Part I: The Gestalt of Creative Movements Over Time
By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department
In studying the gestalt of creative movements over the ages, one is able to divine compelling parallels between these movements and current trends in education, such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS); Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); national standards for the gifted and talented; and, perhaps most importantly, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). This is largely because that before
these movements had acronyms attached to them, they had other names familiar to us all: Camelot; the Bauhaus; the Renaissance; Projects Apollo and Gemini; the Manhattan Project; among others. They were—and continue to be—the stock and trade of creativity and innovation. They are—and hopefully will continue to be—catalysts for transformation across P-20.
Characteristics of Creative Movements
One can certainly marvel at the notion that these were efforts that built on mutual and diverse strengths and synergies. These were movements that were purpose-driven and dedicated to the intuitive precept that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Moreover, they manifest common characteristics fundamental in leveraging the neuroscience of learning and teaching. In other words, empirical evidence proffers these movements were/are:
- Spirited and frequently manic
- Chaotic, yet controlled or managed
- Focused and purpose-driven
- Cross-disciplinary and porous
- Collaborative at times/competitive at times
- Deep (disciplinary focus)
A more widespread examination of the creative métiers submits that in a prima facie sort of way, they could be characterized as brain friendly (or at the very least compatible) in attending to the affective and cognitive needs of those who participated therein. In other words, these cooperative ventures tapped into the innately human need to solve problems using diverse data and to engage in informed intellectual risk-taking in environments rich in challenge but relatively low in threat. We find that these movements also provided multiple opportunities to move about Bloom’s original and revised taxonomies and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences with great ease. Affectively, participants become emotionally committed to the work, offering occasion for greater commitment and a degree of joie de vivre in its pursuit. In many instances, such as in the case of the Bauhaus, play and experimentation within and across disciplines fed the lifeblood of creativity as well as provided openings for the release of tensions and anxieties. Exploration of potential in a collaborative and spirited way paved the way for innovative ideas and designs that remain commonplace in our popular culture. Unlearning the old became as important as learning the new. Creative movements also served as a training ground and stimulus for the development of ‘sound habits of mind,’ those uniquely metacognitive processes that benefit within and across disciplines.
With intellectual and inventive challenges that slightly exceeded individual aptitudes for participants, creative movements set the stage for what is called ‘flow’ in positive psychology—a uniquely balanced frame of mind in which one becomes wholly immersed in work undertaken. Flow is a time-transcendent state of mind that gave us visionaries like Jimi Hendrix, Martha Graham, President John F. Kennedy among many others. Chemically, we find that ‘flow’ rests somewhere between the meditative, Zen-like state and the rapid switching of attentions to new problem solving activities.
We all experience ‘flow’ in one sense or another—some through reading; sewing; or tennis. Most of us do so when playing recreational video games or when caught in the grips of social media.
Logically, we can add ‘flow’ to our earlier listing of characteristics and the lexicon of creative movements. Given that current policies and ideologies in P-12 education advocate for greater flexibility and creativity in teaching and learning processes and seek to enhance metacognitive abilities among children and young adults, can we not turn to creative movements of the past to find inspiration?
In Part 2
of this posting, we explore the nexus of educational movements and trends, seeking out ways to replicate environments that are inspired by and for ‘flow’ and innovation.