Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Habits of Mind Meet Creative Development

By Sandra McNeil
Photo from here.
For several years our school has centered student learning, engagement and assessment around the Habits of Mind. These 16 habits which include “persisting”, “taking responsible risks”, “creating, imagining, innovating” “ remaining open to continuous learning” and “managing impulsivity” to name a few, function as a cornerstone of our program. They have become a point of reference to speak about students as whole learners and people instead of just assessing and reporting on their basic facts or ability to write a paragraph. This year I began to discover the role these habits play in creative development and creative practice.

In the first week of school homeroom teachers were charged with a beginning of the year task to create a class bulletin board presentation outlining one specific habit.  16 classrooms, 16 Habits of Mind, it worked out perfectly. Except, we only had 4 school days to pull it off and we were just getting to know our students. Not to mention the fact that the final product was essential and would be displayed for our whole school community. Talk about pressure to “create” on the spot. This is a task that could have taken an hour to do, which might include, a brief discussion, some quick ideas and slap it up on the board. However, I realized this could be an opportunity to set the tone of the class, to introduce students to the creative process and to come to understand the students as learners and collaborators. The Habit of Mind my class was designated was “Managing Impulsivity”.

To be totally honest, I was a bit disappointed. There are so many habits that seemed much more exciting to me, “responding with wonderment and awe” or “imagining, innovating and creating” or “finding humor”. After some initial thoughts my class actually entered a lively discussion about impulse shopping and thinking before you post online. Day one was complete and I started to become excited about the prospect of where our work might go.

My intention in the days that followed were to ensure every student felt heard, that each students ideas were valued and that every member of the class had a role in the creation of our board. I didn’t formally introduce my students to the 7 strands of creative development, I did however use them as a guide.  I have to admit there were times when I had to ask myself, am I investing too much time into this “bulletin board”? I felt myself constantly evaluating the value of such an experience.

I didn’t fully realize it until our final product was displayed and the students gazed upon it with pride, but my class used the process of creating this bulletin board as an opportunity to practice managing their own impulsivity, which also opened the door to experiencing the creative process and creative development. It is so easy to go with our first ideas or dismiss the ideas of others when creating something original. The process of creating this board was quite the opposite. Students generated ideas, shared them with each other and generated some more ideas. They collaborated, re-evaluated, asked for opinions and created prototypes. Every decision was carefully thought out and considered prior to being executed. The final product resulted in a fully collaborated creative display of our class’s ideas about the habit “Managing Impulsivity” but it also served as a space to truly live the habit in action.

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