Lucas and Claxton in their amazing book New Kinds of Smart refer to this as our brain creating a black hole to resemble the shape that a satisfactory solution would look like. However at the actual time of thinking it is only a black hole. However this creates a pull when you are not thinking about it and then stray thoughts provide a useful metaphor that leads to the answer.
This highlights a further need for the flipped classroom. If the teacher introduces the content in the classroom and then students focus on this content to be creative and come up with new ideas, they will create the ‘black hole’ but may not be able to go any further. However if the content is provided in advance, they will watch it, do other things and whilst doing these other things the pull of the black hole will mean stray thoughts provide useful metaphors that lead to the new ideas and understanding. These new ideas and levels of understanding can then be brought and used in the classroom.
I proved this myself. I started reading the book and started to think about how I could summarise my thoughts in this blog post but I couldn’t work out how to get it right. I then ‘forgot about it’, went for a swim and then the ideas hit me. In fact I lost count of the number of lengths I had done because my brain was buzzing. The pool must have generated some stray thoughts that acted as useful metaphors because of the pull of the black hole in my brain.
What new ideas are you going to allow your students to generate this week?