Creative Thoughts about Creativity #4

23 08 2009

Picture1To cease to think creatively is but little different from ceasing to live.

Ben Franklin

Ride the horse in the direction that it’s going.

Werner Erhard

There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.

Douglas MacArthur

Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.

Frank King

It takes courage to be creative.  Just as soon as you have a new idea, you are a minority of one.

E.  Paul Torrance

Practice and persistence are the necessary ingredients of creativity.


I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird.  I suddenly realized that anyone weird wasn’t weird at all and that it was the people saying they were weird that were weird.

Paul McCartney

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

The greatest enemies of creativity are crusty rigidity and stubborn complacency.


Also, creativity can be learned.  Once you have become convinced and aware that you can bring new things into being, then it is simply a matter of choosing a particular way to crate.


Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.  Any of us will put out more and better ideas if our efforts are appreciated.



23 08 2009

Authors: Susan Winebrenner and Sandra Berger
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education; The Council for Exceptional Children

How to get the best performance from every student is a challenging task, especially in classrooms where there are many different levels of ability. Often, students who are gifted are not challenged to perform to their full capacity because they seem to be doing just fine.

Unfortunately, these students may never achieve their potential because they have not had complex tasks and have never learned to really work.

This digest presents two strategies to help highly able students get more out of school. Teachers may find that the following strategies enable them to challenge and motivate not only gifted students, but also other students who have talents and abilities in specific areas.

Gifted students benefit from participating in activities that are different from those designed for other students. Such alternative activities should extend basic concepts and allow students to connect their personal interests to the course curriculum. Extra credit activities should be avoided as they send a message that more work is required. Two strategies that are helpful to teachers in managing alternative activities are compacting and contracts.
Compacting: Students who demonstrate previous mastery spend less time with the regular curriculum and more time with extension and enrichment opportunities.
Contracts: Written agreements between teachers and students that outline what students will learn, how they will learn it, in what period of time, and how they will be evaluated. Contracts allow students to engage actively in the decision-making process, directing their course of study (Parke, 1989, pp.70-71).

The following guidelines are useful for pretestable subject areas where students move between an instructional group and extension activities.
At the beginning of a unit, provide opportunities for interested students to demonstrate mastery in some way. The same activity may be used for postassessment.
Students who achieve a specified criterion or grade attend class only on the days when instruction includes concepts they have not mastered. On those occasions, they become partof the regular class and participate in assigned activities.
For each student who achieves a specified criterion level on the preassessment activity, prepare a contract listing required concepts, enrichment options, and specified working conditions. Check only the topics students have not mastered so they know when to join the larger group.
The following guidelines are useful when material may not be pretestable because it is unfamiliar to students. Compacting is still required because gifted students need less time than their age peers to learn new material.
Prepare a study guide that includes the same concepts for which all students will be responsible.

Offer the study guide opportunity to all students who have exhibited easy mastery of previous topics. Eligible students will be expected to learn the study guide material, but it is understood that they will spend the majority of their school time working on their extension tasks. Students should not be required to write out the answers for the content of the study guide. They may use any means they choose to learn the material, but must be able to demonstrate mastery.
Include dates when students must meet with the rest of the class to demonstrate their competence with the required concepts. Students who do not demonstrate competence must return to work with the class for the rest of the unit. Thus, during a specific unit of time, students are moving back and forth between the teacher directed group and independent work on extension activities.

The following guidelines are useful for pretestable subject areas where students are moving between instructional group and extension activities.
In one section of the contract, list the concepts or outcomes that the whole class will learn. In another section of the contract, list a variety of alternative or extension activities from which students may choose. These activities may be developed by the teacher, the student, or both. If extension activities are developed solely by the teacher, options should include “Your original idea” so that students can link their personal interests with the required curriculum. Ideas designed by the student must have teacher approval.
Students work on alternative activities on the days when the class is learning concepts they have previously mastered.

Students should be responsible for documenting their time. One option is to ask students to keep a log of their activities on the days they are not working with the rest of the class. Set guidelines for those activities.
Student outcomes or grades result from a combination of work completed with the class and a posttest or postassessment activity. The section on Guidelines for Evaluation of Alternative Work provides details.
The following guidelines are useful for subject areas that may not be pretestable because material is unfamiliar to students. In this case, teachers use a study guide with an independent study agreement, illustrated on the reverse.

