Coaching Students to Think
I have bought a book titled ‘Why Asians are less creative than Westerners’ by Dr. Ng Aik Kwang several years ago. The book features many good suggestions for Asian teachers who want to develop creativity in their students.
The book tells us about the lecture on students’ creativity development by ProfessorLee Yuan Tseh, a Chinese scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. This however does not benefit only students in science field, but also to those in all fields of education and working adults as well. There are 6 suggestions as follows:
Professor Lee Yuan Tseh (Source: nobelprize.org )
1. Students should practice thinking by themselves. Self-learning comes before teaching by teachers.
Teachers should not provide students with ready-to-use solutions. Instead, they should provoke the students by asking questions to let them think of solutions by themselves. Modern studying does not rely on only teachers. There are many reference sources from which students can seek for additional information. Teachers should suggest students to study the information and discuss it in class, or take them to visit places outside the school to gain first hand experience.
2. Student should pose ‘smart questions’ to explore the boundary of science
Einstein once said that if he had had an hour to find a way to survive from an incident, he would have spent the first 55 minutes to question, and the rest 5 minutes to act on the solution. This shows that Einstein focused on questioning. In every field, there is a ‘boundary’ or ‘border’ that has not been reached. Therefore, students should pose questions to get to or get through those boundaries.
3. Students should look at a problem from every perspective to probe for its pros and cons.
You may have heard the story of the blind men and an elephant. A lesson learned from the story is that everyone has own perspective when it comes to any topic. So, our own viewpoint might not be a comprehensive one. Teachers should coach students to look at problems from many perspectives. A technique that can be used for this purpose is the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ by the creativity guru Edward De Bono, which actually is the framework for comprehensive thinking framework
4. Students should thoroughly study any topics to gain deep understanding
Most students study only hard enough to make them pass the examination. So, if the teacher tells the students that there are any topics excluded from the examination, it can be guaranteed that no one will read them. But a good studying does not mean for only to pass the examination. In fact, it is aimed at gaining the true knowledge of that subject.
5. Students should try to solve the problems which are ‘unsolvable’ in order to practice thorough thinking.
The story has it that a teacher wrote an unsolvable math problem on a blackboard. A student who came to the class late, when seeing the written problem, thought that it was the homework. He did it at home and was successful in solving the problem. This is a true story. In every field, there are unsolvable problems. Students should at least try to solve those problems even though no one has ever been successful in doing so. They can at least practice their own thinking process. The teacher may also provide the students with unsolvable problems as their homework (without saying that it is unsolvable). This is to push students to try doing it by themselves.
6. Teachers should honour and listen to students.
Good teachers should not force students to only listen to them. On the opposite, students should be allowed to express their viewpoint or join the discussion in class. Most Thai students are too shy to do this. What they are afraid of the most is to be called by teachers to answer questions in class. But if the teachers motivate them to be expressive, such as providing rewards or special points, they will be more participative. In my class, special points are provided for those who volunteer to answer the questions. But the one who gains the most out of it is me because I learn a lot from their answers.
I hope that the 6 suggestions from Professor Lee, the Nobel winning scientist, would help provoke your ideas on creativity development.
Translated by Thaya Wichayathian
- 4 may 2011
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