Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
June 18th, 2013 by Luann

Creativity and Science, Part 4

It’s been almost 2 years since we attended Learning and the Brain.

The first 3 posts are linked below.  I’ve had a while to implement some new ideas and process this topic. Anecdotal evidence from my own classroom began to show me that creativity in the secondary science classroom is different; in science, one must know something in order to create something new. I began to pay more attention to the push for creativity on social media. Here’s what I’m learning.

  • Often, creativity in the science classroom parallels “Activitymania*” a phrase coined by Hedy Moscovici in Science and Children Article*.
  • Most people promoting the need for creativity and maker-ism are not science teachers or scientists, nor do they appear to have much experience or knowledge in science.
  • If (former) science teachers or people trained in the sciences promote creativity in young science students, they are connected in some way to a corporate interest.
  • And, most obviously important: To create in science, you have to know something first.

I’m still convinced that in order to create something in science, the creator much know something first. I’ve found validation in more than one source.

Firstly, Graham Wallas’ model of thought contains four stages for creative thinking (from the English 194 wiki of a student):

  • Preparation: An assessment of the desired, creative application in the appropriate field of study
  • Incubation: Disengagement from the creative process; Wallas encouraged detachment from the creative objective as a means of stimulating thought
  • Illumination: Discovery; Illumination is characterized as being a sudden, epiphany-like affirmation; “Eureka!”
  • Verification: The successful application of an “illumination” by the creative thinker

A recent article at BrainPickings details each stage. (I love Brainpickings and have made a donation. You should, too. ) Note the description of the Preparation stage features scientists. Note also that they are women.

Creative thinking and scientific thinking require two distinct skill sets. Can students learn both at the same time? Probably, IF each skill is presented intentionally. Project-based learning, done well, is content-rich while providing opportunity for authentic and creative engagement with community.

An accomplished science teacher knows students and the pedagogy needed to facilitate the learning of science. Many probably also know and practice thinking creatively. It’s the integration of both lines of thought and then facilitating that in learners that escapes me. A book authored by a speaker at Learning and the Brain lends ideas on the integration of scientific and creative thought. I’m working through the book now, hoping for better understanding of integrating the creativity part.  There’s also a workbook, but I will reserve judgement until I’ve finished reading and implementation. I’ve skimmed the workbook and found a disappointing reference to the hypothesis as an “educated guess” on page 102. I’m on alert for more misconceptions as I read.

It’s clear that my initial reaction that creativity in science requires knowledge and skills is not mine alone. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

* Moscovici, H., & Nelson, T. H. (1998). Shifting from Activitymania to Inquiry. Science and Children, 35(4), 14-17, 40. NSTA doesn’t seem to have this article archived, and I can’t find it online anywhere.

Previous Creativity posts:

Creativity and Science, Part 1
Creativity and Science, Part 2
Science and Creativity, Part 3

Image By Wildjinjer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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