Researchers at HSE's School of Psychology have used the findings of studies into creativity and multilingualism to develop 'Plurilingual Intercultural Creative Keys’ (PICK), a new programme which integrates both aspects into the teaching and learning process. The study results have been published in Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics.
Creativity and multilingualism are intertwined, as both share certain personal and cognitive functions. While studies show that multilingualism can enhance creativity, to date they have not been examined together from a competency approach perspective.
Competency, the authors explain, consists of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Having analysed three types of competencies—multilingual, intercultural and creative—HSE researchers found multiple overlapping attitudes, such as openness to new experience, high tolerance for uncertainty, and cognitive flexibility, all of which can be enhanced both by developing one's creativity and by learning foreign languages.
Despite the potential benefits, there are currently no educational programmes that integrate the study of a foreign language with the development of creativity. According to the authors, programmes aimed at cultivating creativity are usually conceived and offered separately from those focused on language skills. Researchers and teachers are trained either in creative pedagogy or in foreign language teaching methods but very rarely — in both of these areas.
When discussing the cultivation of soft skills in the educational process, we often encounter resistance from teachers. Few people understand how to cultivate them. For example, unless a school teacher of physics delivers the subject in a foreign language, they are not required to cultivate plurilingual competencies in students. But there is still a need to help students develop creativity and intercultural competence, which includes cultural awareness, mindfulness, and acceptance of individuals from other cultures.
HSE researchers have designed a programme which combines several types of competences, and now the PICK training system is being piloted in schools. School teachers are trained in methods and techniques which can be adapted to suit any subject taught at school.
One of the tools used in our programme is code switching. During conventional classes of English taught as a foreign language, we are told, 'Speak only English, you are not allowed to switch to your native language.' This can increase anxiety and does not contribute to creativity. Switching between languages—code switching — is a creative act. Therefore, asking students during class to perform exercises in which languages are mixed and used flexibly can help cultivate the children's creativity.
Examples of such exercises include writing a ‘letter to a bilingual friend' in which parts of the letter are in the student’s native language and other parts are in the studied foreign language; reading a text with code switching triggers, in which phrases highlighted in bold in a foreign language text must be translated into the native language while the rest must be read as is; stories written in two languages; linguistic games; interlanguage techniques, and composing poems and making jokes in two languages. The study results have informed HSE’s new CPD programme 'Plurilingual Intercultural Creative Keys' recently launched online.