Levels of Learning: The Creative Process

Tom PreskettBy Tom Preskett

I’m doing a lot of consultancy this month in various contexts under various titles designated by my clients. These include etutoring and master class in blended learning. The latter of these is good for my ego but is perhaps a bit grandiose. The content is never exactly the same since different emphases are required as the contexts change. As long as my overall message is the same, I am happy.

Titling is an issue I need to get to grips with. I haven’t hit upon a one that I’m fantastically happy with. I’ve been using Web2.0Learning a lot, but I don’t want to be totally web 2.0 tool focused, and the content often reflects this now.

One important development has been that I’ve introduced a section that broaches the subject of practical issues surrounding teaching at a distance or blended. I find that there’s a black hole of practical issues that doesn’t get accounted for. Educators either are taught how to use a technology or something on the pedagogy — so more theoretical stuff. The practicalities get left behind.

Recently, I’ve been shoehorning in content that covers the reality of what changes in the life of an educator, and organising oneself is so important. It’s all pretty logical stuff but important nonetheless. I will reflect here on how things go in a few week.

What I wanted to record here today is how valuable the creative process is for me. What I learn through social media and my experiences at work get reflected on in this blog. I’m lucky that when called upon to deliver a consultancy session it involves crystallising my thinking from this learning for a public audience.  It feels like a two stage process — writing down my thought forces me to clarify my thinking (and that’s the first level of learning) whereas designing and delivering a session crystallises it even further (this is the second level of learning). I guess the third level is analysing the respective success or failure of the output!

3 Responses

  1. Tom, your levels of learning resonates with me. As a teacher of writing, I’m obviously biased, but I believe, too, that we build who we are through the self-discoveries that we make through writing. The assumption is that we don’t know what we think or feel on a given subject until we express it in writing. Writing and not speech because the former allows us to reflect on what we’ve said. That reflection, or crystallization, is critical to learning. And, as you say, we then test what we’ve learned in the real world and make adjustments based on results. Wordsworth expresses a similar idea in this quote from Lyrical Ballads: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.” -Jim S

    • Jim,

      I do not agree with you completely. I am not at home so I can’t give you a reference, but I know that I have read articles about oral cultures and what we have lost and how we have changed by becoming a visual (written) culture.

      Speaking for myself, I know that writing is important for organizing my thoughts (I was trained that way, after all) and, of course, I stress writing in my courses. However I also know that there are times when I need to “talk something out.” I need to hear it and that seems to effectively spark my creativity more than writing it does. Writing tends to reify our ideas, while we (in our visual culture) consider oral production more ephemeral. (I just noticed that I read this aloud to clear for clarity!)


  2. Lynn, I agree. Reading aloud to clarify thought works. That’s one of the solutions writing teachers recommend to students for dealing with a whole bunch of problems such as repetition, lack of coherence, awkwardness, missing transitions, logical disconnects, poor word choice, etc. While reading aloud, writers tend to fill in the missing transitions, insert the intended word, cringe at their repetitions, etc.

    “Writing tends to reify our ideas” — I really like this. It rings a bell that echoes long and far. But, as you suggest, that’s both good and bad. It’s good because we can then deal with it as an objective construct, outside of our selves.

    The downside, though, as “reify” suggests, is that it takes on a reality or life of its own that may be far beyond its intended purpose or actual value. For some of my students, putting it in writing is tantamount to chiseling it in stone.

    One of the major causes of writer’s block in the composing process is the overwhelming compulsion to reread everything one’s written before adding a word, phrase, or sentence. After a few sentences, this process becomes tedious. After a paragraph or two, it effectively brakes the train of thought.

    The solution most if not all writing teachers apply is freewriting: Write as quickly as you can to get your thoughts down on paper. As much as possible, don’t pause. Above all, don’t reread what you’ve already written. If you can’t think of a word, insert an “x” and move on. Don’t stop to correct spelling, grammar, etc. Stop after you feel you’ve dumped the thoughts on paper.

    Later, the writer returns to the mass of text and selects a sentence or idea that seems to capture the essence of the thought. And this is used to begin the serious drafting. The rest of the dump is — dumped.

    This process is very similar, I think, to talking something out. It’s a way to bring subliminal or feeling level thoughts to the surface — a means to explore our pre-thoughts in the hopes of discovering exactly what it is we know.

    And this process is definitely sparked and facilitated by dialogues with others, and verbal exchanges are often much more effective than written.


    -Jim S

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