I had that feeling again today when you read an article about education and think, “In Montessori, we already do this.” And I’m a little tired of writing this same post over and over. But here we go again.
Scientific American. Scott Barry Kaufman’s Beautiful Minds blog: Profiling Serial Creators. Kaufman is a psychologist at NYU specializing in intelligence and creativity, a broadly published academic, and a popular science writer.
The article opens with this premise:
Every single day, all across the globe, extraordinarily creative and talented students sit in our classrooms bored out of their minds.
Great, I thought—this has got to be about Montessori. It was another case of everything but. The piece is worth reading in full, but here’s the outline.
Creative children are not being well served. Creative children are bored in school. We don’t have good ways to identify and measure them. Portfolios are ann imperfect instrument, and there are issues with the standard creativity test, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT).
What we should be doing: We can look more carefully at IQ tests. We can use checklists. But our best be might be profiling: looking for children who have the characteristics of creative adults. It turns out that Barbara Kerr at the University of Kansas has done this work. Here’s how she described creative students (bullet-pointed for easy reading):
- Creatively gifted students may be spontaneous, expressive, intuitive, and perceptive, with evidence of intellectual sophistication and childlike playfulness.
- They are very likely to be curious, open to new experiences, and innovative in many areas of their lives.
- They may express originality in thoughts, and are probably unafraid of what others might think of their ideas.
- Most likely, these students have a wide range of interests and abilities, and may be comfortable with ambiguity and disorder.
- Likely to be unconventional, creatively gifted students are imaginative, and may challenge the status quo.
- By late adolescence, truly creative individuals usually have significant creative accomplishments that have earned them recognition by experts in their domain.
Umm, sound like any students you know?
The piece goes on with some excellent studies and interventions aimed at identifying and supporting these students, which is great. Here are some selected characteristics:
- love of play
- openness to experience
- prone to flow experiences
- high levels of affiliation, nurturance, and agreeableness
And some final observations:
These creative adolescents appeared to be very friendly, socially oriented, and socially well-adjusted.
An intriguing possibility is that the current generation of creative youth is more connected, community oriented, and affiliative than prior generations.
By this point I couldn’t help thinking what I hope you’re thinking, too: How can you talk about all this and not mention Montessori? Instead of digging through our current system to find the children like this who we’re not even serving very well, why not design a system that support these characteristics from the outset!
OK—I got a little heated there. But, really. The article goes on with interventions “to help the students see their real authentic selves and the narrative of their lives, instead of focusing on the results of a standardized profile.” I just had to stop. There’s work to be done.
I Google-scanned Kaufman’s other work, and I didn’t find Montessori anywhere (or mentioned on any Scientific American blog, for that matter). But that’s not his fault, and there’s nothing to be gained by acting like it is. I’m going to send him an email and some links at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can too. Tell him about Stephen Hughes, Angeline Lillard, and Sian Beilock, and the Montessori connection to Csikentmihalyi’s Flow theory. Maybe his next piece will bring us in.