Experimental Habits in Creating and Teaching

Experimenting is all about attitude.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
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I recently attended an figure drawing workshop where the instructor tried a few, very different experiments with the students. In light of our design challenge, her attitude toward experimentation struck me as exactly the way we should approach trying new things in our classrooms. To be specific: we tried drawing with 4 ft long sticks, drew the model while she was stuck inside a stretchy bag, and took turns acting as the teacher. 

As an artist, herself, it was evident that she often experimented in her own creation process. She invited us to experiment with her, and made it exciting for everyone to see what would happen. There was no 'fear of failure,' because there was no specific goal, just...'hey, let's see what happens.'

I think that when we prototype, we will want to have more specific goals, things we want to test, but to approach our work with a lens of creative process could help us turn feeling fear to try of feeling excited to see what emerges.  


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Photo of Mark Carlucci

'hey, let's see what happens,' can be terrifying. But it can also be very rewarding.
The past semester, in my tech design class, I was trying a unit on the design process. The goal was to try a 5 to 7 day unit, working on a mini project to simple prototype.
I asked my students to suggest ideas for topics. After we picked our topic, siege weapons, we discussed design criteria. They keep suggesting things that were elaborate and full scale. It was not at all what I was looking for but I said, 'let's see what happens.'
I was worried the whole way through, unsure if things would work, worried we progressed to slow, seeing different results than I expected. It was scary.
In the end it was amazing. The students exceeded my expectations. Sure, there are plenty of places for improvement, but I was so happy and inspired at the end.

Photo of Cheryl Reynolds-Fefles

I agree with you. We need to try to find the balance between specific goals (often task oriented) and innovation, structure and unstructured activities/ thinking.

Photo of Rolland Chidiac

Hi Elysa, thank you for sharing your story. I think we (educators) need to use the "hey, let's see what happens" attitude more often. It can open so many doors we never considered or knew existed.

Photo of Emma Scripps

Encouraging people to experiment and just see what happens is so liberating. That's why I've always really appreciated the idea of making prototypes - and really treating everything as a mini experiment/ prototype. It encourages people to just have the creative confidence to try something new, push on a boundary, or explore a new possibility.

It's easier said than done to create the "no fear of failure" culture though. I think something that supports that is having leadership figures actually model being human and making mistakes.

Photo of Brett Brownell

This is great Elysa! I just shared it on our Twitter page too. I love that this experimental class made you think about The Guild and this Collaboration. Thank you for jumping in and we'll look forward to reading more from you :)