Educating for Creativity: A Global Conversation
Bringing creativity into mainstream educational practice has become a mantra among educators. But what does creative practice in education really look like? Take a journey around the globe with educator and artist Robert Kelly to witness innovative creative practice in action, with examples from early childhood to post-secondary levels.
Through stories and real-life examples, discover the techniques of global leaders in creativity and design thinking, including India’s Riverside School, Denmark’s Kaospilots, and San Francisco’s Brightworks. Educating for Creativity provides a theoretical framework for creative practice and creative development alongside a practical exploration of how to make creativity in education work from pioneers in the field.
- Publisher: Brush Education
- Page Count: 336 pages
- Dimensions: 15.2in x 1.9in x 22.9in
2. Creativity in teacher education, Robert Kelly
3. The arc, learning by making and learning by inventing, Gever Tulley, with an introduction by Robert Kelly
4. A change agency for creative minds, Malene Post
5. Designing education: A conversation with Larry Rosenstock, edited by Robert Kelly and Laurie Alisat
+ Creating the feeling of collaboration: The art of ensembling, Ian Prinsloo
6. Design thinking for change, Veena Parankush Das and Niall Walsh
7. The Mobius strip and the creative community, Steve Miranda
8. Creative thinking, creative doing: Culture, thinking and learning for creativity, Ted Hamm, Tad Phippen Wente, Karen Robison, Peter Woods, and Molly Zielke
9. Rules of the playground, Brad Burns, Sherryl Clelland, Greg Dowler-Coltman, Tami Dowler-Coltman, Lindsay Ingram, and Kylie Weatherall
+ The global influence of Reggio Emilia inspiration, Deborah Forbes
10. A learning community that supports creativity, Alison Maher, Ellen Hall, and Lisa Stevens
11. Design doing: Putting thinking into practice, Luigi Ferrara, Elise Hodson, and Michelle Hotchin
12. Innovation through science and design, Matthew Wunder, Carla Levenson, and Sue Beauregard
13. Developing creative confidence in educators through design thinking, edited by Robert Kelly
+ The essential role of metaphorical thinking in creative practice, Ian Prinsloo
14. Creativity for a good life, Jens Pedersen (with inspiration from Soren Langager, Annemarie Hojmark, and Spaet Henriksen)
15. Creativity across diverse classroom settings, Jean Hendrickson
16. Creative schools partnership: Creative education on a large scale, Mike Scott; Marie Garside and Bernadette Furey; Charlotte Krzanicki, Katie Smith, and Iain Erskine; edited by Robert Kelly and Laurie Alisat
17. More creativity, edited by Robert Kelly and Laurie Alisat, with contributions from Kristin Simpson and Carlo Ricci
Chapter 1: Educating for Creativity
On a cool, damp December morning in San Francisco, I found myself on the shore of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park with a class of six- and seven-year-olds from the Brightworks private school. We were about to launch their boats.
Back at the school, before we left earlier that morning, Gever Tulley, one of the school’s cofounders, suggested that I accompany this group to help launch the boats they had designed and built. The first thing that came to mind when he ran this suggestion by me was that they were going to launch model boats. I quickly realized that the boats to be launched were built and designed by the students, and they were going to actually paddle these boats in Stow Lake using the paddles they also built and designed. Off to one side inside Brightworks was a makeshift water tank that resembled a kiddie pool where the six- and seven-year-olds had tested the boats for seaworthiness while sitting in their boats with their paddles.
The launch of these cardboard, plastic, and wooden boats at Stow Lake was an exciting moment. The whole experience raised so many questions. Which hull designs are most seaworthy? Which is better: a single-bladed paddle or a double-bladed paddle? How do I move forward? How do I turn? What design changes do I have to make to improve my boat?
What had brought me to Brightworks in San Francisco was a desire to research creative practice in education as it is carried out in different educational settings around the world. I wanted to examine how educators bring creativity into educational practice in diverse ways and in diverse contexts. On this cool, damp, San Francisco morning, as I surveyed these boats designed by six- and seven-year-olds, I noticed that some had taken on water and were listing to one side while others were waterlogged and coming apart. Others worked quite well. There was more design work and experimentation to do. I knew I was in a good place, one of many around the world in which one could explore the practice of creativity in education.
