10 Capacities for Imaginative Learning Inspire Imaginative Teaching

Lincoln Center EducationLincoln Center Education (LCE), the education arm of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, has created the Capacities for Imaginative Learning.  Operating as both strategies for, and outcomes of, study according to LCE’s practice, the Capacities for Imaginative Learning are a set of flexible principles designed to articulate and assess what might be learned and understood by students within aesthetic education practice. They represent the habits of mind of a vigorous and creative intellect.

While these capacities are cultivated through art explorations, they are not limited to an art curriculum. Rather, they promote constructive and imaginative problem solving across the curriculum and in the real world.

The 10 Capacities for Imaginative Learning are:

  1. Noticing Deeply to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art or other object of study through continuous interaction with it over time.
  2. Embodying to experience a work of art or other object of study through your senses, as well as emotionally, and also to physically represent that experience.
  3. Questioning to ask questions throughout your explorations that further your own learning; to ask the question, “What if?”
  4. Making Connections to connect what you notice and the patterns you see to your prior knowledge and experiences, to others’ knowledge and experiences, and to text and multimedia resources.
  5. Identifying Patterns to find relationships among the details that you notice, group them, and recognize patterns.
  6. Exhibiting Empathy to respect the diverse perspectives of others in the community; to understand the experiences of others emotionally, as well as intellectually.
  7. Living with Ambiguity to understand that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and to be patient while a resolution becomes clear.
  8. Creating Meaning to create your own interpretations based on the previous capacities, see these in the light of others in the community, create a synthesis, and express it in your own voice.
  9. Taking Action to try out new ideas, behaviors or situations in ways that are neither too easy nor too dangerous or difficult, based on the synthesis of what you have learned in your explorations.
  10. Reflecting/Assessing to look back on your learning, continually assess what you have learned, assess/identify what challenges remain, and assess/identify what further learning needs to happen. This occurs not only at the end of a learning experience, but is part of what happens throughout that experience. It is also not the end of your learning; it is part of beginning to learn something else.

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As a framework of flexible principles, the Capacities for Imaginative Learning will help educators be thorough while supporting dynamic instruction. In addition to providing a broad overview of the landscape of learning, the Capacities also encourage educators to focus in on specific aspects of their teaching.

For example, take the first capacity, Noticing Deeply to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art or other object of study through continuous interaction with it over time. A cohort of creative educators could feast on this capacity alone. How do you teach students to notice deeply? How do you teach students to slow down and really look, without distraction, without analyzing, without judging, just notice and note. This creative cohort might start by considering the best ways to arrange the room and present the artwork. They might come up with strategies for helping students both focus and open their minds. They might explore techniques students can use to sensitize their eyes and record and organize what they see. And then of course, they would likely consider developmentally appropriate learning progressions that teach the capacity with increasing sophistication while building on prior knowledge. As they explore the most effective way to sequence instruction, they will consider fitting ways to monitor and assess how students apply and master these capacities. Inexhaustible and thorough, this cohort of teachers will also reflect on how they will help students connect this capacity of noticing deeply to the next capacity, embodying or other capacities.

In addition to cultivating imaginative learning, these Capacities promise to sow seeds for imaginative teaching.

The power and influence of these Capacities will lay in part, in their ability to codify thinking and establish a shared language that encourages meaningful conversations.

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