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Creative Thinking

(CrCrTh 602, F '13)

Initial Goals
In Fall 2013, we are undertaking an experiment to creatively address two problems--1) there are not enough students for our face-to-face required class, CRCRTH 602, Creative Thinking; and 2) the faculty member who was to teach CCT630, Criticism and creativity in literature and arts, is not ready to teach it as a hybrid course, combining face-to-face and online students. (The first problem derives both from almost all of our new students doing the CCT program online and from having fewer new students last year.)

The experiment has 4 components:
1) Neither course will be cancelled but instead the two courses will be combined, albeit with some customized instructions for each group, include face-to-face and online students, and be co-taught by Jeremy Szteiter and Peter Taylor in a hybrid format (with sessions at 4:00-6.30pm on Tuesdays, starting Sept. 3).
2) The format will center on 4-week "collaborative explorations" (CEs), a variant of project-based learning (PBL) that begin from a scenario or case in which the issues are real but the problems are not well defined, which leads participants to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). The basic mode of a CE centers on interactions in small groups (online or face-to-face) over a delimited period of time in ways that create an experience of re-engagement with oneself as an avid learner and inquirer--as this quote from a student in a PBL course evokes: 3) The CE component of each class session will be 60-90 minutes. The rest of each course session will involve activities or discussion of a shared reading (with details about sessions and about expectations to be supplied by the start of the courses).
4) The Critical and Creative Thinking Graduate Program will host simultaneous CEs (online) where the wider public can participate ( Students in the 602 and 630 courses do not have to join these CEs, but they will be able to draw on what is publicly shared by the participants; the public CEs will use the same themes as those used in the course and involve a 60-90 minute online conference call once per week, at a time other than Tuesdays from 4:00-6:30pm.

The combined course will
a) include intensive reading in the area of creative thinking, which students in CRCRTH 602 would expect;
b) allow a focus on literature/arts and on story-telling for students in CRCRTH 630; and
c) allow everyone to shape a path and final products for each CE that link closely with their personal interests.
Students in 630 should choose inquiries and readings related literature and arts whenever there is a choice.

Review and Future Plans

The content, format, and technology worked very well for the three students from a distance, but the annotated bibliography has needed considerable “clean-up” of format and content before it is ready for sharing beyond the class.  The face-to-face students did not, however, keep up with the CEs or annotated bibliography entries and were mostly quiet during the class discussions and activities that relied on students having shaped their own directions of inquiry in relation to the CE cases.  In order to reduce the chances of students not making use of opportunities for self-directed inquiry, I revised my syllabus contract and limited incomplete options for the next semester’s PBL course ( - Assess) and for Fall 2014.  I also spelled out the tensions involved in PBL teaching ( PBLguidedtour) and have been discussing them with colleagues since.

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