Saturday, January 10, 2009

more on creativity and learning

More notes from Creativity and Learning: this time from an essay by Philip H Abelson called "Relation of Group Activity to Creativity in Science". I thought these four stages of creativity, apparently formulated by one Herbert Fox, were interesting.
  1. Preparation, involving thorough investigation of the problem by reading and experiment.
  2. Incubation, involving a conscious and unconscious mental digestion and assimilation of all pertinent information acquired.
  3. Illumination, involving the appearance of the creative idea, the creative flash.
  4. Verification, involving experimental testing of the creative idea.

Recently Harold Hughes has added two steps which should be included. His list is
  1. interest
  2. preparation
  3. incubation
  4. illumination
  5. verification
  6. exploitation

This was interesting to me because the stage of "illumination" is what is commonly thought of as creativity, but these "stages" take into account the work before and after the moment of illumination. Creativity thus seems to follow upon plenty of quality input AND time to process and connect seemingly disparate things, and the creative illumination is then followed by working out the details and validity of the creative discovery.

This article called No school like home talked about the value of informality in the homeschool in developing this creative process.

..A book just published by academics at the Institute of Education, University of London, is highly controversial. It argues that home education is a viable alternative to school up to the age of 14.

Alan Thomas, a visiting fellow in the institute's department of psychology and human development, and Harriet Pattison, a research associate, conclude that informal learning at home is an "astonishingly efficient way to learn", as good if not better than school for many children.

"The ease, naturalness and immense intellectual potential of informal learning up to the age of middle secondary school means they can learn certainly as much if not more," they say in How Children Learn at Home.

Thomas and Pattison interviewed and observed 26 families who home-educated, between them, more than 70 children. Some had been out of school for a couple of years, others had never been inside a school. Most were British, but a handful were Irish, Australian and Canadian.

The authors discovered that these children absorbed information mainly by "doing nothing, observing, having conversations, exploring, and through self-directed learning". They liken the "chaotic nature" of informal learning to the process that leads to scientific breakthroughs, the early stages of crafting a novel, coming up with a solution to a technical problem, or the act of composing music.

"Its products are often intangible, its processes obscure, its progress piecemeal," they say. "There are false starts, unrelated bits and pieces picked up, interests followed and discarded, sometimes to be taken up again, sometimes not... Yet the chaotic nature of the informal curriculum does not appear to be a barrier to children organising it into a coherent body of knowledge."

Thomas and Pattison acknowledge that critics will say home-educated children are likely to pick up information peppered with misunderstandings or inaccuracies, and parents may unwittingly pass on their own misconceptions. "Yet the lack of information quality-control does not appear to lead to muddled, confused children," they say.

"In some ways, it may be an advantage because, rather than presenting knowledge in neat packages, the informal curriculum forces learners to become actively engaged with their information - to work with it, move it around, juggle ideas and resolve contradictions... It is not a static thing contained in a series of educational folders. It is alive and dynamic."
The article went on to say that:

Contrary to expectations, the home-educated children had no difficulty entering formal education, the authors found. The informal curriculum is "as good a preparation as any" for college, university or academic correspondence courses, they say. "The young people had the personal skills to make the transition with apparent ease."

This seems to be in line with what I've noticed about my homeschool through the years. There has been sort of a mystery in the spaces. Sometimes nothing seems to be happening, but it is usually not so. Aidan is suddenly spelling words and asking what they say, and can read the time off a digital clock, and can count to 100 with a little help. Paddy is comparing the tale of the Woozles, in the Pooh story, to the Thompsons getting lost in the desert in his Tintin book. And these are just the intellectual things I happen to notice because they are on my "list" in some way. There are all sorts of other things happening in quiet. Understanding this, I've tried to allow silences and spaces or tried to tolerate them, at least, though they sometimes make me uncomfortable.

The "stages of creativity" seem to echo in some ways the process of what goes on under the surface of our home life in the way of learning. I can sometimes see the interest and preparation; I don't always see the "incubation" or even the actual moment of illumination; I sometimes only know what has been happening at the verification or "exploitation" stage, when the child is able to demonstrate or use his knowledge in some way.


1 comment:

Laura A said...

I agree, Willa. Our homeschool has always been predicated on these kinds of ideas. Not that I haven't had my moments of doubt, and I especially remember worrying for a while that I needed to teach history chronologically, but I do find that using the child's interests and having some time to incubate thoughts are both extremely important.

Also, someone commented about that very same article on my Library Thing page recently, so I read it just last week. I think she commented because I have one of the older Alan Thomas books (saw it on Susan L.'s shelf) and not many other people do. Through a link from this article I found out that Thomas has written several other books, and apparently they're all full of evidence that informal learning succeeds. I haven't found such straightforward and thorough books in the U.S., where of course there are many more homeschoolers. Thomas really seems to be interested in the details, yet somewhat objective.