Provide students with a study guide that contains a list of expected outcomes for a unit, which they may choose to achieve independently. Instead of working with the regular class, these students will research and present information about an alternative topic related to the general theme or unit.
Students work on the extended activity in school during the time the class is working with the regular content. Thus, the activity becomes their real work for the class period.
Students sign an agreement similar to the following illustration.

Independent Study Agreement
The following terms are agreed to by teacher and student:
The student may learn the key concepts or the information described on the study guide independently. The student must demonstrate mastery at appropriate checkpoints to continue this arrangement for the rest of the unit. The student must participate in selected group activities when one day’s notice is given by the teacher. The student agrees to complete an independent project by (date) to share with the class.

Project description: ___________________ .
The student agrees to work on the selected project according to the following guidelines while the remainder of the class is involved with the teacher. (List guidelines.)
Teacher’s signature
Student’s signature
A similar agreement may be used with all independent study activities. The prototype may be used for ideas on what to include, or teachers may use their own ideas. Students rejoin the large group for special experiences in which all students should participate.
Students who do not work on their alternative activity or do not honor the working conditions of the agreement are required to rejoin the class for the duration of the unit.
Students present their project to the class at an appropriate time. Written work is not required. Students are expected to present a talk of 7-10 minutes, accompanied by at least one visual aid. Or, students may negotiate a suitable means of demonstrating to the class what has been learned.
Evaluation or grading alternatives are described in the section that follows on Guidelines for Evaluation of Alternative Work.

The following guidelines are useful for pretestable subject areas where students are moving between instructional group and extension activities.

Alternative student work is more easily managed when student activities require more than one class period to complete. In mathematics, for example, students might research the real world applications of the course content, work with various number bases, or investigate the lives of famous mathematicians. In writing or English classes, students might work on more complex or open-ended writing assignments, or investigate the writing style of several authors.
When eligible students work on alternative activities, the goal should be to provide them with opportunities to master challenging tasks. They would earn the same credit as if they had completed the regular tasks as long as they adhere to the agreed-upon working conditions. The following guidelines are useful for subjects that may not be pretestable because material is unfamiliar to students.

Alternative work extends the regular curriculum. Therefore, extension projects should earn at least a grade of B or the equivalent because the students are going beyond what is required.
All criteria for evaluation should be presented and understood before students begin an extended activity. Teacher expectations should be clearly stated.
Students earn a grade of B if the completed work represents typical research that merely reports secondary sources and if the presentation is properly made to an appropriate audience.
Students earn a grade of A if the completed work represents unique or creative research, provides evidence of primary sources, represents an interesting or unusual synthesis of available data, or the material is presented in an original manner.

It is important for students to understand that they need to be working productively during school time. If they do not follow the expected working conditions, they need to rejoin the regular instructional group and may be required to make up some of the regular work. If students become immersed in the topic and wish to continue beyond the expected date, they must provide a progress report at regular intervals.

If point systems, rubrics, or holistic assessment methods are used for other activities, these methods may also be used to evaluate students’ extended projects. Students may become engaged in the creation of the scoring rubrics and evaluate their own work as the project progresses by measuring their project against the rubric criteria. Responsibility for evaluating student work is then shared between teacher and students.

Effective teachers at all grade levels have found that students differ in the ways they learn best and therefore learn better when teachers vary approaches to learning. Compacting and contracts make it possible for teachers to present alternative activities to highly capable learners that are challenging, promote cognitive growth, and are based on student interests. Regular use of compacting and contracts will benefit not only gifted students, but also provide interesting educational opportunities for the entire class.
Parke, B. N. (1989). GIFTED STUDENTS IN REGULAR CLASSROOMS Needam Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Reis, S., & Renzulli, J. (1992). “Using curriculum compacting to challenge the above-average.” EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, 50(2), 51-57.
Winebrenner, S. (1992). TEACHING GIFTED KIDS IN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.
NOTE: This digest was developed from TEACHING GIFTED KIDS IN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM by Susan Winebrenner.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002005. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education.

