Reading is only the beginning of effective study. Once you have read the material, you need to begin reflecting on and thinking about what you have read. The rest of this unit is dedicated to using the CAP (Creative, Analytical, Practical) approach to thinking about what you have learned. This first section covers thinking and reflecting creatively. In each unit, try to use at least two CAP exercises, listed here and in your sample Digitial Notebook.
The Importance of Creative Thinking
For some, nothing seems more intimidating than thinking creatively, while for others, nothing seems more exciting. Others just assume that creative thinking is useful only for writers and artists.
Creative thinking is important for every profession. Creativity is using the imagination to see the connection between various bits of information, finding potential explanations for problems, or in creating new tools and systems to solve problems. When you begin looking for a new explanation, solution, or tool, you are thinking creatively.
- Police investigators think creatively when they start looking for ways to connect various pieces of evidence.
- Lawyers and paralegals think creatively when they have to find ways to communicate complex situations or ideas to a judge, jury, or client.
- Community mediators think creatively when they help conflicting parties decide on a solution that will work for everyone involved.
Creativity requires looking at a situation in new ways, sometimes from multiple perspectives, and allowing youself to sometimes explore ideas. The sample digital notebook includes several creativity exercises, including the following. Try to use one or more of the exercises below at least once in a unit. (But feel free to be creative and invent your own creativity exercises!)
New & Different
Describe a project or problem is very different from the one in which you might normally expect to apply the ideas, skills, or procedures you are reading about in your resources?
- Step 1: Apply the Idea: Be creative! How might you use this same idea, skill, or procedure in this new situation.
- Step 2: Advantages: Be creative again! What would be the advantages of using these ideas, skills, or procedures. Remember to support your ideas with quotes from your readings.
- Step 3: Disadvantages: Now be practical. What problems might this cause? What about problems that might now be obvious? Be sure to support these disadvantages with quotes from your readings.
- Step 4: Personal Notes: Re-read your notes. What jumps out at you about these ideas that you might now have thought about before?
What if Everyone Did It?
Take a moment and think about how the world might be different, based on your readings. You might even choose to compare two different readings.
- If your unit covers a period in history, what might it have been like to live then? How would your life be different?
- If your unit covers an idea or philosophy, what would it be like if everyone subscribed to that philosophy or ideal?
- If your unit covers a skill or procedure, what would it be like if everyone used that skill or procedure once a day?
Use the space below. Be creative! Remember, if you are worried you misunderstand, you can always check your ideas with your instructor or study group later.
What Is It Like?
Use your imagination and describe the concepts, ideas, or skills in your reading, focusing on how they are like or unlike something else. For instance:
- How is an idea like a machine?
- How is a period in history like the modern world?
- How are the major thinkers or writers you are encountering like the characters in your favorite movie?
Following Up on Creativity
Remember that creativity is just a first step in thinking about your unit materials. Professionals who think creatively still have to test their creative ideas and see if they will work (by thinking analytically) and then have to find ways to implement their ideas (by thinking practically).
However, don't feel discouraged if you are worried about whether your ideas are useful. Trying out new ideas and concepts and finding what works and what doesn't is an important part of learning and professional growth. People who are never wrong aren't necessarily good at their professions — they're just lucky guessers (or else aren't taking any chances). Good professionals know that learning, solving problems, and growing in their fields means that they will take the risk of sometimes being wrong. Being wrong isn't a waste of time. It's a chance to learn.