Can We Teach Creativity?
Joan Orr: I have a question. This is a question about adaptability and creativity. People have been asking us, “How do we do that? How do we reinforce creativity and get a child to do more than just their typical behavior that they do over and over again?” Mandy Mason, in Australia, has questions about this, and everybody else would like to hear the answer to that.
Karen Pryor: That’s an interesting question. You could write a book on this, and I hope Mandy Mason does write a book. I met her in December and I met her delightful child Juliette. Let me put something else forward. One of the things that comes up right away when you start talking to people about anything involving a marker with children is, “Oh well, that’s for dogs. You can’t treat my child like a dog.” That’s the first objection. “We couldn’t do that in our school. People would think we are training them like dogs.”
One of the people that Theresa and I worked with out at the ABC School in Sacramento had a wonderful answer for that. He was handling home cases and working with parents and children at home. He got that question a lot, “Well, this is for dogs, isn’t it?” His answer was that, “Every medicine that you give a child, or that you take yourself, was worked out first with animals. Wouldn’t you rather that we had learned how to do this with animals before we started doing it with children?” I think that makes so much sense, just to offer that.
In the education system in general, initiative and being different in your behavior are not generally popular – in the classroom or with teachers. The system says, “We want conformity. We want all the children to stand in line. We don’t want one of the children to stand on his head in line.” It’s almost as if our education system is designed to take the creativity out of the system.
I think it’s very important; I think you need to be free to click and whip out the treats for something you didn’t expect that you like — anything! In other words, to encourage our kids to, not to act up all the time, I don’t mean that. I mean, when the child does something, what a good thing it is to reinforce – a new word, a new action, a new response, a new food. Anything new is worth noticing, because you can encourage the child, you can encourage each other. You can encourage the students to have the confidence to go, “Oh, I’m free to do something acceptable, something nice, something people like that I never did before.”
And that’s where getting rewarded for doing something you never did before is where the door opens for being your own person, so to speak. When a door opens for you to think, not just act and react, but to think and do something for someone else, or do something different, that is positive. It has become standard practice to teach creativity in the animal world as a method for getting the animal to develop confidence, trust, patience, and impulse control. All of these come with the game of reinforcing something new, reinforcing something you haven’t been paid for before.
I think it’s even more important for people to get reinforcement for those things, “Wow, nice job.” Not just, “You did that up to standard,” but, “Oh my goodness, that was wonderful.” Like the moment (in the video) when the child actually began to swim. Have you ever taught a child to swim? My father taught my children, his grandchildren, to swim. He took very much that same step-by-step approach. In one ten minute lesson, supported by a float, they were swimming and loving it. If you ever watch traditional methods for teaching a child to swim, there’s a lot of repetition and a lot of tears. So that was something new for the boy (in the video) and he did that all by himself, and the reward was that it was fun. Also Jen (girl in video) was there so he felt secure.
I think that creativity is part of life and a part of every person, and it is something you can teach with a tagger.
Introduction to Module 2
The Focus Funnel
Tagging and Observation Practice
Transitions: School to Home
Video - Swimming Lesson
Q & A With Karen Pryor