OUT WITH THE HEELS AND IN WITH THE LAB COATS; PROMOTING CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND TEAM BUILDING SKILLS IN THE UNDERGRADUATE CLASSROOM
The term creativity is somewhat amorphous in that it has several possible definitions. Despite the large body of literature exploring the idea of creativity and creative thinking along with the many theories and approaches that exist there are few papers describing and measuring these concepts. Creativity is often described as thinking “outside the box”. Creative thinking, the ability to be innovative and the ability to work as part of a team in the workplace are generic skills valued highly by employers. In the field of Biomedical science, where graduates will work in state laboratories, research labs or the pharmaceutical industry an ability to work as part of a team, obey orders and instructions from a team leader, follow through these activities, meet deadlines and communicate well are vitally important. Although creativity is regarded as an important employability skill, it is a quality which graduate and post graduate students are often perceived to lack. The development of creativity and team building exercises are skills often undermined as they are seen as soft skills, often not taken seriously and thus often not part of tertiary education. This paper showcases the teaching of a new first year module Creativity, Innovation and Teamwork to 1st Year Biomedical Scientists. The class was divided randomly into teams each of which was led by a self-nominated team leader. The module was examined entirely by continuous assessment. Tasks designed for each team included the issuing of weekly newsletters, a blog, a presentation on a Biomedical topic of interest as well as preparation of a number of posters.
In order to promote support and foster creativity in our students, assignments and assessments have to be well thought-out, thought-provoking and feedback needs to be positive and timely. One mechanism to do this is the implementation of an experience diary in the form of a blog for students. Blogs offer great promise in overcoming one of the major hurdles of the constraints of traditional educational systems.
Blogs allow students to collect all their experiences and draw upon them to generate new ways of looking at situations. The blogging tool used in parallel throughout this course gives insight into how students cope within teams; many discuss difficulties they are having in the course as well as other courses. The pedagogical paradigm that supports the use of blogs in educational settings is Vygotsky’s educational theory. This Russian psychologist believed that children learned from social interaction. The person’s social environment plays an important role in determining which stimuli are choreographed and paid attention to by the individual. The construction of knowledge is the outcome.
Blogs can allow us to get to know our students outside of the classroom. We get to see their likes and dislikes. Many discuss their motivation or lack of it, their favourite lectures, the difficulties and challenges associated with meeting deadlines and their workload. In a final reflection, students look back on the module and discuss their learning experience. Many discuss their difficulties in working in a team, how workloads can fall on the same people and how concerns arise over all team players being rewarded with the same good grades when the work was carried out by only a few. Students gain insight into the challenges and difficulties which can arise from working in a team