F. Battaglia, L. Bontempelli

University of Pisa, Department of Psychiatry, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Biotechnologies (ITALY)
In order to improve creative thinking, the approach is more important than the content of an activity. An approach that improves the creative, critical and methodological abilities at the same time is the Socratic Method. Unfortunately, the fact that philosophy (in the Italian system of education) is seen as a separate subject area, with the emphasis above on the history of philosophy, means that we risk missing an important opportunity.
In 2004 an interdisciplinary team of teachers of philosophy and psychologists was formed with the aim of realizing a didactic project that could adapt the Socratic Method to the class setting. The methodology with which the discussion was started, was very simple: the class was put in a circle and a game was proposed on a topic of discussion; at the end the facilitator asked a simple question of how students are experienced the situation; after hearing all answers, the facilitator summarized and proposed new problems to the group. Thus, when everyone had proposed an idea and the ice is broken, began the discussion.
This simple method is highly effective in starting a horizontal and free discussion. During the discussion the role of the facilitator should not be executive but maieutic and should involve authentic listening: the students are free to choose the direction of the discussion.
The outcomes observed are positive with a variety of educational effects. From the relational point of view this seems to favor the horizontal structure of roles and to create a dynamic in which individual actions are open to interpretation and are completed through the comments that others will make. Therefore the class acts as single entity. Moreover this method allows the group to work both on arguments and on the criteria for the acceptability of the arguments. In this way during the discussion the ability to identify and question the constraints of the problem is particularly valued. This is the ability that characterizes creative and divergent thinking.
A dynamic in which the class behaves as a single entity implies that through the various inputs there is not only an exchange of ideas, but also a negotiation about the general meaning of the discussion. There are therefore some chaotic negotiation phases and moments of synthesis of the various arguments.
Several studies in different fields of research seem to corroborate the hypothesis that complex systems manifest a similar dynamic regardless of their nature. Such a dynamic is characterized by alternating moments of high entropy and order. The temporal structure of this dynamic may be described by the same basic mathematical law, that is shown, for example, during the synchronization of the firing of neurons in the central nervous system, as in the relational dynamic between a psychotherapist and a patient, and in the arrangement of keywords of a written text.
Our hypothesis is that it is possible to study the dynamic in a discussion group in a similar way, through a map of interventions perceived as very important by the group. In fact our idea is that the interventions perceived as very important are linked with the moments of synthesis, in wich the entropy is low.
In this paper we propose an experimental protocol to check the results and a theoretical framework for understanding the relational dynamic in the class during the interventions, in order to get a better understanding of relational dynamics that encourage creative thinking.