We report here the results of three assessment strategies employed in the execution of this module: faculty observations during the event, a class debriefing session, and evidence from class assignments. We looked for evidence supporting idea generation/wild thinking, iteration/improvisation, teamwork, a creative process, and the ability to embrace failure. Since this kind of experience was quite new to the Environmental Studies class, they served as the main assessment group.
Mind stretching: Idea generation, improvisation, and acting/speaking in front of their peers
The faculty members did their best to highlight some examples of the actions and then encouraged/invited students to join. About one-third of those assembled dove into this activity. While at some moments it felt like we were pulling teeth to get them going, there was much laughter about the room.
Toward the end of the stretching activity the students were contributing ideas at a much faster rate. They took creative clues from the initial idea to improvise a vignette and act it out. The willingness of students (and faculty leaders) to “let it hang out” set the stage for a productive invention process.
Invention Challenge: Wild thinking, iterate/improvise, work as a team, follow a creative process, and embrace failure
In every team we did not see anyone checking out of the activity. Team members shared group leadership and frequently used the question, “What if?” throughout the process. Every group thought about their three cards in a way that connected to a human need, whether it was about delivering emergency supplies by drone after a disaster to creating a floating city that attempted to envision a different way to approach the topic of sustainable living to a compostable instrument case for a guitar. This was not a specific part of our prompt but one that emerged from the grassroots creative thinking that students expressed and owned.
What amazed the faculty was that the students did not just seek out one of us — they no longer differentiated us as faculty members from a specific class, but simply co-creators there to assist in whatever way the teams needed.
The integration and applications environmental studies course discussed the innovation and creativity workshop about 10 days after the weekend event. What follows is a summary of the points students made about the experience.
“I am still riding the creativity high two weeks later.”
“The experience was low pressure with no judgement about ideas and contributions — a welcome change from other class and group experiences.”
“Putting the feasibility piece aside really enabled creative thinking and initial design.”
In addition the class provided unsolicited comments about the role of the faculty members in facilitating the workshop.
Faculty consistently checked-in with all the groups, did so in a way that wasn’t intrusive, and you felt their genuine curiosity about what the team was doing.
Faculty asked good questions of us that helped open up our creativity.
Final Reflective Paper
Students were asked to integrate their academic work with the civic engagement project by reflecting on and discussing the extent to which the knowledge gained and refined gets translated into actions that forward environmental initiatives and organizational goals.
Nearly half of the class wrote about how their future work and the pursuit of sustainability in community requires attention to creativity (35%) and innovation (12%). When it came to their specific civic engagement project nearly one-third (5) of the papers discussed how the team established space for creativity and innovation within their work.