Fall 2018 #CEP818 Syllabus

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… You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?“—Apple Computer’s Think Different campaign

Welcome to CEP 818, Creativity in Teaching and Learning with Dr. Andrea Zellner (zellnera@msu.edu), and Swati Mehta (mehtaswa@msu.edu).

Please note: Communication to students is done through D2L. Please make sure that you have notifications turned on in D2L so that you are notified of any announcements or emails. 


Creativity is of increasing importance to educators both for their professional success and that of their students, particularly given the complex, evolving knowledge ecology we live in. The emergence of the knowledge economy (and the knowledge worker) means that tasks are rarely “given” or structured. We are now expected to operate in a complex and chaotic ecology where our very survival and personal identity is tied up in improvising knowledgeable answers to largely unanticipated problems. In fact, the biggest challenge in these contexts may be finding out what the problem is in the first place. Here is Sir Ken Robinson making the case for Creativity.

A critical part of becoming creative is being able to play—to play with ideas, with concepts, and feel comfortable in doing so. This course will seek to develop such an approach. In a series of modules we will explore the meaning of creativity and explore some strategies for thinking creatively, particularly in the context of teaching and learning. This course will be extremely hands-on and “minds-on” with multiple opportunities for exploration.

In this online course, we will explore a range of questions related to creativity. These include:

  • What does it mean to be creative?
  • What are the “thinking tools” for creativity?
  • How can we become more creative in teaching?
  • How can we integrate creativity in subject matter learning?
  • How can we develop creativity in others (particularly in learners)?

We shall do this through an emphasis on what we call “trans-disciplinary creativity.” Trans-disciplinary creativity argues that there are deep and fundamental connections between art and science, applied and pure knowledge. In this course we seek to find commonalities between strategies and habits of thought used by creative individuals in any discipline. As Root-Bernstein & Root-Berstein (1999) note:

… at the level of the creative process, scientists, artists, mathematicians, composers, writers, and sculptors use…what we call “tools for thinking,” including emotional feelings, visual images, bodily sensations, reproducible patterns, and analogies. And all imaginative thinkers learn to translate ideas generated by these subjective thinking tools into public languages to express their insights, which can then give rise to new ideas in others’ minds (pg. 11).

Our goal in this course is to develop such “public languages” for teaching and learning. We shall do this by focusing on 7 key trans-disciplinary cognitive tools which encapsulate how creative minds think effectively across a range of domains. These seven tools are:

  • Perceiving
  • Patterning
  • Abstracting
  • Embodied Thinking
  • Modeling
  • Playing
  • Synthesizing.

As you move through the course, you should engage in the readings and activities with separate (but ultimately integrated) lenses: that of your personal creativity, your ability to teach creatively, and your ability to teach your students to be creative.


The readings for this course will be from the book Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People, by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein. You will need to order a copy of this book and have it for the first week of classes. 

Additional readings may be assigned in the modules. If they are, they will either be in the form of web pages or PDF documents.

Perceptive readers will notice a somewhat natural mapping between the chapters in the Root-Bernsteins’ book and the seven trans-disciplinary skills we will be talking about in this class. This is not a coincidence. In fact these 7 skills that we will focus on are based on the 13 tools that the Root-Bernsteins write about.

The ideas in the Sparks book may, at first sight, seem somewhat straightforward. Do not be deceived by this first impression. The text in this book is written in a way that provides the most benefits to learning from multiple reads. The ideas in this book are best understood and applied when you have taken the time to revisit them several times and elaborate on them with a specific lens. The various activities we will engage in through the semester are driven by a motivation to unpack and develop on the ideas in the book.

The assignments

This course has two big assignments and lots of little ones. The way we have planned it, if you do the little ones on schedule, you will have a much easier time with the two major assignments.

