Warning: Doctor Who references.

My wife took this photo of our eldest and titled it ‘thinking inside the box.’ Beyond being an entertaining photo it symbolises my pet hate with the cliché ‘thinking outside the box’, especially in education.  It is no more than a habitual statement that gets used as a synonym for creativity. In some of my first lessons as a new teacher I used the expression …and my students voiced their stern dislike and boredom, and let me know just how often it gets used by teachers. The gauntlet was thrown down – why do they have such an issue with it?

After some probing it was clear… for many young people it implies that they need to ‘be someone else’ or ‘find ideas that are not your own’. Not that we as educators who use it don’t have the best intentions – we want to encourage students to find new, novel ideas and solutions. However they could and should emerge from what we already know. Each individual’s skills, experience and interests are already a rich pool of resources. We are all a Doctor Who when we open our metaphorical telephone booth and look at the ‘tardis’ of experience we bring with us. (definition of tardis here)

When we as teachers know what each student brings in their ‘tardis’ it gives us something to work with, rather than telling them to go be ‘creative’ without guidance. Knowing experience, passions, skills and interests gives us a framework to use and a starting point for creative process. Creativity can come from anywhere and be applied everywhere. Students should know how to play with their experience as a resource.

I have started with my senior theatre students. I have asked them to map out not only their skills and interest in theatre but in all areas. What inspires them and drives them? What do they think they are good at? What elicits that intrinsic motivation? Having this as a base is a great platform for me to help them make connections that they (or I) may not have thought of. This enables them to realise that at this point in time they have something to offer which can be molded into creative process, and a product. BOOM! Done. No searching for that crazy mind-blowing illusive idea.

Creativity is process and working through steps… In my context, theatre theory applied to student experience, knowledge and interest equals unique solutions to any given task. This is not only applicable to the Performing Arts, but all subject areas. Geometry principles applied to football; poetry applied to computer game scenarios; scientific process applied to cooking. The list is, of course, inexhaustible.

How can you apply it in your context?


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