For an education class last term I researched how to teach and optimize creativity. I found that while creativity is unique and varies from person to person, there are concrete ways in which people can explore their creative process and optimize it. From self observation we can discover how our process varies when we are creatively successful and when we are "stuck".
While I explored my own creativity and found how helpful the awareness of my process of creating was in successfully accomplishing different projects, I began to wonder why exploring my creative process seemed somewhat out of the ordinary in a setting where most of what I do involves absorbing information and turning it into some kind of innovative product: papers, pieces of art, proposals, presentations, meetings, interviews, parties, and math problems. I began to ask fellow students in all classes to tell me about the three most important things that they had learned from their time at Bowdoin. Each of my interviewees mentioned at least one major thing (and sometimes all three) about their creative process. Of course it makes sense that we learn about how we think and create during our time in college. We are constantly overwhelmed by information to absorb and deadlines by which we have to produce something with our recently acquired information. But if our creative process is such an important part of our education, then why haven't I ever had a professor ask me what I did to write a good paper instead of simply telling me that the product was good? Or had a discussion in class about reading strategies when it was clear that half the class had understood a concept but the other half had totally missed it? I feel that for us students to explore our abilities and be as successful in a class as possible, we need to be encouraged to explore our creative process and its connection to a finished product.
I have a few basic suggestions. Every writing class at Bowdoin should include a revision. The revision should not consist of listening to a professors criticisms and making the necessary adjustments. It should consist of taking a successful paper, looking at what made it successful, and then applying those strategies to an unsuccessful paper. A revision could also be an opportunity to rewrite a paper from a different point of view or style, after being exposed to new information, and thereby seeing how the content affects the writing process.
Students' experiences and perceptions of their own work should be given more weight. At some point in each class students should be asked about their own creations - which paper they enjoyed writing the most, which one came out the best, how they had known they had finished writing the paper, how they had started writing the paper, which book they most enjoyed reading and specifically what was different about that book, what environment they work in most successfully, what they experience when they work successfully.
First-year orientation should include some kind of discussion about education, thinking, learning, and creating at Bowdoin. When I asked students about the three most important things that they had learned in college, I also asked them what they remembered from orientation that had to do with education. The only things that people remembered were bits of advice about spacing out classes, prioritizing activities over one another, and making personal connections with professors. The important things that one learns from college should correlate with the important things that one is introduced to college with. People don't often look back on their Bowdoin education and say that the best things they learned were how to drink responsibly, practice safe voluntary sex, and listen to speakers. Bowdoin's first year orientation should be focused on conversations about how to read and listen to lectures efficiently, manage one's time, use different methods of perceiving information (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and use different strategies for writing papers. We should be actively learning about how our personal strategies play an integral part in our education throughout our college experience