How failure is productive in the creative process: Refining student explanations through theory-building discussion

Hillary Swanson*, Allan Collins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

We argue that failure can play a productive role in students’ creative knowledge-construction process. As evidence, we present a fine-grained analysis of a whole-class theory-building discussion with 8th grade students. The goal of the discussion was to construct a theoretical account for why a glass of cold milk warmed quickly at first and then more slowly as it approached room temperature. Though they initially produced scientifically non-normative explanations, by the end of the discussion the class had refined their ideas into an explanation of difference drives rate – a relationship at the heart of Newton's law of heating and other equilibration phenomena. The students’ flawed initial explanations were productive in the knowledge-construction process, as the raw material they ultimately refined into a more scientific explanation. We argue that the theory-building discussion supported both creative and critical thinking and that this pedagogical approach has the power, more generally, to leverage failure productively for science learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-63
Number of pages10
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
Volume30
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Keywords

  • Constructivist instruction
  • Creative problem solving
  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Knowledge construction
  • Knowledge in pieces
  • Microgenetic learning analysis
  • Science learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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