The False Dichotomy Between Facts And Creativity
Another excerpt from the very important new article on the science of learning by Henry Roediger and Mary Pyc (my first post about it is here):
“Professors in schools of education and teachers often worry about creativity in students, a laudable goal. The techniques we advocate show improvements in basic learning and retention of concepts and facts, and some people have criticized this approach as emphasizing ‘rote learning’ or ‘pure memorization’ rather than creative synthesis. Shouldn’t education be about fostering a sense of wonder, discovery, and creativity in children?
The answer to the question is yes, of course, but we would argue that a strong knowledge base is a prerequisite to being creative in a particular domain. A student is unlikely to make creative discoveries in any subject without a comprehensive set of facts and concepts at his or her command. There is no necessary conflict in learning concepts and facts and in thinking creatively; the two are symbiotic.
As Robert Sternberg and Elena Grigorenko have commented, ‘Teachers need to put behind them the false dichotomy between “teaching for thinking” and “teaching for facts,” or between emphases on thinking or emphases on memory. Thinking always requires memory and the knowledge base that is accessed through the use of memory . . . One cannot apply what one knows in a practical manner if one does not know anything to apply.’”
It’s time to retire this false dichotomy!