INSTRUCTION vs.

MAIEUSIS
by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D., © 2004

This is a letter to both the teacher and the educator. The teacher being one who teaches a process and the educator one who is the midwife for the person.
At various levels of sophistication and with different intensities or sharpness of focus those interested in the phenomenon of DIFFERENCE, something being different, are aware, at some point along the way, that there is a range of difference from the shiny yellow buttercup to the exotic orchid.

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Wild buttercup

c. Greg Allikas <www.orchidworks.com>

Perhaps the metaphor is too inept. Let’s say, simply, that if anything can be measured the units in the measurement can be arranged along a line or continuum so that one can see, at a glance, that at both ends of this continuum the units have less of the quality or characteristic being measured than the units in the middle. That is true, that is, if the display takes the form of a normal “bell” curve. It is not doubted that each unit has its particular characteristics, uses, values etc, and have them in considerable variety BUT, for the characteristic being studied the linear arrangement mentioned is the easiest to understand. Add to the linear arrangement the idea of frequency of occurrence and we get what is called a “bell curve” which shows us that at one end of the line there are few units, in the middle there are many, and at the other end of the line there are also few units. Therefore, if one is interested in the average behavior or characteristic one looks at the numbers of units in the middle. On the other hand if it is the rarer occurrence of a characteristic one seeks one looks to either end of

the line. If there has been a qualitative factor imbedded in the study then, usually, the most desirable characteristics of the units will be found at the right end of the line. In our studies on creativity the characteristics that have interested us have been evidences of flexibility, fluency, elaboration, manipulations, in short, evidence of the subject’s involvement with the task. To continue with the, perhaps, inadequate metaphor all of the subjects, or units have their uses and their special attractiveness and it is probably equally without doubt that there are probably more buttercups than there are orchids. I haven’t made the count recently, but when I had roamed the fields and woods I found more buttercups than I did lady slippers. The quality I was looking for was structural complexity.

A woodland lady slipper The point of all this being that in order to find the rare we have first to find the more usual. And reality being what it is in order to accomplish that goal a survey of some sort must take place. In the area of identifying the person with the creative mind set and subsequently assisting that person to bring into form the product of his imagination it has long been acknowledged that it is helpful to take notice of how the person responds to experiences. This is very different from evaluating a person’s performance on a test where the correct answers have been pre-determined. It is important to remember that the one predetermining the correct answer is not the subject but some exterior unit. This means, in effect, that the subject’s value in whatever quality or characteristic is being tested is in terms of an application of alien values upon the subject . This is precisely the approach used in the vast majority of school systems and it underscores the difference I like to make between being a teacher and being an educator. The teacher teaches a process and evaluates his own and the student’s success by the number of predetermined correct responses. The educator carefully evaluates the behavior of the subject and attempts to coach the subject in appropriate elaborations of the behavior. There have been several tasks developed to help the observing educator determine who in his environment may be the unusually creative thinker. Among these are two of my designs that have been successfully used by researchers (E.P.Torrance and R.E. Taylor)

from time to time in their work. These are The Creativity Design Task and The Just Suppose Task. Both of these, in various forms, are used in the services offered at the website THE CREATIVITY PACKET. Out of these earlier studies came a new slant on the awareness that part of the explanation for a limited response to non-verbal graphic material was due to the absence of exposure to and experience with such material and that if such experience were more often available and a value placed upon it that performances with the material would be enhanced. We still believe that to be true. As a way of increasing a subject’s experience in this area and keeping in mind the perennial problem of school budgets we have designed a number of puzzles which are based on the sciences of color, pattern, and vision. These puzzles are also unconventional as compared to the traditional puzzle in that they lack a recognizable subject matter and the convolutions in shape characteristic of most puzzles, educational or otherwise, available presently. These differences in shape and subject matter have their distinct educational values however. Both shape and subject matter in the traditional puzzle provide clues as to the predetermined solution to the puzzle. While the absence of a recognizable subject matter itself encourages the puzzle solver or player to look more closely at the characteristics of the image for clues, the pieces of the puzzle, being simple squares without extrusions and indentations expands by many time the available choices which may lead to a solution. While in the traditional puzzle there is only one predetermined way of fitting the piece of the puzzle into the system in the creativity puzzle these choices range from 4-64 depending upon how far along one had progressed. These more intense and more concentrated efforts of puzzle solution provide a portion of the needed experience in visual education A series of forty or more unconventional puzzles have been designed and are now set up for production. and can be viewed in the educational section of that same web site, The Creativity Packet www.tcp.com.mt . Examples are shown here.

The puzzle above is assembled. The white lines between the squares indicate the edges of the smaller squares. In the original the small squares measure 2” on a side. The completed puzzle measures c. 8”x8”.

The above represents an unassembled puzzle. You are invited to try your luck in assembling it and for yourself experience the thought processes a less experienced mind would encounter. Print it out, cut out the pieces and assemble them into a square the way you think the artist intended the image to look. In summary, this set off forty puzzles is graded and ranges from the simple to the complex , but what remains the same in each and all of them and is untraditional to their design is that they lack the involved in and out configuration of most puzzles which provide the player with additional clues to the solution. They also lack a subject matter which also provides a clue to the player and because these usual clues to the puzzle solution are absent the player is thrown back upon his ability to reconstruct using purely non-objective graphic clues to arrive at what the designer’s original intention may have been. There are many times more choices to be considered and made in this puzzle format than in the traditional puzzle format thus providing an enriched learning experience for the player…young or old. Learning, that is, in the detection of a visual logic a talent as valuable to the military expert as it is to the art critic.

For additional information please refer to THE CREATIVITY PACKET at www.tcp.com.mt in the section on education.