Preparing for Robotics

Preparing for Robotics
Students at DC's Whittier Educational Campus with ReSET Volunteer Peter Mehrevari

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ReSET Volunteer Feedback Sought

Mike Mouly of Charlottesville, Virginia is exploring a program in which students would generate ideas for innovations in science and engineering, and professional scientists and engineers would provide them feedback.  The objective is to encourage students to undertake studies in math and science that will enable them to pursue their ideas.  Mike contacted me and said he thought that the feedback from ReSET volunteers could be very helpful to him.  If you would like to provide reactions to his proposal (see below), please post a reply on the ReSET blog or e-mail Mike at
Virtually every teacher desires to improve student motivation. Research has consistently shown that if students develop a personal interest in a subject they will be much more likely to assimilate content and desire mastery in the domain. Because each student is unique, they will have different interests.
One form of intelligence that leads to personal interest is creativity. As students come up with novel ideas they feel a sense of being special since (as far as they know) they were the first to come up with the idea. If they get feedback from experts that the idea has great promise and will meet some societal need, their personal interest in the idea is further intensified.
Abraham Maslow felt that fostering creativity is perhaps the best way of meeting self-actualization needs and is therefore a great motivator. Interestingly, he agrees with other researchers that virtually everyone has creative potential. If students are allowed to use their creative intelligence as they learn in school, they will be able to supplement their analytic reasoning ability (the typical focus of most schools) and do well on SOL tests. Creativity acts as a kind of catalyst that both speeds up the learning and in some cases allows learning that otherwise would not occur.
How can professionals in the STEM disciplines help? By given feedback to students as they come up with ideas. The feedback is two-fold. First, it comments on the originality of the ideas while keeping in mind the age of the student. Ideas that are original to the student even though they are known to the discipline should be considered original. Second, the students need to receive feedback as the usefulness their idea to others. Ideas that are original but which do not benefit or would not be accepted by the culture are not as valuable as ideas that do.
The feedback can be in person or over a web interface but either way the student ideas become a driving force for their learning. Part of the feedback includes subject areas that the student should master if they are to pursue their idea. For instance, for the STEM disciplines, the feedback may be to "take all the math you can".
Additional feedback might include obstacles that must be overcome if the ideas will come to fruition. As the student ponders how to overcome the obstacle, they will be bouncing ideas in their mind. Brain research shows that this is an excellent way to retain learning and to become a critical thinker even if the student never has a breakthrough.
COMMENTS? Many of you are very creative. Does this ring true in your life? How did you combine creative and analytic intelligence to become successful in your profession? How can you help foster student creativity and learning?

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