Transforming your staff's potential

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thoughts on Creativity, Science, Exploration and Reflective Practice

My last post, discussed instructional design as a form of artistic expression. It inspired some great, thoughtful comments on balancing form and content, and on creativity. Michele Martin of The Bamboo Project wrote,

"Lately I've been thinking a lot about learning experiences as a form of artistic expression and part of what intrigues me is the process part and what it takes to get us as designers to a place where we are able to allow ourselves access to the creativity necessary for designing great learning experiences. It seems like we can get so hung up on design as some kind of rote, scientific activity that we can easily lose sight of the artistic side of things."

Michele made a great point. This got me thinking about varying perceptions (and sides) of science as it relates to creativity. Science is relied upon as the determiner of fact and truth, based on a method that demands reproducible outcomes. Once a fact or reliable process is established through scientific method, we rely on it and use it time and time again. This facet of science, the goal of identical outcomes and derivative uses, doesn't exactly seem to encourage improvisation.

However, another side of science, the "front end" so to speak, is that of exploration. Exploration and the testing of hypothesis is a profoundly creative act. This line of thought reminded me of this great list of ways to, " an Explorer of the World," I found on the Kamaldeep Dhillon blog recently (click on the list for a larger version):

This type of reflective exploration can lead to great growth and creativity by experimenting with / applying the observation to practice... observation, documentation, contemplation, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, experimentation/improvisation.... and, cycling around, the helix rises and widens.

Innovation should not be done at the expense of the learners' experience, however. How do we strike that balance? What checks and balances must be in place to ensure we do not sacrifice the effectiveness of the learning experience in our efforts to improve through creative change?

Read more at The Bamboo Project on Reflective Practice and the concept of the Helix in engagement and learning.


Michele said...

I love your continuation of this discussion, Mary, and love the list! This reminds me, though, of something I've been struggling with in terms of instructional design and our role in the learning process. Increasingly I think we are much less about designing content for digestion and much more about helping people understand the ways in which they learn and how to access the tools and content necessary for learning. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for "traditional" design in the learning process--there is--but I think that the missing piece is a guide to help learners understand how to structure their own learning so that it isn't just about digesting the pieces of what we create. Much to think about here. . .

Mary Williams: said...

Yes, I agree on all points. There is a spectrum in the "feed vs facilitate" choice. Factors such as, the willingness/self-motivated nature of the learners, the purpose of the learning (e.g. Is it for certification? Are there specific aquired skills that must be proven for the goal to be met? If the answers are yes, the training should be more structured, and content "fed" more.)

For all audiences, I believe your idea of teaching meta-learning skills is very valuable. Also teaching in the affective domain. The more learners understand the importance and value of the learning, and the more it is contextualized, the more motivated they will be. This also facilitates the "meaning-making" part of the learning process, making its transfer into use more likely and effective.