Fostering Academic Creativity in Gifted Students
Academic creativity is a way of thinking about, learning, and producing information in school subjects such as science, mathematics, and history. Few experts agree on a precise definition, but when we say the word, everyone senses a similar feeling. When we are creative, we are aware of its special excitement.
Creative thinking and learning involve such abilities as evaluation (especially the ability to sense problems, inconsistencies, and missing elements); divergent production (e.g., fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration); and redefinition. Creative learning is a natural, healthy human process that occurs when people become curious and excited.
In contrast, learning by authority requires students to use thinking skills such as recognition, memory, and logical reasoning--the abilities most frequently assessed by traditional tests of intelligence and scholastic aptitude. Children prefer to learn in creative ways rather than just memorizing information provided by a teacher or parents. They also learn better and sometimes faster.
Three questions illustrate the difference between learning information provided by an adult or textbook and creative learning:
- In what year did Columbus discover America? (The answer, 1492, requires recognizing and memorizing information.)
- How are Columbus and an astronaut similar and different? (The answer requires more than memorization and understanding; it requires students to think about what they know.)
- Suppose Columbus had landed in California. How would our lives and history have been different? (The answer requires many creative thinking skills including imagining, experimenting, discovering, elaborating, testing solutions, and communicating discoveries.)
Creative Behavior of Young Children
Young children are naturally curious. They wonder about people and the world. By the time they enter preschool, they already have a variety of learning skills acquired through questioning, inquiring, searching, manipulating, experimenting, and playing. They are content to watch from a distance at first; however, this does not satisfy their curiosity. Children need opportunities for a closer look; they need to touch; they need time for the creative encounter.
We place many restrictions on children's desire to explore the world. We discourage them by saying "Curiosity killed the cat." If we were honest, we would admit that curiosity makes a good cat and that cats are extremely skilled in testing the limits and determining what is safe and what is dangerous. Apparently children, as well as cats, have an irresistible tendency to explore objects, and this very tendency seems to be the basis for the curiosity and inventiveness of adults. Even in testing situations, children who do the most manipulating of objects produce the most ideas and the largest number of original ideas.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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