Re-Creating Science in Higher Education: Exploring a Creativity Philosophy

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Re-Creating Science in Higher Education: Exploring a Creativity Philosophy

By Michael A. Wride

MEd Dissertation – Abstract

There is a perception by the general public and students, as well as some scientists, that science is not creative. Views of the ‘official’ scientific method as ‘linear’ and ‘mechanical’ may be partly responsible for these views, as well as the way science is taught. Creativity, including imagination, insight and intuition are all involved in developing scientific hypotheses and theories for example, but are not necessarily acknowledged as implicit in the method.

Here, a creativity philosophy for science teaching and learning in Higher Education is explored with a view to ‘re-creating’ science. The literature pertaining to creativity in science and science education is reviewed. Then a philosophical perspective of nature as being inherently creative is presented, based on developments in quantum physics and philosophy. The work of David Bohm regarding creativity in science is introduced as well as the radical views of ‘nature’ and ‘knowing’ proposed by Christian De Quincey, based in part on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. The scientific work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is also discussed, as a way of developing the imagination and the ability to perceive the creative dynamism and wholeness of nature.

Using a phenomenological approach, semi-structured, exploratory research interviews were also carried out with science students and scientists. Questions focused on participants’ interests in art and/or other creative pursuits (e.g. sports) and the extent to which these pursuits feed into their scientific work, including teaching and learning. Opinions on the ‘official’ scientific method, imagination, insight, creative scientists and creativity in nature were also solicited. Quotes from participants revealed consistent views that creativity is important for both the process of doing science and that it is inherent in nature (e.g. evolution and embryonic development). Many creative and novel teaching methods were described (e.g. visualisation of problems, meditative practices, deep observation, small group teaching and group work in general, role-play, active and self-directed learning and inquiry-based approaches). Comments from student self-reflective pieces, obtained following a session on problem solving and creativity, are also presented.

The quotes from students contain real evidence of the transformative nature of this activity, particularly with regard to helping them see the relationships between art and science, the creative process of science and in gaining skills to present their work creatively. Science is a truly creative endeavour and creative teaching methods should reflect this. Appreciation of the historical and philosophical contexts of science and discussions about the relationships between science and art should be encouraged. They may allow students to see both nature and science as inherently creative, and will help pave the way towards seeing how we can ‘re-create’ science, through a recognition that we are truly creative participants in the creative and dynamic processes of nature.

"Abstract MEd Wride"

"Wride MEd Dissertation - Revised Feb 2015"

"Wride Holistic Science Joural Article"