Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reflections on a month of Creative Exploration

I’ve been participating in a Creative Exploration (CE) with a group of 6 people for the past month. We’ve been thinking and talking about themes of Critical and Creative Thinking, and exploring how a course might be developed focused on these themes. Below are headings for the major categories I’ve been thinking about.

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking about the teaching of creative thinking. I’ve been inspired by one of the participants’ use of “studio” as a metaphor for creative space, safe space, a lab, workshop, group, or team. Thinking about an educational endeavor through this lens is innovative; it turns the classroom into a place to experiment and try new things rather than a depository of knowledge for the teacher to impart to the students. This is especially relevant for adult and graduate students who already bring knowledge and insights to the educational process. Thinking of “school” as “studio” makes space for the instructor to be someone who, as my doctoral advisor Leonard Sweet always said, “organizes learning.”

The studio also becomes a sacred space. The word holy means “set apart for a specific purpose/use.” A program designed around students coming to a studio (whether actual or virtual I would argue) that has been specifically identified as a location to learn, grow and express creativity becomes “holy” in the set apart aspect. This can have deep meaning for students.

Finally, this metaphor of studio very much reminds me of my personal metaphor of a “ropewalk,” the long alleys in a industrial-era town where rope was made by taking various strands of hemp and braiding them together to create a strong rope.

Transformative Experiences
As this group has shared a bit of our stories around the Google Hangout space, one piece that many of us have in common is a transformative experience that has involved travel to another country or culture. For me, I have been shaped and profoundly changed by travel to war-torn countries, places of extreme poverty, as well as countries where I didn’t speak the language. Sometimes one location encompassed all three.

Upon further reflection, it was these trips and locations that provided clarity for a sense of vocation and call. Away from the familiar gave space for God to speak and for my heart to be open to new possibilities.

In an innovative educational setting, creating spaces and experiences for students to move outside of comfort zones and visit another culture would be beneficial.

Creative Thinking
This past week I reflected on how one becomes “creative.” In a class I’m teaching, we discussed the formation of creative ideas. The list the class came up with basically fell in to two categories: under pressure, and in times of quiet and space.

As I thought about facilitating a course that focuses on creativity, I wondered how in this current technological climate one might find the appropriate space to allow creativity to find it’s voice. Coupled with this I also started thinking about the spiritual practice of “attending” or listening. How does an academic program prescribe times of silence and solitude in order to foster critical and creative thinking? With the lure of 24/7 connections will students unplug?

I’m part of another G+ community that has been discussing the role of meditative science and there are interesting conversations happening around the ideas of meditation and focused brain activity.

Challenge: Moving
The challenge from my colleagues in the CE was to think of a way for a group to move from the studio out into the world or to move from contemplation to action.

I think this movement forward happens through the power of community. Creating cohorts in higher education, especially cohorts where the students are concerned about the learning of their peers is one way to create but also to move people outside the studio.

This is a challenge in an individualistic, research-based PhD program, but if implemented would make this program stand out in a creative way.

Ideas for implementation could include: 1) having an online component to every course where the students would be encouraged to share research and ideas, sort of a G+ community for feedback and conversation around their studies. Include a place for students to share personal “how’s life” type events so the group can cry or celebrate with the student. Create community in the Studio.
2) Involve fellow students by providing each other with feedback and evaluation on research. Invite collaboration on student projects and create a sense of team.

In March 2013, I created a Prezi and shared it with my administration for a theological MA program that I am proposing at Tabor College. I attach the link here knowing that it needs adjustment and I need to make changes to represent some of what I’ve mentioned above, but it’s a visual representation of what I’m thinking could be done to implement some of these concepts.