Breaking the “Asking Known-Answer Question Syndrome”

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Reposted from MindShift:

Dr. James Kaufman, director of the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino and Dr. Ronald Beghetto, associate professor of Education Studies at University of Oregon, suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way. They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.

When kids leave high school, they become experts in what Beghetto calls the “asking known-answer-question syndrome.” They’ve learned it’s not really about how they understand it; it’s about how the teacher understands it and how she wants to hear it. That, then, becomes the definition of the “educated mind.”

This discussion may seem removed from the rubrics and standards that dictate teachers’ lives, but Kaufman and Beghetto argue that fostering creative thinking is not mutually exclusive to meeting standards. “We do need academic domain knowledge in order to be creative,” Beghetto said. “The standards can serve as guideposts, but these should not be the end that we are driving towards.” They argue that constraint is always present in creativity and that something like memorization can provide the tools for improvisation within a discipline.

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