Creativity: A Much Needed Skill

Part 1:

Sections of this were written in partnership for the Missouri State University Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning Program with educator, Kristy Graber.

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice

“I’m not creative” is something I have heard everywhere I have taught, uttered by student and educator alike. In fact, one of the first things that drew me to Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A PIRATE, was his stance on creativity. In his book and in person, Dave talks about creativity and the hard work it entails. Dave agrees with the experts Kristy and I found when he points out that “Creativity is not the possession of some special class of artistic individuals, but is rather something that can be nurtured and developed in all of us—including your students! (Burgess, p. 41).”

To a place where nobody’s been

When my research partner, first grade teacher, Kristy Graber, and I decided on our research focus, the effects of extrinsic motivation on the creativity of students in American primary and secondary schools, we did not originally include why educators should even care about creativity. We, two teachers with 30 years of combined experience, one at the high school level and one at the elementary level, both center our pedagogy on creative, hands-on, dynamic learning experiences, so explaining why creativity is so crucial slipped by us in our rough draft. This post will hopefully reaffirm creativity’s value to the faithful and also provide value for educators who have not joined our creativity brigade.

Through the snow fog flies on the albatross

Creativity is a skill needed to promote growth, not only in artistic endeavors but also for discovery and advancement, which is something our rapidly changing world needs. To protect and encourage creativity in students, it is crucial that educators do all they can to protect the intrinsic motivation of students since creativity itself cannot be directly taught or learned. Creativity Part 2 will feature how to tap into creativity as an educator for yourself and students, and Creativity Part 3 will feature the research on the effect extrinsic motivators have on students, and how intrinsic motivation is an essential component of creative performance. However, it is important to note in this post that if rewards diminish intrinsic motivation and therefore creativity, and if we continue to inundate our schools and classrooms with reward-based systems, the next Harriet Beecher Stowe, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, or Jennifer Doudna may not invent, create, or innovate products that help advance our society.

Hailed in God’s name, hoping good luck it brings

As Diane Ravitch so eloquently stated, “The students have heart. They have creativity. They have wit. They are innovative. They are alive with spirit. They have the qualities that made America great,” (2020, p. 124). Creativity involves a way of thinking and problem solving that elicits positive change and improvement. Researcher Beth Hennessey also recognized the importance of creativity as she wrote, “Creativity in the arts brings excitement, aesthetic enjoyment, and a deepened appreciation for the human condition; while creativity in the sciences, engineering, and technology leads to medical breakthroughs, improved efficiency, and a higher quality of living” (Hennessey, 2002, p. 30). Creativity or creative thinking cannot be exclusive to the arts but must find its way into science, math, technology, and all classrooms as well if it is to help students flourish in school.

And the ship sails on, back to the north

Creativity is a part of all aspects of culture and life and is one of the most reliable paths to the enjoyment of the experience. According to psychologists and professors, Sternberg and Lubart, “The creative person is also likely to have a global—not just a local—perspective on problems,” (1993, p. 230). The world citizenry will thrive as a whole when creativity flourishes.

Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on

Like Dave Burgess, researchers since the mid to late 1970s have moved beyond thinking of creativity in terms of it being “a quality of the person; most people lack that quality; people who possess the quality – geniuses – are different from everyone else” (Amabile and Pillemer, p. 3). According to the American Psychological Association (APA), creative thinking involves the mental processes leading to a new invention, solution, or synthesis in any area.

The mariner’s bound to tell of his story

Elliott Eisner, a significant contributor to the field of art education through the years, listed aspects of creativity as being “boundary-pushing or inventing, boundary-breaking, and aesthetic organization,” (1962, p. 13). Aesthetic organization, as it is meant here, refers to the ordering of specific forms to constitute a coherent, harmonious, and balanced whole. According to Eisner, inventing is taking more than one known form or subject and combining them to create something new, while boundary-breaking is the creation of something completely new (1962, p. 13). While that distinction may not be crucial for the day-to-day in education, it may be helpful to establish the difference.

And the wedding guest’s a sad and wiser man

It is crucial that educators wrap their minds around what creativity is and why it needs to be cultivated in students. Creativity, as defined by Torrance, is “the process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, and so on; identifying the difficulty; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses about the deficiencies; testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and retesting them; and finally communicating the results” (Torrance, pp. 663-664). This shift in thinking about creativity as a personality trait to understanding creative thinking as encompassing novel solutions and products is essential for educators and students.

And the tale goes on and on and on

No matter which definition is used, or even a combination of them all, educators need to embrace the importance of creativity, in all subjects, as something to be cultivated in all students. The pandemic brought to light the need for creative thinking and problem solving globally, so as you create lesson activities for students to master the standards, consider also having them flex their creative thinking muscle in the process. Ideas and guidelines will be in the next post.

All Headings are partial lyrics from Iron Maiden’s epic song, Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

References

Amabile, T. M., & Pillemer, J. (2012). Perspectives on the social psychology of creativity. Journal of Creative Behavior, 46 (1), 3–15.

American Psychological Association (APA). “APA Dictionary of Psychology.” dictionary.apa.org/creative-thinking. (accessed February 24, 2022).

Burgess, Dave. (2012). Teach Like A Pirate: increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Eisner, E. W. (1962). A typology of creativity in the visual arts. Studies in Art Education, 4 (1), 11-22.

Hennessey, B. A. (2002). The social psychology of creativity in the schools. Research in the Schools, 9 (2), 23–33.

Ravitch, D. (2020). Slaying goliath: The passionate resistance to privatization and the fight to save America’s public schools. Alfred A. Knopf.

Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1993). Investing in creativity. Psychological Inquiry, 4 (3), 229–232.

Torrance, E. P. (1965). Scientific views of creativity and factors affecting its growth. Daedalus, 94 (3), 663–681. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20026936


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