Creativity + Controlled Environment + Adult Learners = BFFs???

Most adults are quite capable of coming up with a plethora of ideas when asked, for example, to engage in problem-solving activities; to brainstorm ideas; to build on/contradict ideas; to account for an unusual event, etc. On the other hand, if you try the same activities with teenagers, the number of ideas produced will be incredibly lower.

Could that be simply because they are less creative than adults?

I wouldn’t dare say so. It has been proven that the older we get, the more uncreative we become. So, it would be safe to assume that adults are somewhat more experienced; ergo, more flexible in terms of working their way round a wider range of predicaments. But, on no account does creativity account for the diversity of ideas which are produced.

Being creative entails much more than merely being experienced and flexible. (In fact, the formula which dictates Resourcefulness = Creativity has been introduced and standardised by corporations for the sole purpose of ascribing some meaning to the otherwise otiose existence of marketing departments.)

Creativity is as chaotic as individuality. It is the unpredictable and what the majority of people dismiss as “improbable”; it is the quintessence of individuality and freedom of expression. Therefore, under no circumstances could it thrive and be practiced in a controlled environment, such as a classroom, where there is a plan to be followed; certain objectives to be reached; rules to be adhered to; a time limit and so many more restrictions – the greatest of all being language barrier.

When learners are asked to engage in a “creative” problem-solving activity, they do nothing but reproduce what they have experienced and internalized through the course of years.  Very few are those who will venture to be just a trifle more imaginative than the others. I have witnessed such cases where one or two learners would really come up with unpredictable, original views and would not be afraid to speak their mind freely. I would expect this to ignite interesting, thought-provoking conversations.

Little did I know.

The actual effect they had in the classroom was far from beneficial because the rest of the learners – no matter what tricks I pulled out of my sleeve – would remain silent and sort of intimidated. Much to my surprise, there were those who did reply but did not contribute much to the conversation; on the contrary, they were very dismissive and insulting towards the learners who had come up with some quite interesting ideas. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that no person likes to be reminded of their own lack of originality.

However, that specific lesson was successful since all of my initial objectives had been reached.  At this point certain issues emerge:

  • Is creativity in the classroom that important?
  • How can it benefit adult learners who are not willing to change their ossified viewpoints or broaden their minds?

So, what should a teacher do?

Should we favour those learners who have the actual potential (aptitude, intellect, and so on) to master the language and be innovative? Or would that be completely detrimental, let alone discouraging, to the rest of our learners since it would most likely trigger such feelings as a sense of inferiority and several other complexes, which would eventually give way to feelings of resentment instead of admiration and an earnest effort to better themselves?


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