This book, Educating for Creativity: A Global Conversation, begins with an exploration of the meaning and vocabulary of creativity in educational practice encompassing creativity theory and an examination of the fabric of creative development. This is followed by contributions from educators around the world—from early childhood to the postsecondary level—speaking about the teaching, learning, and design of creativity in educational practice from their perspectives in the midst of practice.
THE NEED FOR CREATIVITY IN EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE
The words in this volume of Adam Royalty from the K-12 Lab in the d.school at Stanford University frame the conversation on the need for creativity in mainstream educational practice.
“I’m struck by the fact that we don’t trust people in our society to come up with something new until they’re nineteen, twenty-two, and twenty-five years old. Almost all of what students are doing is working on problems that have been solved before. I understand that there’s a lot of value to that, but why do we not trust our children to come up with original problem-solving solutions? Just the fact that one shows an element of trust in this area engages students. It is baffling to me what lack of faith we have in people until they’ve lived a fifth of their life; it seems strange.”
We are in major period of transition from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (Pink 2005). Educational practice in the Information Age has been characterized by a focus on the accumulation of data and an over-emphasis on reductive, analytical thinking. The emerging Conceptual Age is driven by creativity with idea generation and experimentation as the main drivers. Charles Leadbeater (2008) further adds that we are entering a time that has great potentials for mass creativity. He describes new generations as being defined by what they share in the way of ideas and creative practice, not by what they own, as information is readily accessible in our virtual and digital worlds. Collaborative creativity is emerging as an essential practice for the complexities faced by future generations.
Traditional mainstream education immersed in the Information Age has been very consumption intense. Educational practice in this broad context values and facilitates the consumption and retention of information accompanied by the assessment regimens that measure success in doing this. This resonates with the broader economic cultures immersed in market-economy practices that engage heavily in the production, marketing and consumption of goods and services on a massive scale. Economic success is often measured by vertical summative comparisons: gross national product, gross domestic product, profit margins, employment rates, and trade surpluses. Education systems are very much part of this economic fabric embodying many of these characteristics and perceived by many as existing solely to serve a successful and growing economy in any way, shape, or form. We learn to consume very well—consumer goods and services, information, everything. Alane Starko (2010) contends that to be successful we will need more than the knowledge that is measured by traditional assessment practice. She further explains that a disposition characterized by flexible thinking, imagination, and creative practice is necessary to solve problems unimaginable today.
Adam Royalty refers to students as spending most of their time working on problems that have already been solved. The implication here is that despite our best intentions, most of a student’s day is spent restating or retelling information in a context where the outcome is already known and then measuring their success in doing this.
We learn this system very quickly and at a very young age. What does the teacher want? What will be on the test or exam? How does he or she mark? We learn to perform for outcomes that are known. This is a disposition that does not value risk taking or experimentation, two things that are essential for creative development and creative practice. This disposition is quite disabling when it comes to the growth of creative practice in education. J.K. Rowling (2008) in her address to a Harvard graduating class discussed the importance of failure and imagination. She stated, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT
I learned at a very early age to give the teacher what he or she wanted. This followed me well into my early days as an educator.
In my very first month as a junior-high Social Studies and Art teacher I was told by my principal that the school district superintendent was coming into my classroom to assess my teaching. This can be a very intimidating experience for any fresh new teacher. To prepare for this I went into the staffroom and asked my more experienced colleagues what the superintendent would be looking for—in other words what was going to be on the test. They were unanimous in saying that he really valued class participation. He wanted to see all of the students engaged while I was teaching.
After this discovery I thought, this is easy enough to do. I will give him what he wants. It was announced that the superintendent was coming into my morning grade-seven Social Studies class that just happened to be my homeroom class. Before he came in I told my students that I was being inspected and that when I asked a question I wanted everyone to put their hands up: their left hand if they know the answer, their right hand if they didn’t! In came the superintendent. He sat in the corner and pulled out his notebook as I began my Social Studies class. Every one of my questions was greeted by a sea of enthusiastic hands. I moved the class along briskly picking and choosing carefully amongst these eager grade sevens. The superintendent was smiling as he wrote in his notebook. This was good, I was power teaching. My report was a positive one. It said I had great class participation. I sure did.
