Podcast by Anna Terporten (honour’s student)
Creativity, education and the senses (esp. communication and spaces)
Hello and welcome to this podcast on creativity, education and the senses.
This podcast is being produced as part of Maastricht University’s Honours program at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The project Perfect Senses – Developing sense-based learning experiments with ideas how to create a more applied and practical approach to learning by including all our senses in the learning and teaching process.
We have used the past weeks to explore sensory learning by ourselves, by conducting experiments like a sensory walk in Maastricht.
A topic that has specifically sparked my personal interest was the concept of creativity. Being creative seems to flow very easily for some people, while others consider themselves as not specifically creative. However, many scholars believe that creativity is not so much a skill that only some people have, but that it is rather a communication channel that we can actively train and develop.
We have decided to present the outcome of our work of the past weeks in form of a podcast as listening is an important part of sensory learning. While listening, one’s own creativity is asked to create an inner picture of what is being said since visual stimulation is lacking. I also suggest you to listen to this podcast while doing something sensory – taking a walk, cutting vegetables for lunch, or taking care of your plants. It helps you to actually focus much better on the words you are hearing.
Now, let’s get started! Today, I would specifically like to talk about creativity in education and how we can effectively teach students how to be creative.
The concept of creativity
I would first like to introduce the concept of creativity to you. In the course of my research, I have discovered a very useful and insightful book about creativity that I would like to share with you: It is called Creativity – Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say Tschik-sent-mihali).
His definition of creativity is a very interesting one that also shows why creativity in education is so important. I quote him: “Creativity does not happen inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and a sociocultural context. It is a systemic rather than an individual phenomenon.”
How to include it in education?
How can we link this to our education systems now? Actually, the author particularly emphasizes that the domain in which a creative person works has an important impact.
First, in order to be creative, one has to learn “the rules of the game”. This means, one first must understand the general system: for example, to be a creative musician, one first has to learn how the notation system works and how to play an instrument. Creativity cannot occur in empty space but is always integrated in the sociocultural context. This also means that the field has to accept the creative idea that an individual proposes. Not all ideas, no matter how creative they are, are also good ideas. Education plays an important role: Individuals learn to distinguish which ideas are worth to pursue and which ones not. They learn to identify which ideas already exist, and only on this, they can build their own creativity. The field in which they work has a great impact on whether the ideas that individuals have are accepted by society.
The role of the senses
Ok, but why do our senses matter here? For this, we need to look into the role that our body plays in our learning experience.
The author Pallaasma points out that learning is a skill that is not founded on verbal teaching but that learning means to transfer a skill from the brain to the muscles through sensory perception (p. 770). He argues that the most important knowledge is not located in detached theories but it is the silent knowledge that we apply in our daily environment and behavioural situations. He demands that we should not undervalue the role that our body plays in our learning process.
You need an example? A group of researchers has done an interesting experiment: They have asked two groups of students to watch a scene of a walk through the campus. Both groups have only seen the environment with VR glasses. One group watched the environment while sitting, the other group watched the scene while in the same time walking through this environment. When asked to point at specific places within this environment on a map later, the group that has walked the way with VR glasses performed better. This shows that even though both groups had the same visual experience, the body plays a significant role in memorizing.
Moreover, Csikszentmihalyi also focuses on the role that the body plays in learning. One of the most central concepts of the book is flow. We are most productive when we work in flow. This is an experience where the work feels very enjoyable and natural: the next steps are clear; one is very aware and self-conscious about what one is doing; there are no distractions anymore. This is both a mental and a physical experience and flow as a physical experience supports and enhances the working process.
How can we teach to develop creativity?
This part of the podcast would like to propose solutions how we can make creativity part of our education systems.
- First, sensory learning, as it is part of this course, is one of the most relevant tools to introduce creativity in education, because creativity often occurs where new connections are being made between fields. Our body plays an important role in memorizing and learning is deeply anchored in bodily experiences. Sense-based learning is a crucial step in teaching students to use all senses which enhances the learning experience and helps them to stimulate the brain.
- We need to understand which skills belong to creativity: Creativity is not only a skill in itself but encompasses a broad range of different skills that we should start to include more actively in education. There are a lot of skills, but I would like to point out to three of them, to give an example.
- First, Communication and teamwork: creativity is not something only happens within yourself; rather, it is a process that develops while interacting with other people. We learn from others and they can spark our imagination. Therefore, we should actively include teamwork exercises in which students learn how to effectively communicate with others and include different sets of ideas
- Second, Csikszentmihalyi notices that creativity is the skill to adapt to almost any situation and to use whatever is at hand to achieve goals. We need to teach students to be solution-oriented and develop flexibility.
- Interest and enthusiasm are skills that are crucial to creativity, and that is also something that you can teach students. This also links to my last recommendation:
- Csikszentmihalyi points out that creative surroundings play a crucial role in developing creativity in individuals. No matter how creative a person is on her own, if not in the right environment, the ideas cannot unfold and develop. Therefore, teaching creativity in education is not only a subject matter, but much more about enabling and allowing for novelty and innovation. It is about encouraging students to be proactive and pursue their own ideas. The space in which one learns ultimately influences how creative one becomes.
Thank you very much for listening to this podcast.
I’d like you to pay some attention to creativity in your own life now. Explore and embrace settings that spark your own imagination and pay attention if your workplace or your university setting allows creativity. Actively pursue the places where you experience the feeling of flow. I believe that every individual is creative in one or the other way, and I would like to encourage you to find out where your own creative strengths are.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009) Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention (especially part I)
- Pallasmaa, J. (2007). Embodied experience and sensory thought. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 39(7), 769-772.
- Waller, D., Loomis, J. M., Haun, D. B. M. (2004). Body-based senses enhance knowledge of directions in large-scale environments. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11 (1), pp. 157-163.
- Chemi, T., Grams Davy S., Lund, B. (eds) (2017) . Innovative Pedagogy: A Recognition of Emotions and Creativity in Education
- “Pleasant Porridge” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License