Image that reads, "Assignment"

Here are the two major assignments:

  1. How do I love thee, let me count the ways, A Synthesis in Three Parts: You will develop an integrated set of 3 sales pitches to “sell” a new, creativity enriched trans-disciplinary curriculum on a topic of your choice to your school administrators and fellow educators. [Those of you not in the K12 arena will have the option to do something slightly different.] The three sales pitches include: a Tweet introducing your curriculum; an elevator pitch (maximum 1 minute long); and finally a white paper that lays out your plan in detail. The foundation for this project will be the mini-assignments that you complete over the semester.
  2. The Creative “I” – Bringing it Together: This is a series of three activities, each based on a portion of the seven skills we cover throughout the semester.  You will work in various mediums to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts.

Quite a bit of the action on these mega-projects (the foundational work, as it were) will be happening in the course modules. We turn to this next:

The Flow of the course (Module 1 – 8)

CEP 818 is broken into 8 modules. Each module will start on a Monday and end on the second Sunday (roughly 2 weeks per module, except for module 1). You will be receiving feedback on your work by the end of the following module. 

In general, we do not accept late work. We do understand that emergencies happen. We are also human and we understand that things happen. As long as you communicate your needs with us we will be flexible.

Each module will have a strong thematic focus on one of 7 trans-disciplinary skills. Each module will require reading a couple of assigned chapters from the book. Furthermore each module will ask you to work on two main assignments:

  1. Completing an activity (How do I love thee, one step at a time) and a writeup related to the specific cognitive tool being discussed in that module – and connecting it to a topic of your choice. This will be posted to your online workspace by the end of the module. This activity will vary from module to module and will form the basis of the end of semester project (How I love thee, Let me count the ways Synthesis project). If this seems unclear now, do not worry. In each module the required activity is carefully explained.
  2. Developing the Creative “I”: These are three mini projects that you will complete even while you are working on the modules, completing two modules in tandem with one of the Creative “I” mini projects. These mini-assignments will focus on broader themes of creativity (how it is defined, the process of creativity and creating contexts for creativity). In each case we will ask you to think about how these ideas apply to your personal and professional lives. Again, the expectations for these will be thoroughly explained in the modules in which they will be completed.

How it all fits together

Here is a sequence of how things should work over the semester:

Step 1: Starting off (Module 1)

  1. An Introduction and reading selected chapters
  2. Complete set up tasks – During module 1 you will be asked to complete a variety of tasks that will set you up for your work during the rest of the semester.
  3. Discussion – Introductions

Step 2: In the modules (Modules 2 – 7 will focus on the following)

  1. An Introduction and reading selected chapters
  2. How do I love thee (one step at a time): These mini-assignments will allow you to focus on your topic through the application of one trans-disciplinary cognitive skill.
  3. Developing the Creative “I”: Every two modules you will be given a mini-assignment based on an article by Punya Mishra and his research team.
  4. Discussions – View and comment on at least two work submissions that your peers have posted.

Step 3: Pulling it all together (The focus of Module 8)

  1. Complete the How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways, A synthesis in 3 parts. This final project will pull together the pieces from what you did on the modules over the semester (the How I love thee, one step at a time) assignments to create the final synthesis white paper, elevator pitch and tweet.


NOTE: At the risk of repeating ourselves, let us say that if you have been doing your work regularly during each of the modules, you will face no significant challenges in completing the major assignments.

Submission of assignments:

All of your work will be created in your Sparks of _______ notebook. More information on this will be provided in Module 1. Feedback will be provided directly in your Sparks Notebook. We will not be using the grading or assessments features of D2L. 

Discussion Forums

Details for each discussion forum will appear in the modules. The discussions will be student-driven in the sense that you will provide a “spark”  (an idea, question, or thought) that has arisen during your work that you would like others to consider and have a discussion around. This will be explained in more detail in Module 1.

What do Andrea and Swati do?
We will be busy throughout the semester as well. We will be introducing the readings and working with each of you as you complete the assignments. 

We will be providing continual feedback as the semester goes along. You can read more about grading on the grading page.

