14 May 2012

Creativity and Learning Part 1

I’ve just started reading Andrew McCallum’s Creativity and Learning in Secondary English and already there are a few insights. One of the reminders for me is that reading is an imaginative act, thus creative. In order for a reader to understand text, she or he has to create the images and ideas in their minds as they read.

Let’s look at just a few run-of-the-mill examples: in English, the reader has to imagine the life of the characters whose story is being told; in Science, readers have to be able to imagine the carbon atoms meeting oxygen atoms; and in Maths, readers have to be able to translate the problem (written in words), into real life and then into numerical data. Obviously the imagination required when reading in any field cannot be underestimated. Reading is not just a mechanical act but a creative act in all subjects.

Perhaps one of the problems with online reading is that readers don’t take the time to imagine the ideas or images as they read. It appears to me that when students are reading online, they use a number of strategies to skim and navigate, but don’t often concentrate for a length of time on a particular piece of research. Next time I set some deep online reading, I shall experiment with visual annotation. I shall ask students to find or create three images which would help them explain the material to another reader. In pairs, with each individual having read material from a different source, this could become an interesting verbal exercise. This process may help them to imagine the content of the material they have read, whilst simultaneously requiring them to discern significance.

More on Andrew McCallum’s Creativity and Learning in Secondary English in a later post; so far, it’s encouraging me to experiment with creative ways of learning. 


  1. We hear much about reading as a constructive process, constructing our understanding of the author's message while reading, but I agree that it is also a creative process as the examples given illustrate. Speed when reading online certainly seems to be a hindrance to effective comprehension so strategies, as you've described, promoting 'slowed' thoughtful reading need to be deliberately included in our teaching. My only hesitation about conceptualising reading as a creative process is that in order to understand the author's intention the reader doesn't have full creative rights. What do others think?

  2. I agree that reading is a constructive process, thanks for that point. I see now I wasn't being clear enough when I suggested that reading is creative. I meant insofar as reading requires readers to bring meaning to a text, using their imaginations to "construct a narrative alongside that provided by the author" (MacCallum).