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In the midst of a project, a student oscillates between the states of ambiguity and certainty; between generality and specificity, and between abstract thought and concrete action. Ambiguity manifests itself in many ways. Perhaps the most ambiguous situations are those where the 'data is incomplete, the methods are unfamiliar and the outcomes or goals are open ended or undefined'9. The student usually navigates this ambiguity by taking small steps such as formulating a goal, preparing a plan or strategy, identifying and learning appropriate tools, techniques and methods required for a study, and collecting and interpreting data to 'get there'. Sometimes these steps may feel like climbing a ladder, whereas sometimes they may lead one back to where they began, like a never ending flight of stairs10.

To be able to oscillate between states, one must move away from their fixations. Fixations, unlike a conceptual block (which is similar to a writer's block), are a different kind of 'stuckness'. Fixity is not to be confused with stability or permanence. Neither are fixations like anchors. Rather they are chains that imprison the mind; trappings of the worst kind.

  1. read Colin Wood in The development of creative problem solving in chemistry (2006).
  2. see Penrose stairs.