We will try to be consistent and regular in our feedback and please feel free to contact us at any point if you have a question or a concern. We have a 24 hour email reply policy, i.e. we will attempt to reply to any message that you send (either posted on the forum or emailed to us) within 24 hours. If you don’t hear from us in that time, please post us a reminder. Sometimes, quite rarely to be honest, we miss an email in the rush of things, hence a reminder after 24 hours would be a good idea.


Note: This set of courses has evolved over the past several years, incorporating the work and thinking of all the people who have taught them. The assignments, activities, and written materials (including the content of this syllabus) were developed by various groups and individuals and subsequently revised and reconfigured to result in the current versions. The primary responsibility for this version rests with Punya Mishra, Carmen Richardson, Candace Marcotte, and Jon Good . Others who deserve credit (and none of the blame) are, in alphabetical order: Mike DeSchryver, Kristen Kereluik, Rohit Mehta, Catalina Park, and Laura Terry.
Extra! Extra!
Things you should know: MSU Policy

MSU Minimum GPA Policy

MSU, the College, the CEPSE Department, and the MAET program all have a policy that requires MA students to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA. “If, upon completion of 18 or more graduate credits, the student has not attained a grade point average of 3.00 or higher, he or she becomes ineligible to continue work toward the master’s degree in the College.” – from Academic Standards, University Graduate Policy – Education, p. 1.

MSU Minimum Course Grade Policy

There is also a policy regarding credit and grades for MA courses. According to MSU policy, students cannot receive credit for any course with a grade below 2.0. You will have to take an extra course if you earn below a 2.0 grade on any course.

 Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is 9/28/2015 at 8pm EST. You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the MAET program in the CEPSE Department

adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu.)

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work you completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Also, you are not authorized to use the www.allmsu.com web site to complete any course work in this course. Students who violate MSU academic integrity rules may receive a penalty grade, including a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also the Academic Integrity webpage.)

Academic Honesty Violation Procedures

If an instructor believes the academic honesty policy has been violated, they will first report the violation to the MAET program director. The MAET program director will then contact the student to investigate the nature and scope of the violation.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

(from the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD): Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at 517-884-RCPD or on the web at rcpd.msu.edu. Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a Verified Individual Services Accommodation (“VISA”) form. Please present this form to me at the start of the term and/or two weeks prior to the accommodation date (test, project, etc.). Requests received after this date may not be honored.

Use of Media Derived from the Class

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  1. Students may (may not) record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  2. Students may (may not) share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  3. Students may (may not) not post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class without the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  4. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

 Limits to Confidentiality

Essays, journals, and other materials submitted for this class are generally considered confidential pursuant to the University’s student record policies. However, students should be aware that University employees, including instructors, may not be able to maintain confidentiality when it conflicts with their responsibility to report certain issues based on external legal obligations or that relate to the health and safety of MSU community members and others. As the
instructors, we must report the following information to other University offices if you share it with me:

•Suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened
when you were a child,
• Allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment when they involve
MSU students, faculty, or staff, and
• Credible threats of harm to oneself or to others.

These reports may trigger contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared. In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with that individual. If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting you are encouraged to make an appointment with the MSU Counseling Center.

Grief Absence Policy

The faculty and staff should be sensitive to and accommodate the bereavement process of a student who has lost a family member or who is experiencing emotional distress from a similar tragedy so that the student is not academically disadvantaged in their classes or other academic work (e.g. research).

It is the responsibility of the student to: (a) notify their advisor/major professor and faculty of the courses in which they are enrolled of the need for a grief absence in a timely manner, but no later than one week from the student’s initial knowledge of the situation, (b) provide appropriate verification of the grief absence as specified by the advisor/major professor and faculty, and (c) complete all missed work as determined in consultation with the advisor/major professor and faculty.

It is the responsibility of the advisor/major professor to: (a) determine with the student the expected period of absence – it is expected that some bereavement processes may be more extensive than others depending on individual circumstances, (b) receive verification of the authenticity of a grief absence request upon the student’s return, and (c) make reasonable accommodations so that the student is not penalized due to a verified grief absence. Students wanting to request a Grief Absence should complete the Grief Absence Request Form.