Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creativity from Chaos

Reading the Book Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness by Sheldrake, McKenna, and Abraham one gets a feeling of pedagogical liberation. For a preview link here. Science has evolved in the last centuries to accept and frame change as a fundamental element in our understanding of reality. This change has not been incorporated in the way the we teach in higher education. Why do I say that? Because in many instances we continue with the old paradigm of lecturing in class as did our ancestors centuries ago. Some cosmetic changes have occured like the use of small group discussion and the introduction of electronic tools like data projection of "power points", videos, and clickers. But the fundamental relationship between teacher and learner has not evolved to satisfy the needs of today's students or -by the way- professors. One has to ask again and again what is the fundamental need or purpose of education. Oh yes, I know many will say that question has been answered so many times that repeating it only justify bad pedagogy. We all know what the purpose of education is! We all know that we need to train useful people to become citizens in today's economy, in today's society, and in today's wars. Both mission statements and values of higher education institution articulate how in an orderly fashion students will get rid of the chaos in their life but seldom will they embrace "chaos" as an accepted state in nature, as the uncertainty principle so well described by Eisenberg in physics is able to relate the knowledge of the position of a particle in space by sacrificing the knowledge about its motion.
One can understand the need for creativity in our society as our students look for a way in which they can be of service, in most cases this implies being able to be creative. Low income jobs will -as have always been, be for those incapable of creating. Those able to be creative will -as they have always been, be able to participate not only in the production process but in the benefits of these processes as well. That of course will mean being compensated in a way that will satisfy their standard of living.
(As I am preparing for my next assignment teaching general chemistry as well as organic chemistry next fall I am looking for ways to transform my teaching techniques in a way that will be liberating for my students.)
When one prepares for the change in the way we look at things finds that is hard to define what has to be changed. Unless we know that, how are we to know how to change it. Using the metaphor of a broken car we see that the diagnosis is based on functionality if something is not happening, if something is not doing what is supposed to to then we know what the part is broken, thus knowing what piece has to be replaced. In pedagogy this is more nuanced and most times is of course more difficult to diagnose.
Every course should start with a diagnosis of the relationship between the students taking the class and the program (syllabus- or as I call it syllabook) for that class.
What should be included in this diagnosis? That is what I'd like to know!

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