Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough
It prevents cognitive fixation tendency and makes language memorable. Cross : , for example, notes that. Such a creative zone is important in language learning tasks, establishing the need for learners to say something new and to make new meaning that they have not yet formulated. Among several conditions that can help to establish a creative zone and a creative desire, I will discuss two that could be set up to promote creativity in language learning tasks: multicultural experiences and constraints.
Research has suggested a connection between creativity and multiculturalism see, for example, Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, and Chiu Being simultaneously exposed to different experiences can lead to cognitive flexibility and creativity. According to Leung et al. Through multicultural experiences, people are also exposed to a range of behavioural and cognitive scripts for situations and problems.
These new ideas, concepts, and scripts can be the inputs for the creative expansion processes because the more new ideas people have, the more likely they are to come up with novel combinations. Creativity can be enhanced when one is exposed to multiple experiences either on a small scale for example having different experiences in our daily life such as teaching versus playing sports or on a large scale for example living in different countries.
Maley and J. Mukundan with permission from Pearson Longman Malaysia. Creative language use or language creativity through combinational thinking is manifested not only in creative writing, such as poems, but also in other domains of language use. For example, the following introduction from my own teaching portfolio Excerpt 2 was written at the time of the Olympic Games.
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For example, a strange and unfamiliar scene of seeing shops selling coffins of small sizes along the streets of Hanoi, during a writing trip, led me to look at life in an unfamiliar way as follows Excerpt 4 :. However, just the mere presence of multicultural experiences is not sufficient for creativity. Another condition, namely constraints, needs to be present to facilitate creativity and this is discussed in the next section.
Constraints are defined as any limitation on freedom and choice such as rules, boundaries, and scarcity Joyce Constraints are two sided or paired: one element of the constraint prevents searching in particular areas of the problem space, while the other element of the constraint promotes searching in other parts of the problem space Stokes Therefore, for constraints to facilitate creativity, they need to direct the search for novel solutions while limiting the search among the known.
In contrast, a constraint that leads to creativity needs to prompt learners to search among the unknown to construct new meaning, while limiting their search through what they already know. The principled, imaginative use of constraints is important for creativity Boden op.
Some examples of such imaginative use include the selection of types of constraints imposed, as well as the manner or timing of constraint imposition for example Joyce op. Finding new constraints to work with has been a feature of many famous creative works. In terms of language creativity, this involves not just satisfying existing constraints but also finding new constraints or transforming some or parts of existing constraints or rules to facilitate creativity.
There are two phases in a creative task: idea generation and idea exploration Finke, Ward, and Smith Example 1 illustrates this:. The words students generate in this idea-generation phase here are regarded as pre-inventive forms that are produced without knowing what meaning and function they will serve or what they will be used for. They are required to use the words generated in the previous phase input requirement :.
The need to use language to construct new, surprising meaning within constraints as in the creative task above can make language memorable. Further examples of creative tasks are given below Examples 2—4 with particular reference to a familiar topic found in ELT materials talking about and introducing people :.
In a traditional language task, this stage is the end in itself. Students are asked to use language to express known meaning or to write about someone they know. However, in a creative task, the sentence they produce here can act as a pre-inventive form and not an end in itself.
Teachers can then reveal new constraints that would help students to use the ideas generated to construct some unknown meaning about the topic. The following are some examples of constraints that can be revealed after students have produced pre-inventive ideas. For example, a sentence about a brother who likes fixing broken things can be used as follows:. If possible, write one single sentence including all those words. M for M ary: my name is M ary who likes m usic, and I can m ake you feel m ean even if you are a m agnificent person.
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C for C aroline: I am very c ool under pressure, a bit like a c hicken who might be fried to a c risp. I like to c all out at Bingo and c ry when my c ounters are wrong. Her children thought they had put a j olly j inx on her and were j oyful when she fell over. Add an introduction. After students have produced poems that satisfy the constraints introduced, the teacher can get students to transform some of the formal constraints in order to produce a more unique name poem to introduce their classmates.
Table 1 shows how we can transform a communicative task into a creative task and it summarizes the key differences between the two types of tasks. Second, in a communicative task, teachers often set up an information gap between students to promote a communicative desire to use language. In a creative task, it is important to set up conditions to enhance a creative desire. Discovering and revealing new constraints is one such condition that will help prevent the search among the known while simultaneously directing the search among the unknown.
Third, communicative tasks often attempt to establish a familiar experience by helping students to relate a topic to their own lives. In other words, a kind of monocultural experience is created or activated. On the other hand, in a creative task, familiar topics are made unfamiliar to help students to extend their language. Finally, language learning tasks in a traditional sense can often be divided into two phases controlled and free.
Similarly, a creative task also involves two phases: idea generation and idea exploration.
The notion of the creative task proposed in this article is not meant to replace the communicative task. A large part of our language use still requires the need to use language to communicate about known meaning. Many communicative tasks and traditional tasks still have an important role to play in language learning to increase language fluency and accuracy.
In language learning tasks, promoting a creative desire and the need for learners to say something new is as important as the need to communicate known and given meaning. There should be room for communication as well as creativity in ELT classrooms, and it is indeed possible that creative tasks and communicative tasks can complement each other. This can be found in Example 2, where the need to use language to talk about known meaning in the idea-generation phase for example writing about your brother is followed by more creative language use in the idea-exploration phase for example saying something new about your brother applying some formal and semantic constraints.
Although many of the examples used in this article come from adult language users with high levels of language proficiency, the ideas are relevant to other contexts. Similar conditions can be set up to help establish a creative zone where learners of various ages and levels need to use language to construct new meaning. Thus, language teachers and researchers can experiment with many design features of creative tasks, in particular the need to use language to construct new meaning, the principled use of constraints, and the use of multicultural experiences to make the familiar unfamiliar.
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Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough
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