Creativity in Education Part 1: Let’s Allow For More Confusion In Our Classrooms

Currently, I am involved in a project titled PLP Connect U, a joint project with the Department of Education and Powerful Learning Practice. It is a fairly open-ended project designed around creating better learning and teaching practice through the development of networks and communities of learners. The approach seems to be a fairly organic one where outcomes are not set in stone but are variable depending on where the groups push or pull them. This approach creates some somewhat messy and interesting discussions and generates Confusion. Confusion is one of my favorite states and a state I thoroughly endorse when it comes to teaching practice as it seems to allow for new models of unexpected thinking to push forward through. I was recently at a conference where clarity was the buzz phrase. Students must have total clarity of the desired learning outcome to better enhance their learning ability.

For me, that is a method that, while having some merit, sometimes is not necessarily something that will lead to new thinking within the student’s mind, so it, therefore, has its limitations.

I am part of a group within the PLPConnectU Project entitled Creativity, and it is full of great thinkers trying to deepen their student’s educational experiences and allow for a more creative approach to learning. We were recently asked to comment on what we were wondering about, and I replied with the following.

I am wondering about the following things I’ve read recently. While sounding esoteric, they might actually be relevant in a group with the title creativity,

The first is a short statement by Arthur Rimbaud, a French Poet

“I say a man must be a seer. Make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by a lengthy, massive and deliberate disordering of all the senses.” 

Secondly, a statement that follows similar lines is found in a book called The Art of Looking Sideways.

“Creativity is a compulsive human urge which demands ritual actions or routine responses and is valid only when one is trading beyond experiences.”

The word Creativity is frequently appropriated to enhance the mediocre or justify the mundane. That ceaseless and frenetic activity -easy to mistake for purposeful action – only produces noise and aggregate without anything new to say. No new thoughts no magic moments, just more activities in which process becomes product. The truly creative act is something else. It produces something which never existed before. Whether of minor consequence or great significance. A glimpse of the blindingly obvious ignited by the heat of the wires caused by short, circuiting thoughts. Insight is unreasoning.

Of course, what might appear to be a spontaneous thought may well have been a long time cooking in the unconscious.”

I think these two comments make powerful statements about true Creativity requiring a lot of work and space and dedication and support to allow it to find its way through because to “deliberately disorder all the senses” is a courageous and difficult thing to try. Reordering of the senses is about realigning meaning to everything or reassigning different meanings to things.

This is something I personally do a lot of and it has come to influence almost all of my art practice. I know how difficult it is to do and its consequences are sometimes very confusing. Sometimes by reassigning meaning, you actually rub up against society and the norms of society, which can be very powerful things. But generally, out of that Confusion comes a moment of absolute inspiration. This is the creative thought. This is a new thought, this is what allows me to perceive the future, and this would never have come to me if I had been told the intention of the lesson. So confusion can be a good thing. I wonder how much we allow our students to live in it. 

Creativity is so much more than providing an art lesson or finger painting or whatever other process-based work you would like to see an outcome to.. it is about a commitment to original thought and the difficult process that actually is.

Feel free to comment; these are just thoughts I am trying to better formulate in my own mind regarding teaching practice.

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