Teaching creatively, no matter the age group, grade level, or subject matter.

20 Dec

To be ready for college, the workforce, and a life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, 카지노사이트 evaluate, synthesize, and analyze an overwhelming volume of information … Executive Functions plus a strong base of core knowledge are the essential skills for success in today’s world. For students to think critically, collaboratively, and communicate effectively, these must be strengthened. To adequately prepare for success in careers or higher education, students need guided opportunities to construct strong networks of executive functions. Without this preparation to develop executive functions during the school years, students can fall short. They may lack requirements for higher education and the competitive job market including the skill sets needed for cognitive flexibility, successful communication, collaboration, or creative innovation.

These were the opening remarks made by Dr. Judy Willis, a leading educational neuroscientist, at the 2017 Learning and the Brain Summer Institute Workshop in Santa Barbara, California. As a researcher, classroom teacher, executive function coach, and creativity enthusiast, I have long thought about how we can help our students master the skill sets outlined above in an engaging, meaningful way without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. More specifically, how can we assist students in building strong executive function skills they need to possess in order to succeed in future without necessarily adding anything to the already full plates of subject teachers? This article aims at looking at one way in which we may be able to achieve this goal. Let’s begin by defining executive functions.   

Executive Functions and Perceived Behavioral Problems

Executive Functions (EFs), as they are understood in the general sense, are defined as, “the brain-based, cognitive processes that help us to regulate our behavior, make decisions, and set and achieve goals.” (Dawson & Guare, 2009) Some commonly postulated EFs are organization, metacognition, time management, planning, emotional control, task initiation, response inhibition, working memory, flexibility, sustained attention, and goal-oriented persistence (Benedek et al. 2014; Dawson & Guare 2009, 2010). As a middle school teacher, I know how tempting sometimes it is to attribute some executive dysfunctions to negative qualities and behavioral problems: poor organizational skills to laziness and lack of responsibility; impulse control challenges and sustained attention to oppositional defiance and obstinance; and not being engaged with the lesson to apathy. It can be argued, however, that each of these negative manifestations of a student’s behavior at school, or at home, has often one or multiple corresponding EF dysfunction. For example, ‘laziness’ in sitting down to write an introductory paragraph of an English essay can be due to task initiation or working memory issues; forgetfulness and missed homework assignments may be because of organization problems; and calling out or sudden 바카라사이트 outbursts could be the result of response inhibition dysfunction. In fact, Haydon and Harvey (2015) refer to some of these generally perceived negative qualities as “creative strengths”, convincingly arguing that “if we can identify where creative behaviors are misinterpreted, we can learn how to more effectively take responsibility and employ these characteristics as productive strengths.” (p.50) So how can we address these EF challenges in our students without falling in the habit of mistakenly viewing them as behavioral issues?

Holistic Executive Functions and Creativity

Adapting McCloskey et. al’s (2009) model of EF, I would argue that a more holistic approach to EFs, as opposed to viewing them merely as pre-frontal lobe, cognitive processes, can better enable us to improve them in our students. In other words, executive functions are better seen as the brain processes “beyond prefrontal cortex” (Woerner-Eisner, 2016). In order to function well and regulate the responses to stimulations that it receives, the brain, as a whole, needs to be engaged. In addition to different regions of the brain, holistic view of EF encompasses movement, emotions, music, humor, mindfulness, and gratitude, amongst others, as essential domains of functioning. The incorporation of any of these domains of functioning into the curriculum is essential to develop strong EF skills for our students. The question remains: How can we engage a student’s brain in its entirety and for an extended amount of time – particularly that of a student’s who already struggles with executive functions – when teaching a lesson? One way in which we can ensure having more internally driven and engaged students is through creativity. Creativity is commonly defined as the ability to produce ideas that are novel and useful (Benedek et al. 2014, p. 73). It is one of the characteristics of the self-actualization level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Kenrick et al. 2010) and it is more recently added to the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational learning (Pohl, 2000). Creative lessons which enhance creative thinking skills can arguably make students more engaged and intrinsically motivated. The students’ deep level of engagement and high motivation can in turn facilitate their executive function performances. Teaching creatively, no matter the age group, grade level, or subject matter, not only improves the students’ creativity skills but also enhances their executive function networks. Before further discussing creative teaching and learning, let’s briefly explore what happens in the brain when deep, joyful, and creative learning takes place. 온라인카지

We are surrounded by thousands of bits of data at any given second, but our brain can only process so much at a time. The Reticular Activating System (RAS), a filter residing in the lower part of the posterior brain, filters almost all the incoming data and selects the necessary information to which we consciously attend (Willis, 2017). The RAS responds to and gives priority to novelty, which means novel stimuli have a better chance of entering the brain. Here is how this simple but extremely important neurological concept applies to teaching: To immediately engage the students in the lesson you are about to teach, you have to ensure that the information is put forth in a novel way. The novelty of the presentation of the lesson unleashes this filter and allows the information to get into the brain. In other words, because of the novelty through which you present the lesson, the students’ RAS filters select the presented information and let it enter their brains. Movement, humor, change of voice, multi-sensory input, change of the routines, or any other creative and novel way to present the information would do the job. The novel entry of stimuli into the brain has another important advantage. Novel stimuli will release dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain. The release of dopamine not only increases the students’ sense of pleasure, it also enhances alertness, memory, and motivation (Willis, 2009). This surge of focus and motivation, in turn, facilitates optimal arousal. “Optimal arousal enables brains to be alert, receptive, and ready to attend and learn.” (Littman, 2017) Once the students are at this state, ready to attend and learn, we need to keep their interests alive as we continue to teach them the lesson.

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