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Imagination supportive learning environment


There is always a tension between what is and what ought to be. These tension, which mostly arises within individuals, triggers imagination. If we see imagination in this view, then it is not mysterious at all. Imagination does not happen “just like that”. Neither is it present more in a certain group of people and less in others, nor does it require inborn talent.

This also implies that learners can be encouraged to be more imaginative. To do so, we would have to make the learners aware of the currently existing system and provide them the opportunity to use that knowledge to envision something. To make learners aware of the currently existing system may involve pedagogical practices like delivering lectures, group discussions, literature review and research work, technology-enabled information transfer, etc. Depending on the context, different methods could be used.

To encourage students to use their knowledge work on something they have envisioned, we need to support them and allow them the freedom to be imaginative. This support involves allowing autonomy in thinking and deciding their works, designing learning environments that are flexible to the individual needs of the learners, and providing ample opportunities to learn skills and gather information that is necessary to envision the idea. The most important part, in my view, is that larger portion of the learning time should be allocated to playing with the knowledge they have. Playing may involve engaged discussions, projects, write-ups or other modes of expressions, or even thinking alone. Learners should not be bogged down only on information and knowledge gathering process – which we generally enforce by adhering to broad syllabuses. All these resonate with my earlier post where I had highlighted the importance of autonomy and personalization in learning environments.

Imagination is important not just to support creative endeavors, but to ensure meaningful learning experiences. However, there is no one “correct” way to do create an imagination-supportive learning environment.  If you had the opportunity to design such a learning environment, how would you do it?

5 Comments

  1. Greg Purdy

    Playing with knowledge is so important. This is really when students can start to make connections to their experiences about a certain topic. Once we let the students discuss and frame ideas around the things they care about, then they can really start to come up with crazy ideas as to how to apply principles in innovative new ways. Discussion is key and finding ways to facilitate this in the classroom can help reinforce learning.

  2. Homero

    I agree that personalized learning is important and necessary in higher education. However, the current system is not supportive of allowing instructors invest time developing a personalized learning environment. I think some of the changes that we require from administration are regarding the tenure process for example. Initiatives like this should be considered and promoted by the tenure committees so more faculty members feel motivated to put time and efforts in creating better classrooms.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jyotsana

    Thank you for your post! I agree with your thoughts…no one correct way for sure. Isn’t that why educators need to really think about knowing their students…the learners. Figuring out ways in which they can reach the maximum number or (in an ideal world) all of their students to inspire and trigger the process of learning with imagination. In counseling we are always taught to meet the clients where they are. I think that as educators we should also meet our students where they are and build from there up…or sideways for that matter….whatever works best.

  4. Amy Hermundstad

    Thanks so much for your post! I think you bring up a lot of great points. I really like the idea of letting learners be imaginative. I think one big challenge here is the mindset of a lot of students to find the “right” answer. At least in engineering classes, students often just want to do the least amount of work to get the right answer. This does not seem to lead to much imagination. But incorporating discussions, having students break down problems themselves, and getting students to think about different applications could help with that. Great post!

  5. Benjamin Louis

    I also thought a lot about personalization with this week’s subjects. A multiple choice scantron test is universal. You can give it to any person, anywhere, at anytime and measure the same things fairly consistently (in general). That is exactly why the government loves them! The type of learning we’ve been discussing in class however only happens when students get connected to their instructor and to other students in a personal way. One size does not fit all in “real” education.

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