Researchers discover surprising method to improve children’s resilience

According to a recent study, teaching elementary school students creative literary techniques enhances problem-solving skills and resilience. Incorporating these methods into arts education can further enhance students’ ability to solve real-world problems.

Research found that the program helps children cope with problems.

New research shows that teaching elementary school students to be creative can help increase their resilience when facing real-life problems.

In one small study, researchers trained third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students to use literary techniques such as shifting perspective, counterfactual thinking (what if), and cause and effect thinking (what if). stars) to improve creativity when faced with difficulties.

These techniques helped children think of new, creative ways to and practical to solve problems.

There are concerns about the ability of American children to recover from the pandemic COVID-19 and this means many children are struggling in school and in life, Fletcher said.

Exercising creativity can help children come up with a second plan when things don’t go well for them.

The study was recently published in the journalCreative magazine.

A proven approach

Fletcher said the program used to help the children in this study was similar to one he and his colleagues used successfully with the U.S. Army and for which Fletcher received the Commendation Medal as a result. public service, the fourth highest public service medal the Army can award to a civilian. .

Researchers conducted two separate studies involving students attending a summer camp in suburban Columbus.

In one study, 32 students were divided into two groups. In the control condition, children were asked to identify a particular quality about themselves. They were told this was a special power that could help them solve any problem.

In the creativity condition, students were asked to think of a friend who had done something special and to think of them as a creative friend who could help them solve any problem. This type of creative training is called perspective shifting, in which children look at problems through the eyes of others.

When you ask people to change their perspective and imagine getting advice from a friend, Fletcher says, you’ll get more creative and effective solutions to problems than just trying Try to solve the problem yourself.

And that’s what the study found. As part of the study, teachers identified a problem that was causing difficulty for their students, such as not being able to go to a friend’s birthday party because you were going away with your parents.

Students also think about a challenging problem in their own lives. Some of the issues mentioned included my brother having a communication disorder, my dad being away from home for two months, and my sister bullying me.

The results showed that without training in changing attitudes, less than half of the students were able to come up with solutions to age-typical problems, and almost none were able to come up with solutions to own topic.

But 94% of those trained in perspective shifting came up with solutions for both.

The judges (who are trained teachers) also evaluate children’s solutions for creativity, as measured by how surprising or unique they are.

With the intervention, the average creativity score was 6.44 out of 10 (moderately creative) compared to 3.05 (lowly creative) for those who did not receive the perspective-changing intervention.

These results show how practicing creativity can enhance children’s sense of self-efficacy, the belief that they have some control and power over their lives, Fletcher said. own life.

When considering their own problems, most children who receive intervention come up with a potential solution. But essentially, 15 of the 16 kids in the control group dropped out, Fletcher said. They either say they don’t know how to solve their problems or exhibit some version of magical thinking, such as saying they could be a superhero.

Digging deeper: A longitudinal study

A second longitudinal study with 28 students at the same camp was designed to test the effects of a five-day, 10-hour narrative creativity curriculum on creativity, self and resilience.

In addition to changing perspectives, the students are also trained in other narrative creativity techniques, such as cause-and-effect thinking, Fletcher said.

If kids can’t solve a problem, we coach them to step back and think about what they’re trying to solve and explain why, Fletcher says.

Let’s step back and say why is this important? We often find that if you think more broadly about what you’re trying to achieve and why it’s so important, you can see there are other ways to achieve what you want.

At the end of the curriculum, students are presented with typical age problems similar to the first study and also consider one of their own problems.

To test resilience, the researchers gave the children a surprise challenge when presented with their proposed solution to their problem: they told the children that the solution would not work. .

Results showed that every student who participated in the five-day curriculum was able to second-guess solutions to both personal and age-typical problems.

With this training, the children were not confused when told that their first solution did not work. Fletcher said they came up with a second plan, which was a good test of resilience.

And the second solution to this problem received a higher average creativity score from the judges of 7.5, indicating moderate to high creativity, compared to 5.45 for the first solution. .

The second solution also scores higher on utility, i.e. their likelihood of success in the real world.

Fletcher said the study offers a hopeful message: There are things we can do to help children cope with their problems.

At this time, in our society, our children need help. We noticed that before this training, children tended to give up when faced with problems. That can make children angry, embarrassed because they can’t solve their problems or look for adults to come up with solutions.

What training in narrative creativity can do, he says, is teach children ways to approach real-life problems for which there are no easy answers.

Creative education Wider meaning

Fletcher says children can learn creativity through the arts, such as literature and theater, if they are done properly. Instead of simply asking students to analyze works of art, teachers can ask students to imagine themselves as different characters, explore new perspectives, and engage in thinking about why and what What if.

The ability to use this type of thinking cannot be assessed through standardized tests. But it’s still important and can help children use and develop their creativity to solve real-world challenges, he said.

Reference: Cultivating Narrative Creativity: A New Approach to Increasing Resilience in Primary School Students by Angus Fletcher, Patricia Enciso and Mike Benveniste, August 4, 2023,Creative magazine.
DOI: 10.1016/j.yjoc.2023.100061

Fletcher conducted the research with Ohio State colleagues Patricia Enciso, professor of children’s and young adult literature in the College of Education and Human Ecology, and Mike Benveniste, also of Project Narrative.

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