Creative Thoughts about Creativity #3

23 08 2009

Picture1I skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

Wayne Gretzky

Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.

Francis Bacon

Walking the tight wire is living; everything else is waiting.

Karl Wallenda

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.

Oliver Weldell Holmes

Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.

Admiral Hyman Rickover

Reality is something you rise above.

Liza Minnelli

All glory comes from daring to begin.

Eugene F.  Ware

The reason lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn’t there the second time.

Wilie Tyler

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Ethel Barrymore

If you are losing a tug-of-war with a tiger, give him the rope before he gets to your arm.  You can always buy a new rope.

Max Gunther

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.

Jonathan Kozol

It’s all very simple, or else it’s all very complex, or perhaps it’s neither, or both.


If your head is wax, don’t walk in the sun.

Ben Franklin

Developing Thinking in the Gifted

23 08 2009

A Special Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education Publication by Anthony J. Le Storti, Director, Center for Creative Studies, Gwynedd-Mercy College

Gifted children offer special challenges in thinking skills development. Their gifts and talents cause us to believe that they already are good thinkers and that our work is to provide educational and developmental experiences that expose them to greater breadth and depth of content.

In other words, we need to give them more to think about. But contemporary theory and research on the brain, intelligence, learning styles, etc. indicate that we have areas of natural strength and ability and other areas where our abilities are in need of development.

And research in the area of expertise indicates that even gifted performers must pass through a number of necessary developmental stages to move from novice to expert.

The point is, while gifted children are on a fast track to mastery, that journey will likely require considerable advice, instruction and encouragement from parents and teachers. Gifted children have much to learn in order to maximize the development of their tremendous potential. This learning should not be limited to acquiring more content or subject matter knowledge. It must include the development of powerful process (thinking) skills as well as the personal traits and dispositions that energize the good thinker.

Helping Children to Think

In order to help children to think, we must first let them think. As early as their development and maturity permit (relatively early for many gifted children), they should not only be allowed, but encouraged to solve their own problems and make their own decisions. Parental guidance is of course called for, especially with younger children.

How can this be done without great preparation? Don’t respond with solutions when children ask, “What should I do about X ?”

Instead, answer with evocative questions. (“What have you thought about doing?” or “What are all the things you could do?”)

Guide them as they solve their problems on their own. It keeps the ownership of the problem clear, and it encourages thoughtful and responsible action.

When they ask you to make decisions for them (“What course should I take?” or “What should I wear today?”), resist making the choice for them.

Again, lead them as they move through the decision making process. Evocative questions can again be helpful.

You could ask, “What goals do you have?” or “What’s important to consider in choosing a course (or getting dressed)?”

In Developing Talent in Young People, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues wrote that the development from novice to expert requires “enormous motivation, much support from family, the best teachers and role models possible, much time and a singleness of purpose and dedication.

Problem Solving Decision Making

1. Finding the Problem    State the goal

2. Planning            Gather information

3. Data Collection         Establish criteria

4. Defining the Problem    Recognize and/or generate alternatives

5. Generation of Ideas     Evaluate alternatives

6. Selecting the Solution(s)       Select best course(s) of action

7. Implementation

8. Evaluation

from: Developing Talent in Young People, Ed. by Benjamin Bloom, Ballantine: New York, 1985 Critical and Creative Thinking

We often hear about “critical thinking” or “creative thinking,” and there seems to be a general affirmation that these are good things to develop.

But these concepts are somewhat fuzzy, and that fuzziness is troublesome for the parent, the teacher, and the student focusing on developing thinking abilities.

How does one teach or learn critical thinking if it is not clear what critical thinking is? Let’s define these terms. •

“Critical” derives from the Greek kritikos, which means able to discern or judge. Critical thinking, then, is thinking oriented to the determination of the authenticity, accuracy, or value of a proposition or product.

We are critical thinkers when we evaluate whether something is true or false, better or worse, correct or incorrect. We aid children in the development of their critical abilities when we teach them how to evaluate their own independent project, determine whether a politician or a television commercial is credible, and judge whether a painting o ra piece of writing has artistic merit. •

On the other hand, creative thinking is thinking oriented to the formation and production of a novel and meaningful idea or product.

