How to meet your students where they are

By | 2017-09-27T21:47:55+00:00 June 23rd, 2017|For teachers|0 Comments

If you are a teacher, you probably recognise them in your classroom: the students who can take a vague idea and run with it totally independently versus  the students who need very specific instructions to get anywhere with the creation they are working on. If you asked them to label themselves, they would likely use “creative” and “not creative”.

It’s not unusual for people to give themselves these labels.  The notion that you are “not creative”, however, is caused by the societal perception of creativity. If creativity means “world class painter,” then yes, you might see yourself as “not creative.” But creativity is not just about end results or artistic skills. Far from it.

The ability to think creatively, and thereby solve problems, is a skill we all possess. But different people require different frameworks around them to make their creative thinking abilities thrive.

This is where teachers play an important role.

All students have creative capabilities

Let’s break down the creative process to better understand its elements and how we can support the self-directed students, as well as the ones that need guidance and instruction. The elements are: Understand the System, Get Inspiration, Plan & Create, Doubt, Share and Feedback.

It’s important to keep in mind that the phases in the creative process are not linear and may appear several times during a given period of time.

1. Understand the system

In this phase,  students get to know the tools they will be working with. This could be done through  teacher-led introduction or by pairing up the students and letting them explore the tools together. For students that need guidance, a teacher-led introduction is often a good start, whereas the self-directed students may benefit from exploring on their own.

2. Get inspiration

Once the students know how to use the tool at hand, it’s time to find inspiration. When students have a huge range of interesting material to choose from, they are motivated to engage with it and take it upon themselves to explore, research, discover and learn.

On Creatubbles, students are able to explore different types of creations shared by a global community. For instance, students who are learning coding can visit the Scratch gallery to see the different types of animations and games that creators have programmed. Likewise, students can get inspiration for their Minecraft assignments by exploring the Minecraft creations on Creatubbles.

A Minecraft waterslide

“YAY! Water Slide!” was made by creator Aquuavera in Finland, at 9 years old. This Minecraft creation is featured in the Minecraft Mod gallery on Creatubbles. Teachers are encouraged to explore the gallery for more inspiring ideas for Minecraft activities.

3. Plan & Create

In this phase, the students plan what to make. While the self-directed students often need no more than a word of encouragement or a validation of their ideas, the students who need guidance may need  attention. These students benefit from video instructions, step-by-step guides or use a finished creation as an example to work from. You will usually find that  most of these students  end up creating something original that doesn’t look exactly like the instruction. That’s because all they needed was a starting point.  Even if their creation looks like the original, they will have used creative-thinking in order to achieve their final result.

One of Creatubbles’ super teachers, Serenella Piermarini knows how to differentiate the creative process elements to include both the self-directed students and the students in need of guidance. For example, an art class, was  tasked to make a marketing campaign for Creatubbles. The self directed students were grouped together and quickly developed a number of ideas to run with. To help the students that needed guidance, Serenella set up a joint brainstorming exercise. This resulted in an idea that was turned into a printed template for these students to work from. You can see some of the template creations in this gallery, and some creations from the self-directed students are located in this gallery.

As a result, all students had a fun time and worked with creative thinking and problem solving on their own level.

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4. Doubt

Doubt is a natural part of creating. Depending on where the student is on the “self directed – needs guidance” scale, they will need different types of encouragement. The self directed student might benefit from a constructive criticism that will result in them deconstructing and reconstructing their creation. The student that relies on instructions may just need help to get back on track if something causes difficulty.

5. Share

An important part of the creative process is to share your work. If your students have worked with their own individual creative process on their own level, they are much more likely to enjoy and be proud of sharing their creativity. Teachers can allow their students to present their work in-class, or hold a school-wide exhibition. On Creatubbles, teachers can showcase their students’ work in class galleries, and even invite students all over the world to share their creations in a global gallery.

Artist trading cards

“ATC’s from the Swap” ws shared by teacher MiniMatisse. The creation was featured in the MiniMatisse’s Global Artist Trading Card Swap gallery on Creatubbles, which encouraged students all over the world to upload their creations into. Teachers can hold their own global campaigns by creating open galleries on Creatubbles.

6. Feedback

Especially to the insecure student, feedback can be difficult to tackle unless it’s served in the right way. Encouraging students to focus on positive peer feedback is essential to a continuous nurturing of the creative process. The same goes for teachers. Keep your eye on the ball: your goal is to nurture creative-thinking and problem-solving, not to criticize whether  a student used non-complementary colors in a color wheel assignment.

What’s important is the process, not the goal

Regardless of whether your students work best from their own imagination or from  step by step instruction, they will develop their creative thinking abilities, if you just provide the right framework. This means differentiating the way they work and the way you support them as a teacher. We hope this blog post has inspired you to do so.

 

 

 

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Trine Falbe has been working professionally with Internet-related things since 2001. She is a lecturer, author, speaker and UX researcher specialising in design for children.