Creative mindset for teachers

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Creative mindset for teachers

Postby Woravut » 31 May 2016 12:21

Once we do the same thing over and over, we may live a world we are familiar with, and lose creativity in our life.

Can you share with us how we can cultivate (or freshen our) creative mindsets, especially when we teach?
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Re: Creative mindset for teachers

Postby Richard » 31 May 2016 15:03

Most of my more creative ideas for teaching come from outside teaching (and I'm more creative when teaching undergraduates than when teaching PhD students). For example, when I teach LNG107 I start each lesson with an activity that requires serious thinking (I did one of these in Linguistics last semester about deciding how many and which cards you would need to choose to see whether a given rule was true or false with a follow-up on identifying whether people are drinking legally or illegally). These ideas normally come from my general reading (e.g. books about science or psychology).
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Re: Creative mindset for teachers

Postby sgtowns » 05 Jun 2016 11:33

Woravut wrote:Can you share with us how we can cultivate (or freshen our) creative mindsets, especially when we teach?

This is a great question. I think that the keyword here is "cultivate", with the implied meaning that creativity is something that we have to always work on. It is not just a one-step, do-it-and-forget-it activity.

I teach an MBA course called "Fostering a Culture of Innovation", and one of the topics that we discuss is called "Divergent Thinking". There are four aspects of Divergent Thinking:

  • Defer Judgement
  • Go for Quantity
  • Make Connections
  • Seek Novelty

What Richard was talking about is a great example of "making connections", where your ideas come from completely unrelated fields. This is a little bit easier said than done, but the readings from my innovation course advise that "There are many ways to do so: read broadly, travel to new places, interact with others outside of your field, etc." (Puccio, Mance, Switalski, & Reali, 2012).

I think the first two items in the list of divergent thinking are also very useful, and relatively easy to do. They can both be done with brainstorming, where you try to get as many ideas down on paper (going for quantity) without worrying about whether or not they are good ideas (deferring judgement) at first. Then, when you have a long list of ideas, you can pick out ones that are the most useful for you. And of course brainstorming with other people is even better, because sometimes someone else's ideas will spark something in your own mind.

And by the way, I don't think that the strategies for being more creative depend on what activity you are doing. You can use the same approaches whether you want to be creative in your teaching, or in your research, or in your personal life.


Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., Switalski, L. B., & Reali, P. D. (2012). Principles for divergent and convergent thinking: Becoming a better creative thinker. In Creativity Rising: Creative thinking and creative problem solving in the 21st century (pp. 51–70). Buffalo, NY: ICSC Press.
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Re: Creative mindset for teachers

Postby daronloo » 05 Jun 2016 12:22

Perhaps allowing unconventional ways of thinking would help teachers be creative (readme: I am not sure if my response is directly related to the question, but perhaps it will shed some insight into how we could cultivate and encourage creative thinking).

I remember two years ago I was teaching an undergraduate semantics course (we have since removed the class because our external curricular advisory committee felt that this course was too advanced for undergraduates). One of the topics that we covered was the possible interpretations of utterances (simply put).

I remember one sentence that was being discussed in this lesson was "He cut the cake". The class was supposed to come up with two lists - one list stating the plausible ways for the cake to be cut, and the other list with impossible ways for the cake to be cut. Students were all participative, but there were two students, who kept playing the devil's advocate. They would argue with other students on how 'cutting cake with a knife was not the only way because cakes could be cut with bare hands too, or a piece of paper, or anything sharp or forceful enough'. I had to tell them to stop because we were not getting anywhere close to finishing the lesson. One of them left my class (he even left his bag in the classroom) because I told them to stick to the lesson.

What they were doing was pushing the boundaries of how things are typically understood - which is good for 'creative thinking', but what they were contributing did not necessarily contribute to the understanding of the lesson. Furthermore, the lack of control also led the class no where. What I am saying here is though unconventional ways of thinking may force people to really evaluate their thoughts, but without any goals or objectives, unconventionality may be useless.
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