Maintaining Creativity in Students

Source: MindShift,  May 2012

When asked whether they are creative, these are the student responses:

Std 2: 95% said Yes
Std 5: 50% said Yes
Secondary School: 5% said Yes

the problems begin in a very specific time frame: the years covering third, fourth, and fifth grade. It’s during this period, he says, that many kids “conclude that they are not creative, and this is in large part because they start to realize that that their drawing is not quite as pretty as they would like, that they can put the brush in the wrong place, that their short stories don’t live up to their expectations—so they become self-conscious and self-aware, and then they shut themselves down.” Parents and teachers must intervene during this crucial window to ensure that children’s creativity doesn’t wither.

People with such conditions are actually more likely to become “eminent creative achievers” once they’re out in the real world, Lehrer noted. He cited research by Jordan Grafman of the University of Toronto, showing that distractibility can be an asset as long as it’s combined with a moderately high IQ. “When you’re distractible, you’re always grabbing at seemingly irrelevant ideas and combining them with other ideas. Most of those ideas won’t pan out, which is why being smart helps, because that means you can get rid of those ideas quickly,” he said. “But every once in a while, that new mash-up is going to be useful, is going to lead you somewhere interesting.”

Parents’ and teachers’ task, he said, is to help kids learn how to “productively daydream.”

Lehrer’s second proposal: Teach children how to have “grit,” the perseverance and determination that’s required to create something new. He referenced the research on grit conducted by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, who professes the maxim “Choose easy, work hard.”

Lehrer elaborated: “What she means by that is that’s important to give kids a menu of possibilities pretty early on, a menu of things they might fall in love with—maybe it’s painting, maybe it’s drawing, maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s computer science—just a bunch of passions that they could discover. [You want them to] find these things that don’t feel like work, activities that just feel like fun. And then you have to remind them—‘OK, so you’ve found something you love, the goal you want to strive for. Now you have to work hard. Now you have to put in your thousands of hours of practice. Now you have to be willing to persevere through failure and frustrations.’”


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