IATEFL Poland: Creative teaching, creative learning by Carol Read (Plenary)

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Is Picasso’s version of the Velazquez painting “Las Meninas” merely a copy? No, it’s a creative reinvention! This is how Carol Read made her first point of the presentation: creativity never comes from thin air. So for Picasso, “Las Meninas” was an inspiration. But it was also an obsession – a theme he revisited over and over, for no other reason than his own drive to do so:  this drive, or ‘flow’ (Czikszentmihalyi) is a second characteristic of creativity. Continuing her introductory remarks, Carol pointed out that creativity requires a framework. “Freedom comes with having a tight brief”. And finally, discipline: being creative involves effort and attention to detail.

After these opening remarks on the nature of creativity, Carol moves on to the classroom. In this context, it is generally agreed and accepted that creativity is a good thing, yet few people seem to be able to say what it actually is.  And so the greater part of the talk is devoted to this theme. This could easily have been a dauntingly theoretical powerpoint presentation, with endless dry bullet points. However, Carol avoided this and was able to carry the audience along by presenting the ideas in a storyline – a kind of spoof of the fairy tale genre. Among the ideas covered in this section of the talk were the distinction between creative teaching, teaching for creativity and creative learning. There were also tips for promoting creativity in the classroom, such as providing a framework, building self-esteem, giving choice and ownership, and avoiding the routinized initiation-response-feedback pattern of classroom discourse.

The presentation concluded with a set of  what-NOT-to-do tips – classroom procedures which are actually barriers to creativity. These included spoon-feeding, throwing in the deep end, undervaluing student contributions or working with an over-crowded curriculum which allows no space.

Overall, a compelling argument in favour of creative teaching and learning, plus some practical pointers of what we might do to achieve that. An inspiring presentation to start a conference with.

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