The English WID Creativity Project held two stimulating and well attended workshops in the Fall 2016 semester, the first in September and the second in December after the end of classes. The workshops, growing out of our research and project report, were meant as a way to jumpstart the discussion of how members of the English department can bake more creativity into the assignments and courses that we design. This objective is twofold: approaching our own assignment design from a more creative perspective, and designing projects that directly aim to encourage student creativity.
The first workshop focused on small, lightly-weighted assignments. The second focused on major assignments. Each workshop began with a short presentation led by Jeff Gandell and Susan Briscoe, where we outlined some relevant excerpts from our research into this subject. Each workshop proceeded under the umbrella of a few focused ideas from the wealth of engaging research that is being done on creativity in the classroom. The presentations were followed by individual presentations by four or five members of the English department. Each teacher shared one or two creative assignments that have worked well for them in the past.
The workshops unfolded with a great deal of energy and an exciting spirit of discovery. Framing them by introducing one or two key concepts at the beginning added coherence to the individual presentations that followed. In this way, they didn’t feel like a grab-bag of different assignments. Patterns began to emerge in terms of why certain activities worked, and how they managed to capture students’ imaginations. Faculty members were able to leave with not only a few new ideas, but the groundwork for a potentially new approach to teaching.
The workshops are tangible evidence that there is an appetite within our department to keep talking about how we can help our students develop their creativity muscles. This project has initiated some momentum in this direction in the department, and we plan to continue offering creativity workshops on various subjects for as long as people are interested in participating in them. Don’t hesitate to contact Jeff or Susan with questions or comments.