Accumulating discipline content and understanding is necessary as we need to have solid grounding across individual disciplines and fields to work and grow in these areas. In general education there is intense pressure to perpetuate this learning culture with the demands of curriculum content and ever-increasing discipline density and complexity. However, when these areas are the prime identifying focus of educational practice, there is a problem. What is the sense of accumulating masses of information and discipline content if we are not equipped with a creative disposition to utilize this information to deal with the challenges of everyday life and those that future generations will face? We don’t have to choose between discipline competency or creativity. It is more of a question of balance between two concepts that are not mutually exclusive. They work hand in glove. There is a great need to balance discipline competency and discipline knowing with creative development within educational practice.
Business and industry have long recognized the value of creativity and innovation. A lot of the literature about creativity is targeted at the business community to enhance its capacity for innovation and its potentials to develop cutting-edge products or services that give a competitive edge in the market place, ultimately enhancing profitability. However, there are many other equally important contexts in which to apply creativity in the mainstream of educational practice.
Creative practice enables social and business innovation for sustainable economic practice with a social conscience. In this volume, the KaosPilots in Aarhus, Denmark, describe their engagement in the design and enterprise of fourth-sector businesses that share these attributes. Both Tim Brown (2009) and Warren Berger (2009) speak to the evolution of the design world from a narrow focus on product design to a much broader application of design thinking that can be integrated into all aspects of business and society. Creative practice in education enables the application of design thinking for the benefit of all human beings, their living conditions and the environment that surrounds them. Included in this volume, the Bruce Mau-inspired Institute without Boundaries, Stanford’s d.school, and the global Design for Change initiative for eight- to thirteen-year-olds from the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, are just a few examples of how design thinking can be applied in a diverse range of contexts that span social innovation, community and environmental enhancement, and health and wellness. Creative practice in education also enables the creation of original work across the discipline spectrum in a culture of collaborative creativity. Creative practice in education has become an educational imperative.
WHAT IS CREATIVITY?
When applying creativity to educational practice it is very important that there is a clear and consistent vocabulary to explain the concept of creativity along with its related concepts. The word “creativity” can mean so many different things to different people. Mark Runco (2007) contends that when the word creativity is used it should always be accompanied by a descriptor that contextualizes it. This allows educators and learners to share a common precise vocabulary around creative practice.
There are innumerable definitions and theories of creativity. Robert Sternberg (1999), Todd Lubart (2000), Jane Piirto (2004), James Kaufman and Sternberg (2006, 2010), Runco, (2007), Starko (2010), and Ronald Beghetto and Kaufman (2010) are excellent resources for comprehensive research in this field. Two of the most useful definitions for creativity that can serve as foundational definitions for educational practice are Piirto’s (2004), “To be creative is to make something new or novel,” and Lubart’s (2000), “The creative process is the sequence of thought and actions that leads to a novel, adaptive production.” Notice the words “make” and “thoughts and actions.” Creativity involves bringing ideas or thoughts into forms, ultimately making something out of ideas that can be shared in the currency or medium of the discipline or field where the creative practice is occurring. This involves the imagination. Imagination is the breeding ground for ideas that fuel creative practice. J.L. Singer’s (1999) definition of imagination in Runco and Pritzker’s Encyclopedia of Creativity, Volume 2, is “a special feature or form of human thought characterized by the ability of an individual to reproduce images or concepts originally derived from basic senses but now reflected in one’s consciousness as memories, fantasies and future plans” (13). Liu and Noppe-Brandon’s (2009) Imagination First is an excellent resource that expands on the concept of imagination and its application to creative development.
