Tony Gurr

Creative Lobbing – Guest Post from Laurence Raw

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS on 26/09/2011 at 6:12 am

“It’s never enough to tell people about some new insight. Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way that evokes its own power and possibility. Instead of pouring knowledge into people’s heads, you need to help them grind anew a new set of eyeglasses so that they can see the world in a new way.”

John Seely Brown

I was reminded of this quote recently, as I read recent posts on leadership and creativity. While I was at school – too many years ago now – I took a course in ‘creative writing,’ where we read poems by the great masters of English Literature, and had to produce works of our own. I found the task beyond me: I was not a ‘poet,’ so how could I be expected to produce ‘poetry?’

In retrospect, I understand that the fault was not mine but that of the educator, who expected us to produce works of a standard similar to those we read in class. He hoped he might find a new Wordsworth, Byron or Shelley as a result.

This particular educatorwho left teaching for the churchmade the fundamental mistake of believing that creative writing could be taught simply through example. He did not understand the importance of stimulating creativity within his learners, so that they might be inspired to see the world in a new way through writing poetry.

I felt much the same as I read Chaz’s “stimulating strategies,” designed to boost creative potential amongst learners and educators. Such strategies might prove effective, but can they help to create “a new set of eyeglasses,” so as to help people perceive the world in a new way?


I suggest that it’s not so much the what that matters (i.e. the materials you use), but how they are used. My schoolteacher never reflected on this; as a result, his so-called “creative” writing classes were a waste of time.

A truly creative teacher should:-

  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Be spontaneous


A simple acronym, perhaps (LOB), but apt, nonetheless: tennis players put up lobs to test their opponents. If the opponent hits the ball out of court, then the player obtains a psychological advantage as a result. A good educator should keep putting up creative lobs by listening, observing and being spontaneous. Sometimes this strategy doesn’t work: learners respond in ways that educators might not have predicted. However the truly creative educator responds by putting up more lobs; the more they attempt this, the better they can help learners to grind out new sets of eyeglasses so as to see the world in a new way.

In a truly creative environment, listening helps educators understand their learners: ‘creativity’ means different things to different people. Observing helps educators understand and/or interpret a multitude of responses amongst their learners. Being spontaneous is what educators rely upon to reshape their material according to such responses. It’s a difficult task, often requiring a high degree of mental engagement amongst learners and educators alike, but a rewarding one.

In recent years I’ve become something of a tennis fan, following the exploits of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic with interest. What makes them so superior to other players is their lobbing ability: to put up high lobs, as well as listening, observing and being spontaneous. Such qualities help them to identify their opponents’ weaknesses during a match, and produce unplayable shots as a result. This is why they are great players.

Wouldn’t it be great if learners could develop similar qualities?


Maybe that’s what educators should aim for…

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