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Theoretical Background


‘Imagination is the capacity for original thought’ - Sir Ken Robinson

“I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time, often for a very long time before writing them down. I can... be sure that... I shall not forget [a theme] even years later. I change many things, discard others, and try again and again until I am satisfied: then, in my head, I begin to elaborate the work... the underlying idea never deserts me. It rises, it grows. I hear and see the image in front of me from every angle.” - Ludwig Van Beethoven (quoted by Hamberger 1952).

As a teacher endeavouring to foster creative thought in my classroom I am struck by the above quote from Beethoven because of his reference to ‘hearing and seeing the image.. from every angle’. Beethoven was deaf at the time of writing the above statement and had just finished his 9th Symphony. Through decades of performing and composing Beethoven had developed a vast palette from which to draw upon. I can only imagine that it must of been a palette of sounds and timbres along with pitch and rhythm. He must have developed a keen eye and ear for how his music would be seen and heard. Beethoven is considered to be a supreme creative individual and the description of his mastery of the mental image fascinating. This mental image is often referred to as the ‘mind’s eye’. Albert Einstein used visualization and new mental models and tools to deal with problems in moving images. He had difficulties with language. At the age of sixteen he imagined himself riding on a beam of light and what things would look like as he traveled upon it, this helped him to think about light as if it were stationary: here is another example of a prominent person using his mind’s eye to seek a creative solution to a known problem. It is this aspect of the creative thought process that I want to explore and how we can educate for the development of a students ‘mind’s eye’ (some would call it imagination). I want to position the ‘mind’s eye’ in relation to the creative thought process and link it to part of our metacognitive thought process. That is, the mind's eye is a metacognitive tool that students can draw on to help facilitate their creativity. For the purpose of this essay I will focus on aspects of imagination in relation to the mind’s eye. The mental images and sounds that we create and what can we do in the classroom to foster a child’s ‘mind’s eye’ so that they can not only recognise it as an integral part of the creative process but also value it so that they develop the disposition to be inclined to use it as a tool for creative thought. I would also like to demonstrate and discuss a number of practical activities that help stimulate the mind’s eye. 

However, it seems that with most inquiries into creativity there is always an attempt to define creativity I would like to continue with that tradition. 

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