Graham Wallas (1926), in his book The Art of Thought, formalized a four-stage model of creative process that influenced creativity theory for over half a century. His four distinct stages of creativity are described as preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. “Preparation” refers to the notion of initial problem setting or dealing with a discordance that requires some sort of resolution in which the outcome is unknown. “Incubation” refers to an active subconscious stage where ideas are reorganized and elaborated upon. “Illumination” points to times of convergence when thoughts come together for potential solutions. “Verification” is the point where these thoughts are given form to test out whether they actually work as solutions. Alex Osborn (1953), the developer of brainstorming, expands on this model to importantly include a stage called “Ideation,” a purposeful stage for the generation of ideas and alternatives. Since its inception there have been many variations and elaborations of this basic, early, four-stage model. Regardless, it can provide a useful framework and foundation for creative practice vocabulary.
In the 1950s American psychologist J.P. Guilford (1959) was a major catalyst in developing the discourse on the concept of creativity. He described what he termed as the traits of creativity in reference to characteristics of creative individuals. Terms such as originality, fluency, flexibility, elaboration, redefinition, convergent thinking, and divergent thinking form the core of these characteristics and an expanded basis for a vocabulary of creativity.
“Originality” can be a problematical term when applied to educational practice. This term typically refers to a creative response that is novel, remote, and statistically unusual or a departure from previous responses in a field or discipline. It is unrealistic and for the most part educationally inappropriate to compare creative outcomes of young learners to those at the top of their fields to establish whether a student’s response is original or not. It is much more useful to facilitate creative development in an educational setting if a response is assessed for its degree of originality specific to the individual learners and their past creative production outcomes (Starko, 2010).
“Fluency” refers to the capacity to effortlessly generate ideas and alternatives in creative practice. “Flexibility” refers to one’s ability to abandon old ways of thinking and adapt to the new. This includes the capacity to readily accept new ideas as they are experienced. This is an essential characteristic for collaborative creative practice.
“Elaboration” entails the ability to add complexities to existing forms, while “redefinition” speaks to the capacity to give up traditional interpretations and invent new ones. Developing comfort with ambiguity and metaphorical thinking is central to engaging in redefinition. Ian Prinsloo’s article, “The Essential Role of Metaphorical Thinking in Creative Practice,” in this volume further expands on this notion.
“Divergent thinking” refers to the expansive development of alternative resolutions through idea generation and form experimentation. “Convergent thinking” refers to the process of narrowing down the list of alternatives to select those with the greatest potential for problem resolution through comparative analysis.
“Innovation” and “invention” are two other terms that are closely associated with the concept of creativity. Runco (2007) describes innovation as an application of creative thinking with which an idea is introduced and applied to a situation that benefits a job, process, organization, or the development of a product where this occurs. The term “innovation” is often associated but not exclusive to creative practice in business and industry. The term “invention” would appear to have a broader application, as it refers to the application of creativity that leads to the development of something new across any number of fields or disciplines (Runco, 2007).
The term “design thinking” is often used in the field of creative practice. It is very much part of the vocabulary of many of the schools and institutions in this volume. The design firm IDEO’s (2012) Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators contains the process and methods of design, adapted specifically for the context of education. It outlines five important phases of the design thinking process that share an affinity with the stage theories of creativity. The stages of discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution speak to the notion of discovering a meaningful challenge, giving that challenge relevant focus, generating alternative solutions, testing potential solutions out through experimentation followed by continued development and refinement over time. The concept of design thinking has the potential to be a very accessible lens by which creative practice can be brought into mainstream education across the discipline spectrum.
UNDERSTANDING CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT
There are diverging perspectives regarding the nature of creative development as it could be applied to educational practice. Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi’s (1995) idea of small “c” and large “C” creativity is useful in differentiating creative acts on a vertical scale relative to the fields where they occur. Small “c” creativity refers to the creativity that every human being engages in on a daily basis. Big “C” creativity is designated for those who have considerable impact in their fields. Howard Gardner (1993) profiles Einstein, Picasso, and others who would fall into this category. Dean Simonton’s (1999) historiometrics applies a quantitative method of statistical analysis of an individual’s accomplishments to place one’s creative practice on a vertical scale of importance to the fields where the practice occurred. Applying vertical hierarchies to one’s creative practice in a field is certainly of interest but not necessarily useful when applied to enabling creative development in educational practice. It is more appropriate to view creative development of a learner relative to his or her own practice where development is viewed as growth in an individual’s creative capacity as opposed to a comparison with the top people in the field.
