The Case For Not Focusing

by Vince

Jonah Lehrer makes it. If you follow his blog, he from time to time posts articles on this very topic:

The takeaway is that we need to broaden our definition of “productive” thinking. For too long, we’ve assumed that every thought process that isn’t focused attention is a waste of time. We’ve trained our kids to believe that the only way to succeed is to stare at the blackboard, to fixate on the lesson plan. But that’s wrong. Consider this recent study, which makes me sad: In 1995, psychologists at Union College surveyed several dozen elementary school teachers. While every teacher said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they were mistaken. In fact, when the teachers were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.

This is a point of interest to me for two reasons. I personally strive to be creative as an individual and I believe it is important for my students to be creative as well. I will admit that I am not the best at providing an environment for that in my classroom (my most recent project – comparing Thomas Jefferson to John Adams on a poster – felt lame). Thankfully, I have the freedom too revise and do differently next time.

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