Learning = creating

Reading about Arne Dietrich’s 2004 paper ‘Cognitive neuroscience of creativity Reprint CNC PB&R‘, I was struck by the similarity of the four categories to Kolb’s model of ‘experiential learning’. They kind of map to one another. Kolb’s model proposes a ‘cycle’ which can be started at any point, and positions ‘types’ of learners in the quadrants defined by the two continua (processing and perception):

Diagram showing model of experiential learning created by David Kolb

Diagram of Kolb’s model with the four ‘types’ of learners

Dietrich’s model also can be expressed in four quadrants, defined by the axes ‘deliberate – spontaneous’ and ‘cognitive – emotional’:

Diagram of Arne Dietrich's model of 4 types of creativity.

Diagram of Arne Dietrich’s model of 4 types of creativity copied from Susan Weinschenk’s book (see below).

The ‘cognitive and deliberate’ type of creativity sounds much like Kolb’s ‘theorist’. The other four ‘types’ also fit almost one-to-one:

Diagram showing how Dietrich's four kinds of creativity and Kolb's experiential learning seem to match.

The two models combined.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read Kolb’s original work, only the explanations of it by various other authors. So these are only tentative ideas, but here goes:

- Maybe this validates Kolb to the extent that if learning is creating new knowledge and abilities, then the four kinds of creation he posited have some basis in neuroscience.
- Maybe this also invalidates Kolb’s idea of a ‘cycle’. The path one takes from one kind of creation to another is probably nothing like his neat model seems to suggest.

And there has not been any validation of the idea of ‘learning styles’ based on the experiential model (they don’t predict how well someone will learn).

One thing: it explains why my first-year students all seem to have the same learning style (activist – pragmatist). In her book ‘100 things every designer needs to know about people‘ Susan Weinschenk explains that for Dietrich’s cognitive and deliberate creativity, one needs a pre-existing body of knowledge. Coming from miserably bad high schools, lazy and distracted, these kids don’t have any knowledge and aren’t about to put out the effort to acquire it. Whereas the other kinds of creativity (emotional – spontaneous, etc.) seem to take less effort.

Conclusion: forget the ‘learning cycle’ and force them to do the cognitive-deliberate ‘theorist’ bit relentlessly, so they actually develop the capacities they’re missing. Without them, the students will never become real solvers of ‘wicked problems’. I also suspect that the deliberate cognitive creativity is underestimated as a way of ‘priming’ the unconscious to enable the other kinds.

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