Bill Eppright asked:
Creative expression is a survival tactic – and a success strategy. As a student in the City of Philadelphia, I learned to fight. I learned to talk, and I learned to run. To avoid pesky bumps and bruises, I quickly created the best combination of tactics and strategy. I learned when to make a stand, how to express myself creatively, and when to successfully exit the scene. Creative expression meant survival and success.
Today, safe classrooms do not back us into a corner where we must come out fighting. Actually, there is little classroom time to encourage personal creative expression. Large amounts of information are taught, and major classroom time is used to memorize and assemble facts. If allowed at all, student expression is monitored and rationed.
Instructors know better. Basic learning is driven by emotional attachment, vested interest and personal need. An enthusiastic student is an expressive student, one learning to increase his or her chances for survival and success. Since we speak and write as we think, and our actions are the result of our thinking, success or outcome is the product of any thought we chose to express or repeat to ourselves. As instructors, we also know that as we elevate student enthusiasm, we must maintain a learning environment in our classroom.
A few questions come to mind:
1. What learning environments are designed to encourage creative expression?
Language arts, art education and performing arts curricula may be the perfect learning environments to focus creative expression. It is here that oral and written expression are expected, acknowledged, and rewarded.
2. What learning tools serve as catalysts to drive creative expression?
Students constantly seek visual media, and share their visual experiences. We often hear conversations that begin, “Hey, did you see where…” or “Did you see when…” Students can hardly wait to express thoughts about something they just saw. Actually that’s what photographers do: create visual expressions to sometime distant and anonymous viewers. Colorful, thought-provoking photo images focus student interest, develop enthusiasm and compel student participation.
3. How can we raise enthusiasm for creative expression and maintain a controlled learning environment?
When photo images are projected or displayed, they become the center of attention. Instructors may then channel and reward positive responses.
4. How do we focus a student’s creative expression, and develop a learning experience?
Bloom’s Taxonomy can serve as a guide. Instructors often refer to Bloom’s three domains as Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes, to structure questions that guide level of participation.
5. How do we promote and teach creative expression as a success strategy?
Learning behaviors can be thought of as transitional goals along the learning path, as students acquire new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes. Photo images focus creative expression as an indicator of learning, and learning is an indicator of future success.
During one of my traveling image-based presentations, I spoke with students, teachers and staff of Smedley Middle School in Chester, Penn., near Philadelphia. Their energetic participation and feedback provide encouragement for me to share this program with other students across the country.
Several of the teachers said their students were on their “best behavior.” I believe the images drew them in, and provided an entertaining challenge. By design, the classroom was filled with constructive, creative conversation. As part of the curriculum, students were then asked to write about the experience.
A few days later, in a meeting of the district school board, Smedley Middle School was acknowledged with favor. The image-based presentation was considered a positive real-life activity and learning experience that helped focus the curriculum. Since my image-based presentations are designed for the interest, entertainment and enrichment of students and students of life. I was glad to hear their comments.