics and cranks as well as highly accomplished individuals like E.O. Wilson, Buckminster Fuller, Freeman Dyson, Nikola Tesla, Richard Feynman and probably figures like Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Winston Churchill, Robert Hooke, Leonardo Da Vinci and numerous others.There seems to be some congruency between HCTs and the category of people known as polymaths, which raises the question of whether HCT are born or can be encouraged to develop such a cognitive profile from education and life experience.
The Eides offered a list of techniques for teaching children recognized as HCTs, but to my mind, these would also benefit a fairly broad section of students:
Teaching Big Picture / High Conceptual Thinkers
– Sky’s the Limit: If an idea or a lesson would be interesting to a wonky tech-y post-college 20-something, then it’s fine for the HCT. If a story or thing could be written about in Wired, Fast Company, or Mental Floss, then you’re probably on the right track. Sky should be the limit. Even some generally excellent gifted programs we’ve seen may grossly underestimate an HCT’s ability to think about advanced concepts. Also because HCTs develop their ideas through pattern recognition, they may want to see many examples and permutations, and complex presentations in order to help organize their ideas into simpler concepts.
– Play with Ideas: Conceptual thinkers like and need to play with ideas. Play expands ideas, creating a new opening for associations. Play means not micromanaging learning experiences – allowing some dabbling, and taking away some of the “high stakes every time” routine (e.g. not everything should be graded).
– Argue with Ideas We think many educational curricula wait way to long before they allow young HCTs to consider different viewpoints, learn how to frame arguments or actually debate, but this is often what HCTs love. If they don’t get it at school, make sure they get it home…maybe at the dinner table? Half of the 400 eminent men and women profiled in the Goertzels’ Cradles of Eminence came from “opinionated” families: “It is these homes that produce most of the scientists, humanitarians, and reformers.”
Compare these recommendations with the advice offered by nanotechnologist Dr. Eric Drexler of Metamodern:
Studying to learn about everything
To intellectually ambitious students I recommend investing a lot of time in a mode of study that may feel wrong. An implicit lesson of classroom education is that successful study leads to good test scores, but this pattern of study is radically different. It cultivates understanding of a kind that won’t help pass tests – the classroom kind, that is.
- Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.
- Don’t halt, dig a hole, and study a particular subject as if you had to pass a test on it.
- Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you – instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.
- Notice that concepts make more sense when you revisit a topic.
- Notice which topics link in all directions, and provide keys to many others. Consider taking a class.
- Continue until almost everything you encounter in Science and Nature makes sense as a contribution to a field you know something about.
Intellectual curiosity would seem to be the axis that would make these approaches work effectively, and possibly, that’s what these techniques stimulate.
Critical Question Mapping is a “technique for fast learning” developed by scientist and innovation consultsnt Dr. Terry Barnhart. In critical question mapping, a group led by a facilitator generates the questions that need to be answered in order to accomlish a strategic goal or objective. Then the mass of questions are organized into coherent groupings by the participants ( you can also show connections between groups, sequencing etc. and other relationships).
8th grade students had a strategic objective of “Forming a perfect government”:
Interesting post at the wonderful Eide Neurolearning Blog regarding learning, creativity and memory:
Urban legends, conspiracy theories, Internet memes, and popular advertising campaigns all have something in common: they know how to make information ‘stick’ – now if we can just apply some of these tools to education, we might really have something. The brothers Heath in Made to Stick have come to an interesting conclusion about creativity – not only is it not highly unpredictable or idiosyncratic, in fact it’s just the opposite – it’s systematic and that means it can be taught.
In an interesting Israeli study assessing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, researchers found that instruction in certain successful creative approaches improved the creativity and positive attitude ratings 50% higher than non-instructed controls. In a similar vein, the Heaths began analyzing extra-sticky ideas and stories and found that they often shared the following qualities:
The pattern makes sense if you think about how the brain is wired to remember (novelty / surprise, imagery, association, emotions, stories) and in regards to simplicity, the brain’s limitations regarding working memory. The Heath’s have a nice Teachers Guide (see below), but the emphasis is on helping students to realize how using the SUCCES approach can focus and target their communication, but we could also envision a different Teachers Guide providing suggestions and examples for how to help teachers focus their own communication.
Imagine if lessons plans incorporated simplicity, novelty, imagery, and compelling personal stories on a daily basis! Michael Sandel’s great Justice course (bottom video below) shares SUCCES elements and that might be a reason for its extraordinary popularity.
Great TED talk on how the culture of public schools clash with the learning style and cultural interests of many boys and inhibit their reading and writing performance. Not “anti-girl” or “pro-boy” but a “pro-learning” presentation.
A great animated overview of how public education is changing/needs to change in the 21st century: