Creative Pedagogy
Andrei Aleinikov
Dr. Andrei Aleinikov

An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Andrei Aleinikov, who founded Creative Pedagogy a quarter of a century ago of this complex phenomenon. He also was the first to develop a methodology for teaching genius thinking. Dr. Andrei Aleinikov is an award-winning educator, a Guinness World Record holder in speed publishing and a bestselling author, as well as a world-renowned speaker who brought fun, inspiration, and life-changing experiences to thousands of people across the globe. His world-wide crusade for saving geniuses, his original vision, unique fate, and dynamic presentation style have changed the way people see problems, creativity, genius, and themselves. As a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow (2003-2008), he inspired university students. As a designer of a unique Genius Education Methodology and founder of International Academy of Genius, he teaches professors, school principals, teachers, and parents to see a genius in every child and adult. He received the top award for Innovative Teaching from the Academy of Educational Leadership, Allied Academies (2003), the George Washington Medal (Top Honor Teacher/Administrator Category, 2005), and was the only person in the USA to be nominated for the President’s Medal of Science (2003-06) and the US Professor of the Year Award at the same time. He was twice nominated for the Great Teacher Award, given to the best classroom communicator in the English speaking world. Russian Academy of Science and Arts awarded him a medal of laureate for outstanding achievements (2004), see detail is Who is Who in Russia (2004). The articles about his new sciences, such as Organizology, Geniusology, Novology, and Sozidonics (the science of creativity), as well as about new directions of research such as Creative Linguistics and Creative Pedagogy, are published in the encyclopedias, including seven articles in the Springer Encyclopedia of Creativity, Invention, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (2013). Dr. Andrei G. Aleinikov (Dr. Andy) was named «The Most Creative Man in the World» for his discovery of megacreativity, i.e., the ability of the humans to accelerate the generation of new ideas to the level of over 1,000,000 ideas per minute. He is the founder of new scientific trends and the author of 11 new laws of conservation. He was the first to offer a scientific definition of genius and to establish a new science, Geniusology, for the scientific research expresses the essence of Creative Pedagogy, but also a methodology, which is the core, the inner structure of the approach.

Elena Arich Belowa: Andrei, first of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you in person about Creative Pedagogy, which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year. For Russia, it is a turning point in education that leads us to the future and creates hope for the lives of our kids.

Dr. Andrei Aleinikov: Welcome, Elena. I am honored to discuss my work in your magazine and to share it with your readers and subscribers. By the way, you can call me simply «Andrei» or «Dr. Andy,» as my students call me. Can I address you as Elena?

E.: Sure, Andrei. So your article about Creative Pedagogy was published in Higher Education Bulletin in 1989. That was the first article about this new approach to teaching. Let’s start our interview from here. Why such a title – «Creative Pedagogy»?

A.: Well, first of all, it is opposed to Critical Pedagogy, the pedagogy that teaches how to criticize, how to detect and destroy an argument, and how to find errors in conclusions. Creative Pedagogy, on the contrary, teaches how to avoid criticism (and especially self-criticism), how to create, and how to find pluses even in the wrong conclusions because in creativity even an error can lead to something new. Speaking of the name, I would like to point out that the words «creativity» and «pedagogy» already existed. For example, a conference titled, «Creativity and Pedagogy» took place in Moscow in 1988 and proceedings were published. So people talked about it; it was in the air waiting to be discovered. But it’s one thing to just think and talk about it, and another to create an entire course – the first creatively-oriented course, getting unique results, generalizing them and disseminating them. Yes, all those terms were being thrown around at that time, but there was no complete understanding of the concepts.

E.: Thank you, Andrei. I will have a look at this source later. So then, what exactly does «complete understanding» mean in that case? What is this?

A.: A complete understanding of Creative Pedagogy includes the field that is precisely defined externally and internally. Literally speaking, this is not a cloud. This is a body of knowledge with its essence and core – an original theoretical reflection of the uniquely directed pedagogical practice. It is not yet described in a brilliant novel like the one by the famous educator Anton Makarenko (Pedagogical Poem) or in astonishing books like the ones by such great modern teachers as Viktor Shatalov and Shalva Amonashvili. Instead, this sub-field of pedagogy is described by a formula of invention, which has never been used in pedagogy, but became easily understood by inventors or – if you prefer – by engineers. It was not an accident that such a description of Creative Pedagogy was nearly immediately cited in the Encyclopedic Dictionary by Valery Popov, who specifically pointed out its remarkable form.

E.: Let’s remind our readers of this formula. I will cite a paragraph from Wikipedia (translated from the Russian Wiki) and will warn you from the very beginning that the formula of invention (according to the rules) must be written in one sentence. So it may look difficult to comprehend. «Creative pedagogy that includes educational influence on the learner for acquisition of certain study material (subject) [as pedagogy in general] and differing from the above by the fact that in order to achieve higher efficiency of learning, the pedagogical influence is provided on the background of centrifugal above-the-criticism mutual activity in which the learner is raised from the object of [pedagogical] influence to the rank of a creative person, while the traditional (basic) study material is transformed from the subject to learn into the means of achieving some creative goal, and the extra study material includes the description and demonstration of the heuristic methods and techniques» Pedagogy – access 04/27/2014

A.: Correct, thank you. So you can see the differences between pedagogy in general and Creative Pedagogy. First of all, Creative Pedagogy introduces communication without criticism, without rejection and judgment. Practically, it means grades, marks, tests, exams, etc. stop becoming a tool of threat, an instrument of pressure. Secondly, Creative Pedagogy transforms a person in «education» (who is not only informed, but also sometimes having information simply hammered into his head), from an object to a subject of creation. It means the one who is being taught is becoming a creator. Not just a plodder and not tabula rasa. Not an obedient follower and not a rebel against useless knowledge. Much more than that! The learner is now like a god-creator, or a man-creator. When you think about it, there is no particular difference between the act of creation by god and the act of creation by a human. In the humanistic tradition, nobody else but a man creates all gods (in polytheism, or paganism) and then also the one God (in monotheism). What do historians say about it? It looks like the first religions appeared about 14,000 years ago. And the religious tradition presents it even simpler: God created a man in His image. And He – God – is a Creator!!! It means that a man is also a Creator. I would go even deeper! Any religion teaches us to be like God, to live like Him, to think like Him, to do like Him. Doesn’t it? Then it tells you to create, create and once again – create! Create with your hands – using light, clay, wood…create using your mind, by solving problems and tasks. Create even by your behavior, by being an example, a role model to others. Teachers are as much creators as poets, painters, sculptors and architects! They are all creating people’s souls and people’s lives. What was Jesus doing? He was teaching! Sometimes he had to be a healer, but mainly, he was teaching. He was not plowing, he was not sowing, and he wasn’t erecting buildings! He was teaching! And what was Buddha doing? He was teaching! And what was Mohammad doing? Of course, he was teaching, as well! From this point of view, every teacher is doing God’s job. And every good teacher truly is a creator of our future!

E.: As John Steinbeck said, «I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.» And what exactly is the person under education creating?

A.: And that is the most interesting thing! Thank you for this question. I can feel that you are creating this interview right now for your readers. They are, of course, interested in teachers, but they are even more interested in their own children and grandchildren. Am I right?

E.: You are absolutely right, Andrei!

A.: First, learners create themselves. They have learned something new, and in this way, they opened new possibilities for themselves at work, in their own life. Second, let’s say a learner solved some problem. Then we ask the question, «Was this solution original?» What if it was? Then this original solution will change his/her biography or resume completely! And this is a beginning of a journey to genius! As an example from the past, let’s take young Otto (Schmidt, who became a famous North Pole conqueror). He foresaw his life goals at the age of 15 and thoroughly planned what needed to be done to achieve these high goals! And he finally achieved everything that he had planned. And third, the learner described how quickly he absorbed the material and then reported one’s method to the others. In that way the learner stepped into a domain of metacognitive activity (thinking about thinking). The learner not only helped others but also acted as a teacher. By teaching others (it is a proven fact), we remember the material much better. The learner realized that it is cool and began exchanging information with others, who will do the same next time. This way, the process of learning in the classroom gets accelerated and intensifies. This is exactly what Arthur Koestler, one of the founders of creativity research, says about the process of creation. He says, «Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.» In our case, students teach by themselves and learn by themselves at the same time. I call it, «an ideal student»! Such students are interested in learning, learn with enthusiasm, and learn better.

E.: By saying «an ideal learner» you mean «a diligent student»?

