The creative resource of Tolerating Ambiguity offers us an opportunity to engage on multiple levels. First, we can strive to set a path for students to tolerate or even embrace ambiguity as it presents itself in daily life. Second, studies show (see articles in additional resources) that students are consistently more engaged in a classroom that offers space for uncertainty. Genuine learning happens when the path is not overly structured. How can we make space for uncertainty in our classrooms?

Overview

Tolerating Ambiguity

The creative resource of Tolerating Ambiguity offers us an opportunity to engage on multiple levels. First, we can strive to set a path for students to tolerate or even embrace ambiguity as it presents itself in daily life. Second, studies show (see articles in additional resources) that students are consistently more engaged in a classroom that offers space for uncertainty. Genuine learning happens when the path is not overly structured. How can we make space for uncertainty in our classrooms? 

This Lesson centers around Tolerating Ambiguity, developing our familiarity with the concept and exploring ways to identify and practice it.

Teacher Priming

Developing Competencies

Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Do you remember learning to swim?

For many of us, these beginner experiences are far enough in the past that we struggle to recall the intense experience of facing so many UNKNOWNS. How do I balance? What if I fall? How do I keep my head above water? What should I be doing with my legs? These early learning experiences provide a snapshot of our own capacity for tolerating ambiguities. They were unlit paths we navigated successfully.

Creative Routines

What do you see?

This activity presents an opportunity to practice tolerating ambiguity, close observation, and idea generation. The task is to look until one sees some shape or visual story in the image, then look again for a new shape or story. The pausing and looking process supports development of tolerance for ambiguity. Once individuals find a visual story in the abstraction, their task is to communicate what and how they see it in clear enough language to allow the group to see what they are seeing.

Ambiguity and Art

Questions to hold as we journey through this collection of artworks: What do you see? Wow Time What aspects of the painting make sense to you? What aspects are confusing? What questions emerge? What can you connect to? What story do you find within the painting?

Creative Challenges

Stick Drawing

This activity induces the beginner experience by simply exaggerating the length of a typical drawing/writing tool. Attaching an arm length stick to a marker changes the mechanics of drawing enough that simple shapes and forms require slow and deliberate focus. This activity invites us to release ourselves from outcomes and exactness, and experience the full body focus one engages when trying on the new and unfamiliar.

My Capable Body

The intention of this activity is to provide space for students to identify and celebrate their own skills acquisition. When we take time to reflect on a particular learning path - to recall the phases of skill development we passed through - the struggles and frustrations we faced - and the little epiphanies we enjoyed; we get a retrospective of ourselves embracing the ambiguous and taking risks. We can zoom out to a bird’s eye view of our past where we see the many unknowns we’ve successfully navigated. Learning to see ourselves as competent and capable of growth can be likened to arriving at the trailhead with the appropriate hiking gear and supplies. We journey into any new learning experience more adequately prepared.

Deepening

Reframing ACCESS DENIED

List ten things that make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Share why you think it makes you nervous or uncomfortable. Be specific and descriptive, for example, walking alone on the unlit sections of the river path after dark might yield the following response: "I worry about who I will encounter". Or driving my small car next to semi trucks on I5 might yield the following response: "I experience a fear of being crushed".

Heebee Jeebees

List ten things that make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Share why you think it makes you nervous or uncomfortable. Be specific and descriptive, for example, walking alone on the unlit sections of the river path after dark might yield the following response: "I worry about who I will encounter". Or driving my small car next to semi trucks on I5 might yield the following response: "I experience a fear of being crushed".

Resources

Tolerating Ambiguity Classroom Resources

We've assembled a collection of articles and other resources for further exploration in your classrooms!

The Need for Closure Scale

The Need for Closure Scale is a test that assesses one's tolerance for ambiguity!

Effects of Need for Closure on Creativity in Small Group Interactions

Three experiments investigated the consequences of the epistemic motivation toward closure on the emergence of creative interactions in small groups. In the first study, need for closure was manipulated via time pressure. Results showed that in groups under high need for closure (i.e. under time pressure) the percentage of creative acts during group discussion was reduced.

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Creativity is for everyone.