I was disappointed (but not surprised) to hear on the news today, that “Creative subjects” – which include Art, Music, Drama, and Design and Technology, are being squeezed yet again in the secondary school curriculum. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996)
As someone deeply rooted in the ‘hard sciences’, and without any artistic or musical talent (as family and friends will attest), I strongly believe that neglecting these subjects is reductive, will diminish the educational experience, and undermine students ability to excel as they progress to work or higher education. As an academic trying to embed and foster creativity in STEM disciplines, I recognise the value that providing a space for students to use their imagination can provide, it is paramount that today’s scientist and engineers have the ability to create new ideas or insights, and we can only stimulate this type of creative thinking by practicing it in our teaching and providing learning environments that foster creativity.
The Webster dictionary defines creativity as “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas”; this simple definition encompasses making or constructing of ideas that are ‘new’ to the individual. When Nobel Physicist, Richard Feynman wrote on his blackboard, “What I cannot create I do not understand”, he was reminding himself (and his students) that unless you can take a concept or a theory apart, so that you can understand each individual step, you did not truly understand it.
Other definitions of creativity focus on the use of imagination, and although some of us may struggle to convert the ideas in our heads to a physical artefact; spending time in that explorative space allows us to think more deeply, test our own understanding and views, opens us up to inter-disciplinary conversations - and of course exposes us to failure.
At the HEASTEM conference this week we will be hearing from Academics across the STEM disciplines through workshops, posters and presentations on creative approaches they have taken to their teaching, and how they provide learning environments that foster creativity. The keynote speaker on day one, Dr Gareth Loudon, will explore how his students are taught how to use design thinking to generate new ideas of value, and how to translate those ideas into new products and services.
Whilst we can argue about what creativity is, and whether it can be taught, it is critical that we use, evaluate and share our ideas in this area. As we prepare our graduates for a rapidly changing workplace, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used in more roles, which were previously considered graduate jobs, it is useful to remember that AI is not very good at jobs that require creativity, imagination and other ‘human’ characteristics, and these are the attributes that will contribute to long term student success.
If you want to find out more join the joint Twitter Chat at 20:00 (GMT), 31st January 2018. Follow the conversation: #HEAchat #LTHEchat.
Follow the conference #HEASTEM18