A question that is often asked is, “Are we all creative?” It is human nature to improvise in response to any number of constraints or problems that confront us as on daily basis, from the earliest age onward. Watch a nine-month-old child explore and adapt to obstacle after obstacle. When we cook or dress or have to repair something around the house, we improvise and we adapt. Czikszentmihalyi’s notion of small “c” creativity refers to those creative acts that are part of everyday living. We adapt readily to situations that unfold around us on a regular basis as we are by nature very adaptive. In further expanding on the notion of small “c” creativity, I like to add the word “intuitive” to the term “adaptive,” as it implies we just naturally engage in creative actions and adaptations as part of our daily living. The term “intuitive/adaptive creativity” refers to small “c” creativity or the creative acts that are part of everyday living. These are often short-term improvisational responses to a dilemma or problem. For a teacher, showing up on occasion with nothing prepared is often a great showcase of improvisational skills and intuitive/adaptive creativity.
One of the best examples of intuitive/adaptive creativity is lying, as in fibbing or not telling the truth. Preschoolers fib freely: “I didn’t do it!” I often ask my classes or audiences to put up their hands if they’ve never told a lie. Other than the odd person who puts his or her hand up and is obviously lying, nobody puts their hands up. What is your favourite lie? Mine is the “Vaseline Cats” story that came out of an unprepared moment when I was teaching high school several years ago.
The Vaseline Cats
Several years ago when I was teaching secondary school Art and Social Studies, I was fortunate enough to be seconded to my friendly neighbourhood university for four days a week to work in gifted education. This left me only Fridays to come into school and teach while my partner teacher taught the rest of the week and did the planning and preparation for everything. All I had to do was show up on Friday mornings, read the day plan that was left for me, and carry on with the day.
One Friday I walked into a grade-twelve Art class and the students asked me, “Mr. Kelly, what’s our next unit going to be?” I actually didn’t know, so I made something up. Sitting on the filing cabinet in the corner of the classroom was a large container of Vaseline and two cat shapes cut out of plywood. I would later find out that the Vaseline was for a mould-release agent for some sculpture project and the plywood cats were bookends for someone’s niece that my partner teacher had agreed to paint. I turned to the twenty-two grade twelves and said, “We’re going to do cats—Vaseline cats! I’m going to give each of you a plywood cat next Friday and a lot of Vaseline and I want each of you to be creative.” That drew lot of giggles and skepticism. I responded, “If you don’t believe me go down to the woodshop right now as the cats are being cut out as I speak.” The lie kept growing. I sent a student down to the shop to verify. Meanwhile I ran next door to the biology lab and phoned our shop teacher and explained my lie and asked him to fake it when my student arrived. My student returned announcing to everyone, “They’re actually doing this. They are cutting out plywood cats for everyone!” Now we had to do it; and so we did.
Next Friday I arrived in class to twenty-two plywood cats piled neatly by the door, thanks to our shop teacher, and a big container of Vaseline still sitting on the filing cabinet. Off we went. I egged the students on: “Use your imaginations, be creative, this is the cutting edge of contemporary art.” This enthusiastic bunch rubbed and piled and formed Vaseline on their plywood cats in every way possible. There was Vaseline everywhere. Vaseline, however, has no body to it and eventually just sank into the wood, leaving each student with a greasy Vaseline-soaked cat shape. They all looked the same. But that’s not how the students saw it. We were on to something that was artistically big in their eyes, and I did nothing to discourage that. “Let’s put these on display in the hall,” I encouraged not wanting to stop this nonsensical momentum. Off we went to the main art display case right outside of the principal’s office and enthusiastically placed all twenty-two of the ugliest, oil-soaked, plywood cat shapes that all looked the same for all to see. The principal stepped out of his office to see what all of the commotion was about. He looked at the cats and then he looked at us. “What are you guys doing?” A chorus of voices proudly announced, “This is our Vaseline Cats unit.” The principal looked at the cats again for a few seconds and then turned to me and said, “I just don’t get this modern art!”
