Critical thinking – or why we should encourage creativity in higher education

Posted by: admin at November 9th, 2013

Human creativity processes are a true miracle even for the scientists in the area, since they can’t be artificially developed and represent a form of exclusive human behavior, differing at the same time from a person to another in such manner that the chance that one thousand made to speak on the same topic, say a famous painting or a band they all like, will say the approximate same things is so unlikely that’s almost impossible. Rarely can you find resemblances between two people’s opinions from that crowd of subjects made speak on the topic in cause. And why is this a highly important thing to be taken into consideration by all the representatives of higher education? Because this fact has to be connected with another extremely important one, as it follows.

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Think of the unpredictability rate concerning how world is going to look like in a dozen years. It’s not only groundless to make assumptions and presumptions, but also tedious somehow. Technology, politics, education itself are following some trends that twenty years ago were so unlikely to happen that it was almost useless for anyone to have tried to make a foresight. The capacity for innovation makes us evolve in ways that you’d think are not only implausible, but almost impossible as well.

And yet let’s take a look at the higher education today. Asia’s top universities are experiencing tremendous scientific competition, and have spectacularly evolved in the past two decades, online education and home schooling are gaining more and more terrain because of the reliability and glibness, yet the classical university framework still exists and disputes its territory on the worldwide tops.

And what does this have to do with creativity? Connecting the capacity of innovation with the improbability to anticipate the future trends and directions of evolution will take us to a multitude
of possible directions where no anticipation is necessary. Universities will, therefore, encourage creative thinking instead of just solving rigid tasks, this way helping any of these directions come true and develop into a future trend or set of concepts around which the academic activity will blossom as well.

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Classical means of teaching such as lectures can’t even attract the students the way they used to when our parents were in school. Why is that? Because of the stimuli explosion that we’re getting in contact with every day from which we have empirically learned that any impulse has to be powerful enough for us to keep focused and not only content-wise, but formally and structurally speaking as well.

Exploiting creativity at the level of college students is important, but clearly not enough. The association and free thinking has to be encouraged from primary school, because – as any other capacity, imagine the locomotory one – creativity drastically diminishes over time if it’s not frequently and constantly used. Therefore, encouraging it means giving new lines of thought to the university studies in the future as well instead of just adapting to a new trend. Making universities creative incubators is being one step forward concerning all types of research in any domain you can think of. It’s focusing on encouraging trend genesis and commencement, walking off the beaten path.

We barely acknowledge the existence of creativity in most of the fields in higher education today, while many neuroscientists have shown that favoring its manifestations of all kind is in itself a sign of well-being inside the paradigms that we’re scientifically supporting.

What to do. Three basic steps

It’s also a sign of critical thinking, as we promised to link to you. Acting critical inside an educational system supposes questioning every supposed fact in order to falsify it and give something better in return or, perhaps more than just this, moving forward with the conclusions of someone else who’s been researching in the domain before the new student generations. The value addition is not only thought provoking, but a very pragmatic consent we’ll have to unanimously admit: drawing new paths and sketching directions rather than just following the already assigned ones.

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These changes can’t, though, be made overnight, but through some policy making devised in some steps to be followed, as a guide, by the professors and class holders (regardless their function). Being open to change is the first thing to be done and formally encouraged. Creativity doesn’t just occur, it has to be determined, maintained and managed.

Challenge. Such constant tasks represent a quality mechanism that works like a slippery slope in the causal chain of task – work – performance and raises the involvement rate and the active interest of the students significantly. All the innovative solutions brought have to be further exploited in other directions in order to raise responsibility and awareness concerning the relevance index that they attribute to the projects they’re working on. A very important factor are the environmental conditions that have to be designed flexibly enough to encourage problem solving as a general thinking direction.

Another very good and already used strategy to some level in universities is organizing the traditional research team in clusters, in order to encourage communicating and to maximize the inputs. The scientific challenges would be more punctual and specific this way and the thinking processes would focus exclusively on the methods and results instead of planning and structuring the duties and tasks. Combining top-down and bottom-up thinking is a great approach combination designed to create a perspective without the possibility of ignoring important details.

Accepting failure. Encouraging rational intellectual risk taking is vital in keeping the creativity level high and the people motivated. Just as brainstorming is believed not to work in larger groups than 3-4 members because of the reluctance of having all the ideas exposed in public, raising the acceptance level of wrong assumed directions consequently attracts directly proportional creativity level and, further, a higher accountability level in all the developing projects.

Interdisciplinary connections. The occidental paradigm today follows the idea that a researcher or scientist in a certain field has to have a very specific specialization in order to maximize the in depth approach and to validly contribute to the scientific community with relevant, distinctive outcomes.

While this direction is perfectly understandable and respectable, as being believed to have brought really significant scientific conclusions under this concept, interdisciplinary connections are welcome in order to widen the connection – making processes as part of the transduction and analogy – based perspectives. This method is especially valid for the connected or complementary fields, since the comparisons may stand easier when exposed to different falsificability criticism.

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