Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We are asking the wrong question...

I am a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson. Robinson has penned two books, "The Element - How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything" and "Out of Our Minds - Learning to be Creative"

In these books, Robinson discusses the immense power of and need for creativity. He discusses the nature of creativity and his belief that creativity and the ability to think divergently (seeing many possible solutions to problems) is an ability we all have and that it decreases over time. This last claim is supported through research on problem solving in which people were asked questions like how many different uses they could come up with for a paper clip. The same subjects were asked in a longitudinal study that lasted 10 years. They asked them every 5 years (age 5, 10, and 15) and the number of possibilities they came up with decreased as they got older. They got worse! Robinson's claim is that by age the children had become "educated" into the idea that there is one answer and it is in the back of the book.

One of the central claims in the "Out of our Minds" book is that we often think of and measure intelligence wrong.

A great example of this theory is the question we often ask of ourselves and others "How intelligent are you?" The implied assumption behind this question is that intelligence is a singular and finite characteristic. Much like "How tall are you?" It implies that intelligence can be measured and defined as a specific trait or set of traits. Robinson argues the question we should be asking is "How are you intelligent?" Amazing what a difference the placement of one word; intelligent, makes. Moving that word changes those two questions entirely. Instead of intelligence as a singular, quantifiable trait, the second question portrays intelligence as a multitude of different abilities in a number of different areas. It assumes the intelligence of every individual. Rather than intelligence being something you either have or don't, it becomes something everyone has in varying amounts in many different areas.

I am convinced that the nature and culture of schools would change if we would stop asking the first question and started asking the second. What a great thing to ask kids whether they be in kindergarten, 12th grade, or anywhere in between.

On a related note, if you have not ever watched Ken Robinson speak, you really should. Two of his most popular talks have are "Is School Killing Creativity?" and "Bring on the Learning Revolution!" Those two talks are a "Cliff's Notes" of sorts for his books and are embedded below.

Make the day great!


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