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The Danger of Designing Lessons for Thinkers

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My twitter handle will seem a bit strange to some readers. 

I am @perfinker.

The premise of this term—coined by David L. Krech—is that human beings never just think. They are not best described, therefore, as “thinkers”. Rather, human beings are emotional beings. Our emotional responses are the primary way in which we make sense out of our experiences. We have bodies that influence how the world is experienced. We have the capacity to envision the possible—we are an imaginative species.  What we most remember and understand are topics/events that have evoked our emotions and imaginations. 

We always perceive, feel, and think at the same time; we perfink.

With this in mind, it’s a problem to approach teaching with a view of students as mostly or primarily “thinkers”. Doing so results in the kinds of objectives-based approaches to teaching shaped after industrial production methods. It may be logical to break a topic down into 5 or 6 parts, teach and then test, but it certainly isn’t the best way to teach emotional beings.

We don’t teach talking heads. We teach embodied minds and hearts—Body And Mind—BAM!

Education suffers from the misconception that rational thinking and imagination are somehow at odds. Many people believe imagination contributes to work in the arts but not to learning in mathematics, science, social studies etc. Many people assume the imagination and imaginative engagement in learning are primary or elementary school phenomena. These kinds of beliefs are harming our kids—they are leaving them disengaged in schools.

I encourage all teachers to re-imagine their students as the "perfinkers" that they are. With perfinkers in mind, teachers can shape topics in emotionally meaningful ways using the tools of imagination.  Imaginative Education can give you the tools. Check out imaginED’s Tools of Imagination Series.  Or, on this blog, these recent posts:

Tips For Imaginative Educators:  #1 Find The Story

Tips For Imaginative Educators:  #2 Find A Source of Dramatic Tension

Does this post resonate with you?  Please leave a comment—I would love to connect with you!

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Gillian Judson (@perfinker) teaches/writes/researches in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in B.C., Canada, co-directs the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG), and coordinates Imaginative Ecological Education (IEE) research and practice. Her work is primarily concerned with the role of imagination in all learning.  She also investigates how an ecological and imaginative approach to education can both increase students’ engagement with, and understanding of, the content of the curriculum but can show it in a light that can lead to a sophisticated ecological consciousness. 

Gillian writes on a range of educatonal topics but especially about imagination, creativity, wonder, story, and ecological/place-based teaching practices. She is author of the books Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education: Practical Strategies For Teaching (Pacific Educational Press, 2015) and A New Approach to Ecological Education:  Engaging Students’ Imaginations in Their World (New York:  Peter Lang; 2010). She most recently co-authored a book called Imagination and the Engaged Learner: Cognitive Tools for the Classroom. (New York: Teachers’ College Press; in press). 

She has also edited the book Teaching 360°: Effective Learning Through The Imagination (Rotterdam: Sense Publishing, 2008) and co-edited the books Engaging Imagination and Developing Creativity in Education (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press; 2015) and Wonder-Full Education:  The Centrality of Wonder (New York: Routledge; 2013).

She started a blog in 2016. Learn all about imagination-focused practices (K-post secondary) at imaginED: education that inspires.

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Guest Saturday, 20 July 2019