Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creative Thinking - As Simple as Jelly and Peanut Butter

If you could think more creatively by changing one routine thing, one habit, would you?

According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, something as simple as changing your regular routine,

"...can help people break their cognitive patterns, and thus lead them to think more flexibly and creatively,” according to a research team led by psychologist Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands."

Among other things, the study asked Dutch students to make a sandwich in the conventional way using bread, then butter, then chocolate chips. They asked a second group to butter the bread and then to scatter chocolate chips on a plate, using the buttered bread to pick up the chips.

First of all, butter and chocolate chips? Yes, please!

By approaching a standard task in a non-standard way (e.g., switching sandwich assembly order), participants in the study demonstrated more flexible thinking in the tasks that followed.

So what could this mean for schools?

Most teacher-training programs stress the need to establish a routine in the classroom, and up until very recently, parents, teachers and researchers have told students to approach studying in a systemic, linear fashion. This new study, although not necessarily refuting those strategies outright, could demonstrate the need for the occasional shakeup in the normal pattern. Some schools flip schedules completely mid-year (6th period become 1st, 5th becomes 2nd, and so on), and most teachers recognize the need for a break in routines at times. There are students who need to have predictable routines to function well (e.g., autistic students anywhere on the spectrum, from moderate to profound), but others might benefit from looking at a task in a different order, or approaching the day outside of the usual routine.

Food for thought.

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