Engaging the Right Brain for more Creativity

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”    ~ Apple, Inc.

This week I participated in an online discussion forum about the use of humour in teaching. It is fun to learn, think about and discuss how humour can help engage learners and create deeper learning. My blog post before this one was about creativity and this post will build on that one.  I‘ll launch into more of a discussion about how to promote it with students.

All of this has lead to me to think more about how the brain works and how our understanding of the mind can promote deeper learning. My fascination with neuroscience is never ending. The more I read the more I learn and it can be applied to everything. We are our brains…our minds…

Humour engages the right brain and often a lot of learning is left brain focused, analytical and logical. When the right brain is stimulated a balance ensues between the hemispheres. Doing right brain activities will speak to those students that are more right brain dominant but also help develop the right brains of those individuals who are more left brain dominant. This diagram is a nice visual depicting the differences between the right and left brain.


Image retrieved from (with credit to IMG Fave) https://revolutionarypaideia.com/2014/12/24/10-characteristics-of-right-brain-learners/

If you want to learn more about right brain vs. left brain here two slides from a powerpoint presentation (Right vs left brain chart) I did for my ISW (Instructional Skills Workshop) lesson last year.

To test if you are more left or right brain dominant here is fun little test.

Video retrieved on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CEr2GfGilw

NOTE: Realize though that at different points in the day you may be more right or left brain dominant, depending on what you have been doing. I find after meditating I am quite well balanced. So it fluctuates. This simple test can be a fun activity to do in class along with doing a few exercises to balance both hemispheres. It’s fun and it gets the students up and moving and gets the creative juices flowing too.

There has been a wave of energy as of late into promoting innovation and creativity. These are the two hot topics of TED talks, news programs, workshops, it’s spoken about regularly at the College I work at. It is everywhere. I am glad to see innovation and creativity as hot topics. They finally are getting the recognition they deserve. In Canada, we desperately need more innovation to keep our heads afloat in the world economy. We need more people that think outside the box than sheep that follow along and think and play nicely inside the box. While some institutions, especially public ones, may like a follower better than a leader because they are easier to get along with, easier to manage, this is not where ground breaking innovation exists.

Innovation and creativity are born in the right brain. So as educators it is imperative that we stimulate the development of the right brains of our learners. Whether they are already right brain thinkers or whether they tend to live primarily in the left logical brain; harnessing and cultivating these strengths is critical. It also nicely honours the diversity in our classroom and plays to the other six intelligences so nicely outlined by Gardner. So how can we, as educators, promote the development of our students’ right brains?

  • We engage in affective learning. Evoke emotions and learning sticks.
  • We engage the creative mind by using art, video, music, dance, story, poetry and humour threaded throughout the class.
  • We teach our students to learn how to listen to their intuition. How can they use this as a compass to guide them when the path seems unclear? Intuition is integral to the nursing profession but so is it to many other disciplines and to life in general.
  • We give them freedom to choose the type of assessment methods we use in the classroom. Ask ourselves do we use video, presentation, dance, academic paper, concept maps, etc. to demonstrate that they are integrating the learning?
  • We include breaks for meditation or mindful breathing, visualization or guided imagery
  • Move.  Get students moving. Not only does it awaken the psychomotor learning qualities but it connects mind to body.
  • We infuse play. Integrating role playing and fun to the class. This could be doing a project outside of the classroom, doing a body break or playing games like Jeopardy in class.
  • We give hope and really look for and promote students’ strengths. I think it is important to help make students feel good about themselves and their learning. I always try to find at least one good quality about each of my students and really promote this. I will actively look for ample examples of how they are strong in this one + particular area and reflect this back to them. I will still provide constructive feedback on areas they need to work on but balance it with their good qualities as well.

A colleague once likened our role as educators to being a sports coach. This always stuck with me because that’s exactly how I think of my role as an instructor. A good coach will encourage and cheer the team on when needed, they are tough when a player is not realizing his/her full potential, they push and challenge the player when they feel they are ready to take on more, they support the players in a holistic manner (mind, body and spirit) and they collaborate with the players.

About turnera2014

I am a Nursing (RN) Instructor taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College in hopes to challenge my current teaching modalities and inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
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