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Teaching kids: "If at first you don't succeed... You must be creating!"

A way in which schools might foster creative confidence through building creative efficacy and critical thinking, while eliminating fear of failure.

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15 27

Written by DeletedUser

Kids are open, they're enthusiastic, they're curious... If we want to instill creative confidence in people, what better group to begin with than children? Kids have one major advantage over adults, as far as creative confidence goes, they haven't yet learned fear.

Fear of failure paralyzes creativity. It stunts it's growth, and is difficult to eradicate. I'd like to suggest that we begin vaccinating kids against this malignant disease. To reap the benefits of such a technique, three things would need to happen: (1) creativity must be nurtured, (2) fear must be eliminated, and (3) they must feel success. These steps must be mutually inclusive, otherwise creative confidence will not be maximized.

Step 1: Nurturing Creativity

To my mind, it makes the most sense to nurture creativity in schools. During the school day, time could be set aside where young children (elementary school age) are given a chance to learn through project-based work. These projects could take an artistic form such as drawing or painting, they could take the form of design, they could even take the form of something less traditionally creative, such as coding. The most important element of these projects is that they should be self-directed, but teacher guided. What problems do kids want to solve? By letting them choose the topic, kids will be interested and engaged (catalysts for creativity).

Early in the process, teachers will:
  1. Serve the role of helping children learn about their chosen topic. Pointing them towards resources and helping them frame a problem.
  2. Then, once the problem is framed, the teacher will encourage rapid prototyping of potential solutions.

This brings us to,

Step 2: Eliminating Fear of Failure

Once kids are engaged in actively creating material, the role of teachers will change. Their role will now become that of counselor. Rather than critiquing children's work for them, teachers will counsel children in how to critique their own work. Teachers will explain that the goal of the creative process is to iterate, and the way to end up with the best iterations is to critique the iterations that came before and make changes based on those critiques. A side note: critical thinking is so important in the creative process, and this exercise will surely develop critical thinking skills.

It's really important at this point that teachers lead from the critique directly into another iteration. Kids need to be shown that there's nothing wrong with "failing" the first prototype, rather, that such failure is necessary in order to develop better ideas. Not only that, but they need repeated exposure to that failure. As any psychologist will tell you, scared of planes? Fly a lot. Exposure can reduce fear. Similarly, kids need to go through lots of failures and lots of iterations, so they can become less afraid.

This leads to one last point.

Step 3: Success

There should always be success at the end of the iterations. Creative confidence comes in large part from experiencing previous successes. So, for this process to work to the fullest, kids must experience success.

If all three steps are present, creative confidence will certainly result.

In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

Being a grad student in a college town, I don't really have access to young people, parents, or teachers so help from these people in designing, iterating, or testing my idea is really what I'd hope to receive from the OpenIDEO community!

What skills, input or guidance would you like to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

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Photo of Chris Phillips

It's vitally important that young people learn that failure leads to success and not expect everything to just be perfect first time out. I completely agree with your thoughts on teachers as councillors teaching children how to think, assess and iterate.

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