If we all possess the capacity for intuitive/adaptive creativity, some of the next important questions that arise are, How does this creative potential get developed? What can this potential be developed into? An examination of the thoughts and actions that go into making something new or novel will shed some light on the dynamic of the creative process and the potentials for growth in creative development.
I like to represent an idea as a simple dot with a circle around it (Kelly & Leggo 2008) (Kelly 2011). An idea can grow and radiate out to intersect and hybridize with other ideas and stimuli to create wondrous new thoughts and forms or it can close in on itself and go nowhere. Think of an idea as a potato that will go into a pot of stew that is filled with all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and spices that will cook for hours and hours. If after a few minutes you pull the potato out of the stew pot and examine how far the juices and all of the different flavours from the stew have permeated the flesh of the potato, you would find that little has happened at this stage. Ideas at this first wave are usually raw and have had little refinement or exposure to hybridization to evolve their form. If you were to examine the same potato after it had been cooking in the stew pot for couple of hours, you would probably find that the juices in the stew had penetrated the potato a little bit, modifying the flavour and texture of the potato. The longer an idea has exposure to other ideas, the more chance this idea has to be synthesized to grow into something new and wondrous. Examine the potato after it has been in the stew pot for eight hours and you will notice that the juices have permeated the potato almost to its centre, totally changing the flavour, texture, and character of the potato. Ideas have to be exposed long enough to other ideas to allow them to go through these transformations, well past first-wave, second-wave, and third-wave iterations. You can follow the life of this potato well past the stew stage and into the compost heap of leftovers where it transforms again and again to the point where what evolves has no resemblance whatsoever to the original potato except that its DNA is somewhere in there and it wouldn’t exist without the potato. The evolution of thought and form in a stimuli-rich environment can go on indefinitely. This is an environment that is conducive to inventive momentum or Czikszentmihalyi’s (1996) concept of “flow.” This is the “principle of infinite potentials.”
The creative process involves taking ideas that represent possibilities that are potential resolutions to problems and testing them out through experimentation. This is characterized by recurrent rounds of divergence and convergence. The greater the number of ideas that are generated, and the greater the amount of experimentation that occurs to test these ideas out, the greater the possibilities exist for diverse creative outcomes to emerge. These potentials increase exponentially the longer this divergent-convergence pulse of idea generation and experimentation can be sustained through several iterations. This constitutes “sustained creative practice.” Creative development therefore represents the growth of one’s creative capacity from adaptive/intuitive creativity to encompass the ability to engage in sustained creativity. As one develops creative capacity, creative confidence (Kelley 2012) increases to the point where a level of creative maturity is reached as one gains the ability to engage in sustained creative practice.
“Sustained creative practice” can be described as falling into three general categories that are closely interrelated: inventive, involving the creation of original work across the disciplines; innovative, involving the redesign or modification of an existing form, product or system usually associated with business and industry; and interpretive, involving redesign, modification, evolution, or interpretation of existing work or forms often associated with the arts.
When this dynamic of creative development is applied to educational practice, one must differentiate between the terms “learning creatively” and “learning to create.” “Learning creatively” implies developing novel responses or solutions to curriculum-content problems or dilemmas largely through creative problem solving. “Learning to create” involves creating educational space for learners to create personally meaningful original work through sustained creative practice that goes well beyond the demands of traditional curriculum content. The learning to create space represents an educational space for significant creative development.
FACTORS LIMITING CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Developing an educational culture of creativity can be hindered by several factors inherent in traditional educational practice. These factors must always be acknowledged and countered or their presence will consistently erode any attempts at creative practice.
An educational environment that is characterized by learning experiences where outcomes are usually known leads to a predisposition of early closure when it comes to idea generation and experimentation. Students learn to scout for the perceived known answer in the most expedient manner possible. Generative and experimentational practice, central to sustained creativity, is thrown by the wayside for the quickest route to the answer. The first idea or most convenient idea is often the last. Daniel Pink (2009) speaks to the profound negative impact of external rewards on limiting development of a learning culture of creativity. Early closure can de