When the creative process results in a new form, we often label it “invention” or “composition.” When the creative process reveals a new pattern or concept, we call it “discovery.”

In either case, the thinker must learn to sense problems and opportunities, to define them in an insightful fashion, to generate novel alternatives, to select the most promising of these alternatives, and to verify that the result “works,” that is, meets whatever standards are appropriate. We help gifted children to develop their creative abilities when we respond constructively to their tremendous curiosity, when we encourage their experiments and artistic endeavors, and, importantly, when we teach them that setbacks are part of the creative process. One can see that these two types of thinking are not mutually exclusive. They are complementary powers of the human intellect — the ability to generate and the ability to judge.

In fact, good thinkers continuously blend both types of thinking in accomplishing their personal and professional goals.

Prompts for Thinking

The following are examples of questions that could be used to prompt creative, divergent thinking:

• In what ways might we X?

• What if X?

• How else could one X?

• What hypothesis can you suggest to explain X?

• What will ____ be like in the future?

• How would a dentist, an athlete, etc. solve this problem?

The following could be used as prompts for critical, analytical thinking: • Explain your reasoning.

• Why do you think that?

• Can you defend your position?

• What are the parts that make up this problem (situation, etc.)?

• What criteria or tests should we use in this case?

• What do you think caused that?

• How might we prove/disprove that?

• Explain what the other side’s position is.

Traits and Dispositions

In addition to helping children with thinking strategies such as problem solving and decision making and with the creative and critical aspects of thinking, it will be crucially important for parents and teachers to engender in children the personality traits, motivations and dispositions that energize good thinking. Knowing the material in a content area is important, and knowing the steps of good thinking strategies is also important. Without the proper attitudes and motivations, however, those things remain largely inert. But when we aid and encourage gifted children to power their thinking with persistence, open-mindedness, rationality, flexibility, courage, intellectual honesty, and an orientation to excellence, then they animate their content and process knowledge. They enliven and direct their abilities and actualize their remarkable potential.

The Thinking Environment

If we intend to help children to become better thinkers, we must, almost literally, set the stage for thinking; that is, we must create and maintain a “thinking environment.” Some aspects of the thinking environment are physical: children need to be able to concentrate, to have the resources that aid their thinking, to eat well and get sufficient rest, etc.

Many of the aspects of a thinking environment, however, are psychological. The home or classroom needs to provide a physical and psychological security. It should be an environment of mutual respect, of encouragement, of humor, of open-mindedness. There must be a recognition of the dignity of the individual and of the right of the individual to develop as an independent thinker.

While children help to shape their environments, the authority figures present (parents, teachers, administrators) have great power to promote or inhibit thoughtfulness. As indicated previously, these adult authorities need to be models of good thinking. They need to kindle in children the motivations and traits of thoughtful individuals. And they must permit and encourage growth in thinking.

We see too many examples of adult students and professionals who still look to authority figures for permission to think. Unfortunately, it is a lot easier to say “While you’re living in this house, you’ll do as I say,” than it is to patiently work together to solve problems. It is easier to be directive and to tell children what to do than it is to offer advice and then be willing to accept their decisions. Of course, the maturity and development of the child are important factors that must be considered. But we must recognize that our roles are to “launch” the children in our care onto their own independent journeys. And in that task, it is better to start earlier rather than later.


The thinking that we engage in to acquire or generate meaning and/or products is called cognition. But humans have the remarkable ability to think about their own thinking, to think at a higher, or meta-, level. Metacognition is that higher level of mental functioning used for planning, directing, monitoring and evaluating our own thinking. Metacognition is related to greater cognitive achievement and development.

Gifted children, who may naturally be more introspective and self-aware, can benefit from focusing their attention on the quality of their thinking. We can aid their efforts to become self-directed and self-evaluative thinkers by helping them become aware of their metacognitive ability, by assisting them in planning their thinking, and by providing them with guidelines for good thinking.

