[Reflection 2] Creative Learning Spiral


Just as IMAGINE appears 2x in the spiral I would repeat other stages. I like to return to REFLECTION and I believe that students also continuously engage in reflection (observing, listening, comprehending, translating, sketching, designing) as they CREATE, SHARE and PLAY.


I had never heard of that saying but it’s exactly what I always try to do in my life, and I too get stuck learning about existing ideas for waaay too long. I feel for months and even years that because I haven’t mastered something, I am not yet equipped to break it.

I think the creative learning spiral and ideas from LCL & the Maker movement are empowering because they tell anyone that they can start to play with, break, mess around, remix, etc. ideas even when they only have a cursory grasp on the initial concepts.

The world moves so, so fast & the internet gives us an infinite trove of knowledge, so I think it’s important not to build up the amount of “baseline knowledge” you need too high in your head before you start taking things into your own hands.


I think this raises an interesting point about identity and the creative process - lots of people have been encouraged to think about themselves as either “creative” or “not.” But it sounds like you are describing something a lot like the “tinkering approach” to making things! How did you approach figuring out what your spiral was? What kinds of situations did you reflect upon? Do you think it makes any difference to be aware of your own learning style - would you encourage young learners to reflect upon their approaches?


LCL Learning Spiral:

My Learning Spiral:

I’m thinking about a few different things when I write this; making a painting, writing a piece of software, writing up an idea for a product or community.

I think my spiral is more Type A than others and probably less playful because of it, but I think this really is how I approach things (even paintings). I wanted to make an emoji painting on a piece of cardboard for a costume and I planned out how I would lay everything on a grid, made sure all my materials were around me (“mis en place” but not for food), and started measuring things out. I even tried to estimate the time it would take and thought about which chunks of the painting I could do in the amount of time I had, and if I would want the paint to have dried between phases or not.

So much planning! :stuck_out_tongue: It would be nice to work on things where I forced myself to start with no plan & see where my mind took me!


The Creative Process is something that I discuss frequently with my students in my grade 10, 11, and 12 art courses. The Creative Learning Spiral is essentially the same thing! For me, I think it usually looks like this:

Challenging & Inspiring (Imagine) [often the longest and most frequently used phase] -> Exploring & Experimenting (Play) -> Creating -> Exploring & Experimenting (Play) -> Revising -> Sharing& Reflecting/Evaluating -> New creative cycle


I took this course because I am creating a Web Design course for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. I am already finding the theory, frameworks, and other resources to be foundational for course design. The creative learning spiral is great! I am super academic and it has helped my tailor my approach for young people.

My personal creative process has evolved through my life. Here are some details:

During high school I found my disability too strong to work through. My subjects began to fall behind and so I focused on art work instead (digital photography to be exact). I quickly mastered Photoshop when I was accepted to an art school in NYC. Here I mastered black and white printing. Though my works were technically perfect, they were digital and seen as a lesser art. Again, my disability overtook my studies and I returned to my childhood home to recover.

Back home, I began my studies again with Architecture as my major at OSU. My strength was digital design and did not fit well with a prevailing “paper&glue” approach to architecture education. I left during my sophomore year to continue my design studies in Creative Coding and Emerging Technologies. Studying independently at a graduate school of Art and Design. My major changed to Finance and I found myself with the need to articulate the value, process, and products of a creative design process. To explain why architecture and art professors were wrong. Why my business professors that lamented technology was making students “dumb”, were wrong.

I did not have the language to articulate everything at this time. My conviction came from a deep “knowing”. Having designed since the age 15.

I soon found Christopher Alexander’s works to be one way of explaining the design process I knew. Notes on the Synthesis of Form began my journey of creating a Philosophy of Design .

Is Designing Hermeneutical? I came across Phenomenology and Hermeneutics: interpretation and translation theory, while browsing design PHD programs and believed it to be the model of the learning process embedded within design practice. (Hermeneutics still remains a unifying theory in my work.)

I met Liz Sanders, design researcher and author of the Convivial Toolbox, my senior year while creating a Social Enterprise Design Studio for undergrads and grads at OSU. Her approach: Co-Design, was a departure from my designer-centric process to one of a designer in service to others. One that used creativity to build tools to allow people to express, represent, and build sustainable futures themselves.

I learned of the Path of Creative Expression

and would later use this research technique when usability tests of my mobile app designs found error. It allowed the “user” to express fixes in their own words and through their own references.

Later I became the product manager at a small startup overseeing R&D of augmented reality simulations in medical education. Responsible for the company’s process, I built a systemic model for learning and creation of augmented reality products.

Process Built for Management of Health AR Product

I now work as the founder of Insitu Health and PHENOM Design. My studies are at a crux with Personal Construct Psychology : a theory grounded in the practice of psychology.

Again, I am excited to continue this work and see many parallels with Papert and Mitch’s constructionism.


My creative spiral may be the following :

  • Watch something or discuss or read etc… -> Think -> Re-Think :wink: -> Draft a plan -> Create -> Refine -> Share -> Get Feedback -> Refine - Share -> Get new isight (watch, discuss, read) -> Think etc…


When I work in my own personal space (with possibilities only limited to the material acquired), I usually work in this odd flow:

play > imagine >create > reflect > share

Upon deeper reflection of the spiral in regards to the curriculum I help build and teach. I feel that we’ve taken an approach that looks mostly like this:

ideate (mostly prepare and brainstorm) > prototype > test ( a possible repeat between prototype and test) > reflect

Empathizing and defining user needs has been introduced much later in the curriculum.


I think my spiral would go outward, not inward…

Imagine at every step of the way alongside the other steps, simultaneously.


When I complete the project, I feel a sense of achievement.
I will feel like this after a while. “I want to know more deeply” “I want to convey it more widely”
I think that repeating such feelings over and over is a creative learning spiral.