Posted in Miscellaneous

The Confidence to Get it Wrong

I recently saw a fascinating video of Sir Ken Robinson, in which he says, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” While I’m sure this isn’t always the case, his point is that kids, who are naturally imaginative, exploratory, and creative, often gradually lose these qualities through education. In schools we generally search for the glorious right answers and look down upon the wrong ones, eventually painting “wrong” as an ugly, slimy monster to stay away from. But as Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Our world increasingly needs adaptive, creative, dynamic thinkers, not someone who merely spits out an answer. And we know this. We want good thinkers. Yet it seems like many times we put a lot of stress on getting things right and getting there the right way. That’s what is rewarded and idealized through most assignments, practices, and tests. While this type of teaching has its place, I think it is vital for us as educators to help students not be scared of getting something wrong but instead help them embrace creativity, which will help them become better learners and thinkers.

To achieve this, it is important to accept each student’s unique way of learning and discovering. Howard Gardner’s famous theory of multiple intelligences explains that people learn in different ways, including visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical. For education and creativity, this is very important. It means that we as teachers need to adapt to and encourage learners of all types. It means that we need to let kids be creative and figure things out in the way that makes sense to them. It means that we shouldn’t favor a certain type of intelligence but instead embrace all of them. We could apply this by changing a lesson plan so a student can understand better, encouraging a child’s unique interests, or avoiding picking favorites among the students. Through all this we can remember this wise advice, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” As we embrace all types of learners, students can keep enough confidence in their own creativity to contribute something unique to the world.

What are your thoughts about encouraging creativity and working with different types of learners? Especially you who are farther along in your majors or have more experience working with students?

If you want to watch the full talk from Sir Ken Robinson, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY  It’s a fascinating video!


Robinson, Ken. “Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity.” TED Conference 2006. TED Conferences. Long Beach. Feb 2006. Address.

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