Common Questions & Difficulty of Creativity Education

Posted March 1, 2014

The three most common questions about creativity seem to be:

“How do you define it?”

“How do you measure it?”

“How do you enhance it?

For the first of these, I would recommend “The Standard Definition of Creativity (Runco & Jaeger, 2012, Creativity Research Journal). That is a review of definitions, not a proposal for some new definition.

For the second question, I would consult Torrance’s (1995) book, Why Fly?. And of course Creativity Testing Services has about two dozen assessments!

For the third question … you have some options. I have written a few things and can share summaries, each of which concerns “how to enhance creativity.” Enhancement might involve education, or a business setting, or parenting, or the fulfillment of one’s own potentials.

The first summary I will share is based on a talk I just gave in Los Angeles, not a month ago. It was titled, “Why it is difficult to educate for creativity?” Here is the abstract:

Creativity is one of the key 21st-century skills and is widely targeted by educators and decision makers around the world. There is, however, a discrepancy between the typical approach to “education for creativity” and what the research says about creativity. Why is it difficult to educate for creativity?
Runco (March 2014) identified five reasons:
First, there are numerous misunderstandings about creativity (e.g., “Big C vs. little c” creativity are distinct from one another).
Second, and related but more specific than #1, there are numerous myths about creativity (e.g., “the art bias” and the expectation that creative students are troublesome).
Third, the nature of creativity can make it difficult for systematic, programmatic efforts. The originality that is a part of all creativity, for instance, cannot be predicted or guaranteed, so curriculum design is difficult.
Fourth, the traditional structure of education does not lend itself to support creativity. Several parts of the creativity complex are, for instance, contrary to the structure of the classroom. These include intrinsic motivation, incubation, playfulness, and autonomy. Additionally, creativity is risky. A person takes a risk whenever he or she shares an original idea. After all, if an idea is original, it is unconventional, and others may not like or understand it. Teachers are not in a position to take risks. Indeed, accountability and standardization have increased in the last 10 years, and they make it nearly impossible to support creativity.
Fifth is the lack of support for creativity. Most disturbing here is duplicity by decision makers who claim to support creativity but, at the same time, undermine creativity by deciding how teachers and students should be creative and by carefully evaluating (thus inhibiting) all educational efforts.

There is a positive message for educators and individuals who are trying to enhance creativity … but that is the topic of the next blog.