Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CPD: Creativity and Critical Thinking in Higher Education - Week 3

Week 3 of my Continuing Professional Development qualification in "Creativity and Critical Thinking in Higher Education" being delivered by the DIT  Learning, Teaching & Technology Centre.

Really, really enjoying this module.


We started with Roisin and Jen asking each group giving a verbal presentation of their ideas from the Ideas Exchange activity, concerning dealing with large classgroups:

  • Team Digital  Immigrants proposed the use of a combination of Role playing and Problem-based Learning, to help develop real-life skills.
  • Team TELOS suggested the use of Socratic questioning, with the Six Thinking Hats, and Clickers
  • Team JEEVI suggest the use of Audience Response Systems (e.g. Clickers) to anonymously poll students
  • Team FiveStar (my team) proposed the idea of dividing the large group into smaller groups.

Research indicates that peer learning can have a significant impact on student achievement, and for many students is more impactful than tutor teaching. When dealing with large classgroups there is a danger of students feeling anonymous, yet by creating structured opportunities for students to interact with each other in small groups in focused activities, can potentially result in a more personalised and more positive experiences, for example if the students are given a specific activity to do and agree to conduct themselves to a code of positive behaviour towards their classmates, they can feel more ownership and responsibility towards their learning. The use of technology such as clickers can be very useful to gauge the effectiveness of peer learning to both the students and lecturer alike. On the other hand when students in a large class are grouped into teams then the performance of the students can be assessed by both their peers (voting - as Randy Paush suggests four tasks and four votes) and the lecturer.

Reflection: Team TELOS won, well done. I know Edward would be upset with the guys suggesting that different groups use different hats, rather than all hats used by all groups, but in practice I think what TELOS suggested is very practical.


Next we were presented with the option of going to two of three talks on creativity, as a team we speard ourselves out so that each talk was seen by at least two people. As there were four of us, each of who could go to two talks, and a total of three talks, the following simple equation:
told us that the best spread would be to make sure that two people go to one talk and three people go to the two other talks.

Talk #1: Nurturing and Developing Creativity

This presentation was given by Kerry Meakin, and was in two parts, the first involved us as a group undertaking activities in the room, the second was a PowerPoint presentation focusing on research done in this area.

The activities included holding hands, identifying people by their hands with your eyes closed, then walking around and role playing that we were on a bench, on a cliff, in a bathtub. Then crouching down very small, and then expanding and filling out our spaces. Then we pretended we were playing musical instruments, and finally had to sell an item to each other for €250,000.

Reflection: Kerry is an excellent lecturer and has a really wonderful way of interacting with people. The techniques she advocates obviously work for her and really seem to generate a sense of fun. It definitely wasn't my cup of tea, it's not how I conceptualise creative thinking, and I think these things tend to ghettoise the concept of creativity.

The second part of the presentation focused on the research aspects of Kerry's work, which cites important researchers, including; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Howard Gardner, Ellis Paul Torrance, and Donald Treffinger.

Reflection: I found this element of the presentation to be very interesting, and it appealed much moreso to what I understand the concept of creativity to be.

Talk #2: Technology-Supported Creativity

This presentation by Barry Ryan focused on  the use of technology to support creativity, his focus was on "students as producers" as opposed to consumers. Highlighting Biggs (2003) quote “Learning cannot be transmitted by direct instruction, but is created by the students learning activities” and Neary (2009) focus on “Real Life, Complex and Unstructured research-like activities”. With the key pedagogical unpinning supports being Cousins (2006) Threshold Concepts, and Bruner (1966) Spiral Curriculum.

Barry says the goal of the activities are to develop student engagement - developing activities that make the students want to take part in activities, and that this would constitute active higher order thinking processes.


Barry uses Peerwise to get the students to develop multi-choice questions for each other, and other students get to vote and to comment on the questions. This is a powerful form of peer-learning, where students get to think about the materials being covered, and support each other in their understanding of the topics being covered. The students love using Peerwise and will work for hours on developing the best questions, and like the asynchronous nature of the activities.

Barry has a model of how the students develop their understanding using Peerwise, it is somewhat like Laurillard's Conversational Model:

Barry gets the students to work in groups of four, to look at any topic in biochemistry, and produce a three minute video on that topic. The group must do the research, develop storyboards, produce the video, do a show and tell, and undertake a reflection. The videos are reviewed using "two stars and a wish". Developing these videos produce tangible life skills.

Reflection: Wow, Barry uses technology in exciting and active ways that I think help the students engage more fully in their learning, and be active in their learning.

Infographic Assignment

 The rest today's class was time to work on our assignment, we focused on what the intended audience of the infographic is, which is lecturers, and we want the infographic to empower lecturers to try new approaches to teaching higher order thinking, with a focus on tools as well as theory.

  • Biggs. J. 2003, "Teaching for Quality Learning at University – What the Student Does" 2nd Edition SRHE / Open University Press,
  • Csikszentmihalyi, ., 1998, "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life". Basic Books
  • de Bono, E., 1985, "The Six Thinking Hats", Penguin. 

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