A.: «Ideal Learner» is a term that was developed in Creative Pedagogy. Its development was based on the concept of «Ideal Final Result» introduced by Genrich Altshuller in the Theory of inventive problem solving (abbreviated from Russian as TRIZ). In simple words, this is an ideal solution: everything is done by itself and no energy is applied to achieve the needed result. Truly ideal (the best) solution! In educational terms, this would mean «a dream student.» Every teacher’s dream! And here is a life example for illustration. Once one of my students missed some of the last classes because he got sick, he had to stay in a hospital for quite a while. It was hepatitis, and this illness is no joke. He could not even attend the exams. And then, after some time, he came back to take the exams and he told me a story how he used our methods in the hospital. While lying in bed, he drew a poster of hepatitis and the best way of defeating it. Then he hang the poster with the block-scheme on the wall for him to watch it every day. He was almost ready to sign out from the hospital (by the way, much earlier than the others, because he was fighting the disease consciously) and go home. As he was packing and about to take the poster with him, the head doctor paid him a visit. He noticed the poster on the wall, and he asked seriously, «Who drew that?» My student of course admitted that it was he. The doctor checked my student’s health, told him he was OK to go, then looked attentively at the scheme one more time and asked, «Son, how about you leave this poster with us? We will use it to educate our patients and interns.» So, as my student said, the block-scheme stayed in the hospital. Then he added, «I really wanted to bring it to you and to thank you for all of your work, but the hospital is where it belongs now.» «Well,» I replied, «in this case I am the one who is supposed to give thanks to you, my dear! For helping the patients and the doctors! As far as the methods are concerned, they are all yours now. In the final analysis, I was only showing you how to use these methods with my subject matter, but you found a way to use them in healing. Good job!» Speaking of the poster, in all other cases, the schemes, poems, and models are being passed to the next generation of students. That way, the students’ creativity is still alive for many years after they graduate from the class. Their names and their ideas remain with us in the learning process.

E.: It all sounds wonderful but some would ask, how about a curriculum? It will take time from teaching math or geography.

A.: This is only an illusion. An interested student learns much faster. Interest in learning makes a disciplined learner. While in a regular classroom, teachers spend plenty of time to discipline their students, there is no wasting time for anything but learning in a creatively-oriented classroom. Whatever students learn, they give their best!

E.: Andrei, could you please tell us more about these methods?

A.: Do you remember when we talked about Creative Pedagogy being a complete approach to teaching and learning? This approach includes not only a formula, but also a methodology — the core. The methodology, in general, is a collection of methods, along with the sequence of their application. This collection includes some previously known methods and some of my own. We can distinguish two different types of methods:

  1. Object-oriented, focused on changing an object.
  2. Subject-oriented, focused on the subject.

A great example for the first group of methods is Brainstorming (Alex Osborn). These methods are focused on changing an object, and participants of brainstorming try to find some new forms or functions of this object. The other methods that belong to the group of subjectoriented methods focus on the person doing creative work. These methods help a person to do something more creative by putting this person in a difficult situation, or by inspiring a person to such an extent that nobody and nothing will be able to stop this person’s creative brain. The methods worth mentioning here as some examples are: the methods of time limitation (V. Moliako) and the method of genius orientation (Andrei Aleinikov). The second group of methods can be divided further into open and closed methods. The open methods are being explained to the student, the closed ones – only to the teachers.

E.: Why is this so?

A.: Let’s say they are too powerful to fall into wrong hands.

E.: Can you give us some examples? What can you achieve using those methods?

A.: Examples? What if I tell you that there are methods that are able to change an attitude (mindset) of the learner? Many educators emphasize the attitude (mindset) role in learning, but they do not know how to change it. Many others do not even realize that the mindset (attitude) is present from the very beginning in every act of thinking, in every act of behavior. In reality, it is extremely difficult to change the mindset (attitude). Thanks to our methods, teachers are now able to do it, and do it properly! These methods work in almost 100% of the cases. For example, we achieved 100% success in Singapore. There, 13 6th graders – 12 boys and one girl – were chosen from 1200 pupils. The principal and teachers considered them absolutely unable to pass the exams. They said only a miracle could save these students. It took me only 2.5 days of training to change the students’ attitude. As a result, after a few months, all of them passed all the exams and graduated to the next education level. So the «miracle» happened. Moreover, the miracle happened in front of their eyes. The teachers were in shock. By the way, when asked to describe the selected students 30 minutes before the training, these teachers said they were passive, not interested, undisciplined, impolite, and totally incapable of achieving anything (actually, three flipchart pages of negative features). My task during the training was to show teachers that students are the opposite: active, interested, disciplined, polite, and, of course, capable of learning. And it turned out I was right! There is no time now to show how I did it, but step-by-step, I switched students’ mindsets from negative to positive, from passive to active, from disinterested to interested, etc.