We further help to develop their metacognition by providing prompts and questions that help them to monitor and evaluate their thinking while in progress, by “debriefing” or discussing with them the thinking they did in completing a project, and, importantly, by providing them with examples of these important processes. By sharing how you think in order to accomplish important tasks, by solving problems out loud and showing how you deal with the complexities of solving a problem or making a decision (to include how you handle wrong turns and mistakes), you provide some important insights and examples of how a mature and accomplished thinker goes about their work.

Developing Metacognition

Metacognition is our ability to think about our own thinking — to plan it, monitor it, evaluate it. A parent or teacher can help a child to develop these abilities by:

• modeling or thinking aloud

• asking the child to think aloud

• guiding students in developing a thinking plan

• helping them to assess and critique their thinking

Additionally, parents or teachers can prompt children with questions like the following :

• What is your purpose or goal?

• What kind of end-product do you want to have?

• What kind of problem is this?

• What is your plan?

• What do you know/not know about this?

• What standards will you use to judge your work?

• What was strong/weak about your thinking?

• What did you learn for the future?

Guidelines for Nurturing Thinking

1. Establish and maintain a general atmosphere that promotes thinking. Encourage thoughtfulness.

o Allow for humor.

o Discuss subjects in depth.

2. Be a model of thoughtfulness.

o Demonstrate the traits of a good thinker.

o Share how you think, plan, decide, etc.

3. Work to remove the blocks that limit critical and creative thinking in children.

4. Use prompts and questions that promote and develop thinking ability.

o Use divergent questioning.

o Allow children time to think before answering questions or during discussions.

o Be accepting without praising.

5. Teach thinking strategies and techniques.

6. Make formal use of strategies and techniques when doing family or class problem solving and decision making.

7. Help children to build on failure.

8. Help children to develop self-evaluation skills.

9. Encourage students to express positive self-statements about their thinking ability.

10. Teach and model open-mindedness.

Criteria for Classroom


• There is a sustained examination of a few topics rather than superficial coverage of many.

• There is a sense of coherence and continuity.

• Students are given an appropriate amount of time to think and respond.

• The teacher asks challenging questions or structures challenging tasks.

• The teacher is a model of thoughtfulness.

• Students offer explanations and reasons for their conclusions.

Source: Fred M. Newman, “Qualities of Thoughtful Social Studies Classes: An Empirical Profile,” Journal of Curriculum Studies, V. 22 n. 3, p. 253-75,May-June, 1990.

A Declaration of the Educational Rights of the Gifted Child

23 08 2009

Barbara Clark, Ed.D.

In a democracy equal opportunity cannot, must not, mean the same opportunity for as Jefferson once said, “There is nothing more unequal than equal treatment of unequal people.” Every child is unique.

All children have a right to develop their own potential. All children must include gifted children.

1. It is the right of a gifted child to engage in appropriate educational experiences even when other children of the grade level or age are unable to profit from the experience.

2. It is the right of a gifted child to be grouped and to interact with other gifted children for some part of the learning experience in order to be understood, engaged, and challenged.

3. It is the right of a gifted child to be taught rather than be used as a tutor or teaching assistant for the major part of the school day.

4. It is the right of a gifted child to be presented with new, advanced, and challenging ideas and concepts regardless of the materials and resources that have been designated for the age group or grade level in which the child was placed.

5. It is the right of a gifted child to be taught the concepts that the child does not yet know instead of relearning old concepts that the child has already shown evidence of mastering.

6. It is the right of a gifted child to learn faster than age peers and to have that pace of learning respected and provided for.

7. It is the right of a gifted child to think in alternative ways, produce diverse products, and to bring intuition and innovation to the learning experience.

8. It is the right of a gifted child to be idealistic and sensitive to fairness, justice, accuracy, and the global problems facing humankind and to have a forum for expressing these concerns.

9. It is the right of a gifted child to question generalizations, offer alternative solutions, and value complex and profound levels of thought.

10. It is the right of a gifted child to be intense, persistent, and goal-directed in the pursuit of knowledge.

11. It is the right of a gifted child to express a sense of humor that is unusual, playful, and often complex.

12, It is the right of a gifted child to hold high expectations for self and others and to be sensitive to inconsistency between ideals and behavior; the child may need to have help in seeing the value in human differences.

