Monday, December 19, 2005

Article Note: On Creativity, Curiosity, and Information Literacy

Citation for article:

Hensley, Randy Burke. "Curiosity and Creativity as Attributes of Information Literacy." Reference and User Services Quarterly 44.1 (Fall 2004): 31-36.

I read the article via OmniFile.

Hensley's column looks at the attributes of curiosity and creativity, and it suggests how to incorporate them into information literacy. According to the author then,

"This article identifies the calls for incorporating creativity and curiosity into teaching and learning, provides definitions of the terms as well as how they fit within the context of the terms as well as how they fit within the context of work defining individuality and intellect, and argues that it is possible and necessary to incorporate curiosity and creativity into information literacy teaching from a theoretical and practical perspective" (31).

This is an ambitious agenda, but the article is pretty much a decent literature review on curiosity and creativity, and then it gives a call to action on the part of librarians. The article provides some good points, which I will highlight below, but overall, it remains at the theory level; this means there are no concrete examples or plans. I know this is not part of the plan, but I would have wanted more. This makes it a nice review on the ideas, and it gives a start to the dialogue on how to incorporate the concepts into information literacy teaching. It is mostly an overview.

After a brief look at some educational reports, particularly the Boyer Commission Report, Hensley provides a literature review on the ways that curiosity and creativity have been defined. He summarizes what the literature says about curiosity by concluding that, based on the literature, "curiosity is a response to an environment of exploration that is expressed through actions and attitudes that manifest themselves in wanting to know 'why'" (32). For educators, according to Hensley, then "we need to teach 'why' rather than 'how'" (32). The author then looks at the concept of creativity. A key idea to keep in mind is that curiosity and creativity cannot be taught, not in the traditional sense. This is because, according to the author, "they are not skills, but rather characteristics of the individual that can be fostered by providing a rich environment that asks why and embraces problems and weaknesses in the process" (33). The key in that statement is the idea of fostering the traits. I think we are all capable of being curious and creative. I will grant that some folks are more curious, creative, or both, but with a good teacher providing a nurturing environment, any student can rise to the ocassion. Some other ideas from the column include:
  • Hensley cites Parker J. Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach, who says that "good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher" (qtd. in Hensley 33). I think a good teacher needs both: good technique and integrity. One should add to this dedication and the traits of curiosity and creativity. A teacher cannot foster creativity and curiosity if he is not curious and creative himself. A sense of wonder is also helpful.
  • "Successful teaching and learning encounters have one element in common: at the heart of these is a curious and creative individual, student, or library user, who can sustain an ongoing appreciation for what learning is and how information promotes and nurtures developing awareness, ability, self-confidence, and contribution. Correspondingly, teaching in any mode is successful only to the extent that it fosters a curiosity in what information can do for an individual's understanding of the worlds and triggers an individual's ability to creatively put information to use" (33).
  • What we need to is get the students to be curious, to feel that they can ask questions and that asking questions is valued and welcomed. They then need creativity to know how to create questions.
  • Librarians can provide opportunities for creativity and curiosity at the Reference Desk as well as in the classroom. Emphasis on an inquiry method can help in this area and active learning should be a primary method.
  • What an information literate individual should be able to ask: "'Why do I need to identify an information need effectively? What happens if I don't? What are the different ways I can identify the information need? What are my options for finding information? Why should I use one way instead of another? Why evaluate information? Do I always need to evaluate information? Why is credibility a criterion for evaluation? Are there times when it is a flawed criterion?" (35).

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