BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Talk -- if it's the right kind -- can increase
creativity, leading students to create useful, new ideas that solve
problems, a University at Buffalo professor has found by using a
statistical tool that he invented.
The process of talking through faulty ideas can lead to the
creation of a new, useful idea or "micro-creativity," the term
coined by UB Graduate School of Education professor, Ming Ming
"Wrong ideas, correct evaluations or justifications can lead to
micro-creativity," says Chiu, who has developed statistical methods
to detect music industry payola and devised programs for parents to
help their children understand math by discussing world current
Chiu also is the creator of "Brain Games," simple but effective
activities parents can use to help their young children understand
A video of these activities is available at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13349.
"Wrong ideas shouldn't always be trashed," Ming says. "A student
can recognize the flaw in an idea and fix it to create a correct,
"When students correctly evaluate an idea by identifying its
flaw or recognizing it as correct, they help build a foundation for
"After a student justifies an idea to strengthen it, other
students often follow them by justifying their own ideas. As a
result, they focus more on justifications and reasons (less on
emotional responses) in rational discussions to create correct, new
Chiu, a professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction
at UB, worked with Lawrence Khoo, PhD, an economist at City
University of Hong Kong, to invent the statistical tool called
Statistical Discourse Analysis or SDA. Capitalizing on the way
people often take turns talking, SDA can use classmates' recent
turns of talk to help predict what a student will say next.
Chiu applied this statistical tool to videotapes of 80 students
working in groups of four on an algebra problem in his study
published in the Journal of the Learning Sciences.
"Justifications had the most powerful impact on
micro-creativity," Ming says, "while correct evaluations had the
longest lasting effect, increasing micro-creativity in the next
three turns of talk."
When analyzing these conversations, Chiu also found a subtle
relationship between disagreements and micro-creativity.
"After a student disagrees politely, other students often listen
carefully to the criticism and fix the wrong idea to create a
correct, new idea," said Chiu, "However, after someone rudely
disagrees with a student, that student often impulsively rejects
the criticism, losing their opportunity to create a correct, new
Based on this study's results, Chiu has several suggestions for
teachers and other educators helping students work together:
-- Evaluate classmates' ideas slowly and carefully, not
-- Justify ideas.
-- Disagree politely rather than rudely.
-- Create a safe environment for students to express ideas
freely, including wrong ideas