13. It is the right of a gifted child to be a high achiever in some areas of the curriculum and not in others making thoughtful, knowledgeable academic placement a necessity.

14. It is the right of a gifted child to have a low tolerance for the lag between vision and actualization, between personal standards and developed skill, and between physical maturity and athletic ability.

15. It is the right of a gifted child to pursue interests that are beyond the ability of age peers, are outside of the grade level curriculum, or involve areas as yet unexplored or unknown.

These are some of the rights of gifted children for which we must advocate. From your experience you will probably wish to add more, but if we could only be sure that the educational experiences of the gifted children we serve honored these 15 rights we would have the assurance that our society would be blessed with a continuous supply of gifted adults. We would be sure we had nurtured the gifted children among us.

As a student, are you learning or image oriented?

23 08 2009

Clay Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D

According to Dweck (1986) and other researchers, there are two basic types of students:

(a) learning oriented –those wanting to learn and gain competence and

(b) image oriented –those wanting to look smart and/or avoid looking dumb.

We all want to build our self-esteem but we try to do it in different ways. While over-simplified, there are clusters of findings crudely associated with these two types. Understanding these types may help the schools help students and each student self-help.

Learning oriented students see intelligence as changeable (“I can learn to learn this stuff” or “I can get smarter”). They enjoy learning, often fascinated with special topics, such as dinosaurs, geography, some phase of history, politics, women’s rights, pollution, nutrition, etc. They see low grades as due to a lack of effort or a poor strategy, which they can change. Pride is based on amount of effort they put in, not on looking smart. They work hard. Being unchallenged is boring and offers no chance to test or prove themselves. Thus, even if they don’t feel they are real bright, they will take on tough, challenging intellectual tasks, risking failing on an assignment. More boys take this attitude than girls.

Image oriented students see intelligence as permanently fixed. They consider it very important that others see them as smart or, at least, not stupid or naive. Since doing well is assumed to be due to brains and not effort, there isn’t much need to work hard. In fact, if a person has to work hard to learn something, that suggests they aren’t very smart. And, if you do poorly, there isn’t anything you can do about it. You were born that way. Naturally, such a person would avoid difficult challenges if doing poorly seemed likely (especially true of bright girls or women). They tend to be less curious, less interested in new ideas and in learning about themselves. Their pride is based on good impression management, not on honest, careful estimates of their ability. They avoid testing their limits. Thus, the student’s level of confidence is shaky–one low quiz score, one criticism of them, one foolish statement by them raises their own doubts about their intelligence. Even high achievers fall into this trap; their worry about their image reduces the intrinsic satisfaction they get out of learning.

Schools have recently attempted to build students’ self-esteem, sacrificing perhaps the acquisition of knowledge.

Three popular principles guide many teachers:

give lots of positive reinforcement,

expect students to do well (self-fulfilling prophecy),

and build the students’ self-esteem.

All sound commendable. All may be harmful in certain circumstances. Examples: Expecting and rewarding success on easy assignments does not encourage a student to tackle hard tasks. Being “successful” on easy tasks doesn’t build self-confidence, it makes students feel dumber. Children know their limits aren’t being tested. Students are being mislead if they are subtly taught that it is easy to succeed as a student. That’s a lie. It’s deceptive because you haven’t been encouraged to dig deeply into topics, to feel the delight of uncovering fascinating new knowledge until you know more about a topic than anyone else, to realize the depth and complexity and wonder associated with almost any subject, to interact with others who know more and are also excited about learning in many areas, etc.

  • The greater the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Becoming motivated to study

A recent study by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi indicates that to become motivated to learn in school,

(a) you must learn to genuinely enjoy reading and studying and using the information (usually telling others about it),

(b) you must be given support and challenge at home and school so that you willingly take on tough assignments, realizing that you will occasionally not do well or not get done,

(c) you must feel competent and be taught or tell yourself that doing poorly on an assignment or a test basically means that you need to work harder or take a different approach or both, and

(d) you must, in most cases, believe the information learned is worthwhile (at least for passing the exam).

So, if you were an undisciplined person, like John, how could you become motivated to study and gain self-confidence?

