I have never thought that so-called “psychological distance” can affect our creative thinking. The most recent studies on creativity suggest that creativity is not just a personality trait, but “may also change depending on the situation and context.” The psychological distance is one of those situations, which encourage creativity. According to Shapira and Liberman’s (2009) article Why thinking about distant things can make us more creative, anything that we do not experience as occurring now, here, and to ourselves falls into the “psychologically distant” category. It’s also possible to induce a state of “psychological distance” simply by changing the way we think about a particular problem, such as attempting to take another person’s perspective, or by thinking of the question as if it were unreal and unlikely.” The authors suggest that if we are “stuck on a problem that seems impossible” instead of giving up we “gain a little psychological distance, and pretend the problem came from somewhere very far away.” I believe in a classroom setting, we should encourage our students to pretend and imagine such a distance in space and time and enjoy the process of creative thinking.
Shapira, O. & Liberman, N. (2009). Why thinking about distant things can make us more creative. Creativity. Scientific American.
Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/an-easy-way-to-increase-c/
Classroom management, especially in a class of diverse ages, is not an easy task. By discovering the reasons for different attitudes of the learners and by understanding their backgrounds and previous experiences, we can create collaboration. The young and mature students will respect each other’s learning curves and desires.
Just to understand how diverse our student population is, among many other factors, we need to remember about first generation students. Those are the ones whose parents and other family members never went to the university. We often assume that our students have all the skills to orient themselves in the new to them learning environment, that they know how to learn, how to self-direct themselves, but many of them don’t.
I happened to read this article about the “first-gen” students, and it made me think about the issue I wasn’t really aware of. According to the statistics, one-third of all students at some universities in Canada are “first-gen” students, and they do struggle. Surprisingly, not because of the lack of finances, but of the lack of necessary support. Some universities provide support, but many don’t. I think, one solution can be assigning a mentor to the “first-gen” students, and it can be a classmate or a volunteer from the community who would help to overcome the frustration when so many unfamiliar things related to the studies can turn off even very dedicated students.
Hayes. D. (2015). Helping first-generation students find their way. University Affairs, Aug.-Sep. 2016.
Retrieved from: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/first-gen-students-find-their-way/
Remember your students are diverse, curious and creative. The TED Talk by Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley reminds us how important the role of the teacher is in learning: “Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you’re not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage.” (May 2013)
Strategy1: Change the classroom setup
One of the student engagement strategies I find interesting is using a different classroom setting. The video in this link is an example of how can it change the classroom dynamics:
My courses are divided into two parts: theory and workshop, and students get bored and disengaged quite easily during the first part. It’s a real challenge for me to find out the right way of teaching the theoretical part to them. Our classroom is also set up in a traditional way with the desks in rows, so I am thinking of trying a new setup in my classroom and see how it will affect the students’ engagement.
Strategy 2: Care about your students
Care about students not only as learners but as persons. If you truly care, you will know about their lives, problems, so you will find better ways of communicating with them, and that’s what the classroom management is mainly about – good communication and trustful relationships. In the 11-minute video below Engaging students in urban schools, Dr. Jabari talks about this and other student engagement problems in today’s classroom.