Thursday, October 28, 2010

Connective Thinking or Creative Thinking?

Sir Ken Robertson famously accuses schools of killing creativity. Elsewhere he and others have laid the blame on the school system, standardised tests, poor teaching but only passingly on poor teachers (not the same thing).

We're all engaged by the un-inhibited thinking of little children and Robertson like others enjoys making this connection. I would suggest to you that we should not be duped into believing that the cute behaviour of little children is necessarily the type of creative thinking we need to foster in older school children.

Perhaps it is a kind of small c, creative thinking, within the unconnected world of the young child. These  children are building mental models of their reality and playing out these scenarios allows them to test and reform their mental models.

This is a very different thing to the type of creative thinking shown by teenagers or adults. I find Gardner's definition of creativity more useful in this situation. In 'Five Minds for the Future' he suggest that creative thinking produces a synthesis which extends our understanding. Extends our capacity to explain, interpret, analyse or empathise with our world.

This type of creative thinking occurs at the edge of our understanding, extends the 'edge' but it needs to remain connected to be useful or have value.  In this respect we find a contrast between 'grown up' creative thinking and that of the young child.  The young kindergarten child is 'creating' within the box, not outside the box (or on the edge). This type of thinking is trying to make connections with that which has already established and also within the bounds of what  is already established.

Perhaps the real problem is the vocabulary. Perhaps the confusion, difference of opinion is actually caused by the term 'creative' rather than our understanding of the process.