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U. PROFESSOR SAYS TEACHING SHOULD ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY

SHARE U. PROFESSOR SAYS TEACHING SHOULD ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY

Teaching needs to be more creative, a University of Utah professor told educators gathered Friday for the annual National Association for Creative Children conference.

Cheryl Wright, a professor in family and consumer studies and director of the Child and Family Development Center at the U., said teachers spend too much time directing students to one right answer."We are asking for trouble. Life is really ambiguous," Wright said. "There are no right answers. For us to set people up so their goal is to find the right answer is really a disservice."

She showed the 22 teachers and professors who attended her lecture at the University Park Hotel Friday afternoon a slide with five different shapes drawn on it and asked them to choose which didn't belong.

After hearing various responses from the audience, Wright told them they were all correct, that each shape was different from the others. Their answer depended on which difference they chose to look for.

Creativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy, she said. "If you think you are creative, you're more likely to seek out alternative solutions in problem-solving."

The average student has been tested 26,000 times by college graduation, she said, too often with tests structured so that only one answer is acceptable, even though other, more creative responses could be correct.

However, Wright said, many of her students at the U. are uncomfortable with the type of open-ended tests she prefers to give. She said she tells them, "It's not your fault; it's your education."

The way many teachers grade also hurts the learning process. "The game is to get as many right answers as you could and as few wrong answers as you could," Wright said.

That keeps students from learning from their mistakes. For example, many students can recall the wrong answer that they put down on a test long after they have forgotten the correct ones.

Society values logical, rational thinking above creativity, she said, noting that teachers who stray from traditional instructional methods often are criticized by their peers, their school principals and even parents.

"Often with parents, their biggest fear is that their child will be the artsy type," Wright said, adding that part of the worry is that their child won't earn much money if employed in a creative field.

Many adults expect education to be the way they remember it, which keeps them from embracing newer, more creative teaching styles, she said. "They make the assumption that learning is work and it's painful."

The purpose of the annual conference, which is expected to draw 60 teachers and professors from around the country, is to give those who want to encourage creativity in their students an opportunity to share their experiences.

On Saturday, they are scheduled to hear a variety of instructors discuss the methods they use to teach gifted, handicapped, preschool, hospitalized and other types of students.