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Monday, July 27, 2015

Report from the Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG)

We had a smaller group for the latest PIRG meeting, held on July 22, 2015. But despite the small group, we had a lively conversation around Timothy O’Connell et al.’s article, “Students’ Appropriation, Rejection, and Perceptions of Creativity in Reflective Journals” (International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 2015).

After assessing 42 reflective journals from undergraduate students at an Australian university, O’Connell et al. concluded that promoting creativity through these reflective journal assignments led students to a “deep approach” to learning. Within this “deep approach,” students engage meaningfully with the subject matter as they use their critical thinking skills. O’Connell et al. listed four conditions that they believe are necessary ingredients for creativity to be fostered in an individual: relevance, ownership of knowledge, having control of the learning process, and innovation. In this study, the students who demonstrated creativity submitted reflective journals that were high in these four factors as compared to those who resorted to a simple “word processing assignment.”

The necessity for “creativity” to be included in an assignment’s rubric evoked varied responses from PIRG members during our discussion. The authors’ definition of creativity was questioned, and each member chimed in with their own observations of students’ creativity in an assignment and how they would assess creativity. Some members also questioned if creativity was necessary for learning. Would it still be possible for students to be critical thinkers in a standard notebook journal assignment with meaningful guiding questions? Or would it make a difference to add “creativity” to the rubric? PIRG members described various assignments in their courses that required creativity in language learning (e.g., having students create their own story following the traditional storytelling style of the target culture, weekly audio journals, etc.).

If you’re interested in joining our PIRG meetings, we will be meeting again on Thursday, August 13 from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in Jones 35. This will be our last PIRG meeting for the summer! To learn more about what we do at our PIRG meetings, please contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

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