E.: Did you follow up on this experiment? How were kids’ results after a while?

A.: After 18 months, an employee of the Department of Education found all of the students except the girl, who was ill. An administrator interviewed each of them and examined their answers thoroughly. They all successfully passed all the exams and were following the curriculum on the academic level. They also knew why they had changed. They remembered how their parents said that they changed 180 degrees in one day. More than that, most of them remembered and could tell the main rules of megacreativity or genius learning. When you think about it – geniuses are great learners: they learn for their entire lives, even though no one forces them to.

E.: So you are saying that two days are enough to significantly improve the achievement of a child who is not able to keep up with a curriculum?

A.: I am saying that in two days, we can change an attitude of a child. We can inspire this child to learn in a different way. This way, the child can get out of the risk zone. This child doesn’t have to be the best (just like Edison, Newton, Einstein, Picasso and many other geniuses have never been the best students), but the child will be happy to learn and will do it without any further enforcement. This is exactly the job of a creative teacher. To create a student who will be able to learn by teaching oneself at the same time. In other words – to create an ideal student, an ideal learner.

E.: It seems like an answer to many problems in education. Why then, after 25 years of Creative Pedagogy being born, is it still not widely known in Russia? There are plenty of problems in schools and the level of education is going down year after year.

A.: There are many reasons for this. First of all, any change of the existing social formation is difficult and painful. School by itself is not able to compensate for everything that is going on in society. Second, every new trend needs some time to deploy; it always takes time to create enough articles, books, dissertations and conferences. We have access to much of that now, but it did not happen overnight. The most important thing, though, was to start all of this, to give it a pulse, to present a new perspective and to expand horizons of human thinking. I am glad I managed to do this. It does not mean that everybody knows about Creative Pedagogy, but this is not my concern. Creative Pedagogy exists on the encyclopedic level of knowledge: it means you can find it in every large library of the world. Last year there was an article about Creative Pedagogy published in the Encyclopedia of Creativity, Invention, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship by Springer. Creative Pedagogy spread across the world (Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, etc.). Just a year after the first articles appeared in Russian, an article on Creative Pedagogy and Creative MetaPedagogy (teaching teachers how to teach creatively) was published in English in India. But getting back to your question, why isn’t Creative Pedagogy saving the Russian educational system? Because that’s not its job! Creative Pedagogy was not intended to save systems. Creative Pedagogy saves people, no matter what age or status. A single ordinary person is a real treasure, because a genius is waiting to be discovered in every human being! Will I manage to save all of the geniuses suppressed by our world, poisoned by evil environments, alcoholism, corruption, and wars? I don’t know… but I will definitely try! Actually, being a teacher is the most difficult type of genius! But just one teacher who accepts Creative Pedagogy principles with an open mind and soul would be able to save 20-30 students in one year. Creative teachers, who graduated from the School of Genius, are becoming the best teachers of their countries. I honestly think that if Creative Pedagogy was adopted in a large scale, the country would avoid all problems related to education. But traditional society doesn’t need geniuses. Society needs workers. And all the teachers need their work. So it makes no sense for them to teach their students how to become successful, self-learners. Great teachers are rare! They are intuitive creators, they are leaders. Creative metapedagogy gives an opportunity for each teacher to become a genius teacher, to start his/her own unique course. By the way, you, Elena, have a great understanding of creativity! Therefore, I am deeply grateful to you for spreading the concept of creativity, as well as this information about Creative Pedagogy. Thank you, Elena.

E.: The pleasure is all mine, Andrei. Thank you for these very useful thoughts and for being an amazing teacher! We are lucky to have people like you. Could you point us to where can we read more about Creative Pedagogy and your ideas?

A.: There are already books. You can also find much of the information online. Recently V.V. Popov published an online Dictionary dedicated specifically to Creative Pedagogy. As far as my works are concerned, they are spread all over the world, mainly in English. Recently, one of my books (MegaCreativity: Five Steps to Thinking Like a Genius) was translated into Russian. You can even start reprinting it for your readers, chapter by chapter. I think the most complete information you can find is in the article in the Encyclopedia, which I mentioned earlier. Please protect and nurture your little geniuses.

They are the light of our future!

Translation by Ewelina M. Kopera

International Academy of Genius