  • Learn “I am responsible”–that the more you study, the more you learn and the better your grades are. Thus, you begin to feel more responsible for what you get out of school. How exactly can you do this? (a) Keep records of how much you study and compare your grades when you have studied a lot with times when you study very little. (b) Prove to yourself that you are in control of your grades, no one else, not the teacher, not the exam, not luck.
  • Learn “I can be in control”–that you are capable of directing your life. How? (a) Schedule more study time and reward your promptness and increased effort. (b) Carefully measure the greater efficiency you achieve, e.g. how much more of the last few paragraphs do you remember when studying intensely? (c) Remember: doing poorly simply means you should try harder. Take pride in your self-control.
  • Learn “I have ability”–that you have more ability than you previously thought. How? (a) Have more success by developing skills, like reading and test taking skills. (b) Get more information about your ability, such as aptitude test results or a respected person’s honest opinion. (c) Increase your feelings of competence.
  • Learn “I value learning”–that you can value studying and success in school more. How? (a) Write down all the benefits of doing well in school. (b) Remind yourself that each successful step in school means three things–you are earning a chance to continue, you have what it takes to succeed, and you have done something worthwhile. (c) Make use of what you learn, e.g. tell others, interact with others who can add to your knowledge, apply the knowledge in other classes or at work, etc.
  • Learn “I may deceive myself”–that you, like others, are capable of remarkable self-deceiving and self-defeating thought processes which interfere with many important activities in your life, ranging from doing your best in school to trying out for the track team or asking the smartest person in school for a date. How? (a) Observe your attributions, especially your excuses, and double check their accuracy. (b) Overcome your fears by doing whatever scares you (if it is safe)! (c) Attend closely to your self-concept, including self-efficacy and attitudes about changing, and find the best views for you.

You need to realize that change is possible before you can change. In recent years, a procedure called attribution retraining has been successful in increasing peoples’ motivation to do better in school and other settings.

In most cases, the experimenter persuaded the subjects that their failure at a task (e.g. grades) was due to a lack of adequate effort. Not surprisingly, later the subjects tried harder and did better.

In other studies, seniors told freshmen about their grades improving markedly or a professor described almost flunking out as a freshman, but, with help of a friend, he started to take his studies seriously, eventually excelling in graduate school. By implication or explicitly, these success stories tell us that we too can change and that good grades result from hard work and persistence day by day, not just before exams and during the last week of the semester.

Furthermore, the more effort you put in, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more able you are to do well.

Actually, some researchers have reported that the above success stories improved exam scores a week later and even GPA and Graduate Record Exam scores months later. Improvement was greater in students who believed they had little control over their lives.

However, if students can improve their grades after a couple of effort-improves-grades stories, then why don’t the hundreds of you-can-change-your-life stories told by friends and parents or on TV or in the movies, have the same effect on all of us? One possibility is that our belief in our own self-control is very situation specific , i.e. the success story of an average-turned-super insurance salesperson would probably not inspire a high school freshman to study harder.

Studies of female valedictorians and other academically gifted women often find that they “drop out” of college or graduate school. At the very least, almost every very bright woman finds it necessary to frequently deny or hide her intelligence. Men and women find highly able women threatening. You may think sexism is in the past, but being superior is especially hard for women. Walker & Mehr (1993) provide help for gifted women who want to achieve their potential.

Reproduced with permission of:

Clay Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. and Mental Health Net

Creative Thoughts about Creativity #2

23 08 2009

Picture1Minds are like parachutes.  They only function when open.


The only person who likes change is a wet baby!

Roger von Oech


Our lives are often changed by the vision–and persistence–of individual willing to pursue new ideas.

P.  Ranganath Nayak  & John  Ketteringham

Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.

Jonathan Swift

Nothing is more important than to see the sources of invention, which are, in my opinion, more interesting than the inventions themselves.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz

Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.  I may be given credit for having blazed the trail but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.

Alexander Graham Bell

Creativity is first an act of destruction.


If it hadn’t been for Edison, we’d be watching television by candlelight.


Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they start a winning game.


The Wright brothers flew right through the smokescreen of impossibility.

Charles Kettering

Success is a journey not a destiny.

Ben Sweetland