Tonight's session was facilitated by Garfield Gini-Newman of TC2. Although I'd had some prior exposure to the 3Cs and related material, this was the first time I'd had the opportunity to delve into critical thinking pedagogy in a somewhat more formal format.
The session really, really appealed to me, both philosophically/ pedagogically and practically...
The 1.5 hours focussed on critical thinking vs creativity. More specifically, Garfield facilitated us in exploring what it means to be "creative", why creativity is an important skill, and how we can nuture said skill in our students.
Creativity is Robust
Garfield addressed the fact that often, creative thinking is mistaken for something "light" or "fluffy", and he assured us that it was in fact more substantial a concept, and could be described as "thinking in the face of criteria". Moreover, he noted that the "creative process", done right, was not something just reserved for the Arts, but rather, that it could and should be applied in all subject areas.
More specifically, Garfield defined creativity as something beyond just "undisciplined brainstorming" -- he noted that it is targeted, purposeful and contextualized”, and that in fact, creativity by definition requires "production" that is both novel and valuable.
So, then, something "creative" can be assessed according to a set of criteria.
Critical Thinking Framework
I really enjoyed this session because it allowed me to learn more about the TC2 Critical Thinking framework, and to consider its implications for my professional interests.
As both a classroom teacher and someone who has taught university level courses on "Classroom Management", I have long been aware of the importance of creating a safe and inviting learning environment. As someone with a keen interest in program and assessment, I also feel relatively confident in my ability to create rich learning tasks. But tonight's session helped me to consider the missing link between these two important classroom ingredients...
Engaged, Ethical, Entrepreneurial
John Seely Brown, in this provocative, 12-minute video, encourages us to consider how and why we might help our students become engaged, ethical and entrepreneurial citizens. Garfield shared the first few minutes at this evening's session:
Later in the session, Garfield pointed out that in order to truly develop this creativity that is such an integral component of critical thinking, we must enable students to become "flexible" thinkers, that is, that we must help them master how to down-shift and up-shift cognitive control.
I was introduced to Blind Variation and Selective Retention (or BVSR), some elements of which I recognized from "Gifted" Teacher conferences I had attended long ago...
BVSR in relation to creative thinking is a two-step process:
FIRST, it is critical to remove the filter (i.e. to have no criteria) ; the more ideas generated during this phase, the better, because there is a greater chance of coming across something truly brilliant! (We discussed ways of doing this, for example, by changing audience, time and space, etc. Garfield also pointed out the importance of reducing or eliminating social stress, for example, by having students work independently first, before collaboratively sharing ideas.)
The SECOND step increases cognitive control in order to evaluate ideas. This is when evaluation and judgement come into play, as students evaluate -- perhaps according to a set of co-constructed criteria -- their ideas, eliminating some and selecting others to develop further.
Time for Creative, Rich Tasks that Span the Learning Cycle
With regards to the rich tasks, which we've -- in recent tradition -- referred to as summative assessment or performance tasks, it was suggested that we instead begin with said tasks, using them as an invitation to students to practise and develop their cognitive flexibility, and to learn as they speculate, question, research. Such tasks or academic challenges can be played with and explored over time, and revisited often as students become creative, critical thinkers.
It became clear tonight that "Creativity is NOT inspired by the pressure of time"!
Thanks, Garfield, for giving us an hour and a half of YOUR time to explore these amazing concepts!! :)