TAG Teachers: Only the Creative Need Apply

Article excerpt

Creativity has been recognized as an important characteristic of TAG teachers. Gallagher and Gallagher (1994) stated that teachers of the gifted need to be creative, original, and versatile. VanTassel-Baska (1992) recommended that teachers of the gifted be evaluated on their ability to utilize creative thinking and problem solving, among other things. Similarly, many of the programs described in Coyne (1995) include creativity or related attributes among the characteristics required of teachers who work in them.

Creativity in adults is generally identified from products which are novel and receive social recognition. These standards are difficult to apply to teachers because their products are not very visible. A successful lesson is fleeting; usually the teacher is the only person who is aware of its creativity. Similarly, students' successes or enthusiasms are not readily attributable to a single person; probably not even the teacher is certain of the influence of her creative input. Consequently, creative teachers frequently go unrecognized beyond the local school or district. Therefore, rather than search for elusive creative products in order to examine teacher creativity, it would be more useful to focus on the variety of creative acts that teachers may engage in.

Taylor's five levels of creativity (1975) provide a useful framework in which to examine the potential for creativity in everyday teaching. The first level, expressive creativity, involves spontaneity and freedom in expression as exemplified by impromptu talks. Teachers demonstrate expressive creativity when they teach a successful lesson that involves active student participation. The second level, technical creativity, is characterized by proficiency in creating products. Teachers whose pupils regularly achieve unexpectedly high scores on tests demonstrate productive creativity. Inventive creativity is ingenuity in applying readily available materials or ideas to problems. Teachers who are exceptionally good at finding ways to interest students demonstrate inventive creativity. Innovative creativity, in which basic principles of established schools of thought are modified, and emergent creativity, which brings a new paradigm to a field, are relatively rare and beyond the scope of this article. Yet even a cursory examination of the ordinary tasks of teaching reveals that teacher often engage in the first three levels of creativity. An examination of the models, programs, and recommended practices in gifted education leads to the conclusion that teachers of the gifted need to be creative to develop students' creativity, to plan for teaching, and to enact their teaching plans.

Developing Students' Creativity

Enhancing student creativity is an integral component of most models, programs and practices recommended for gifted and talented students. Creative thinking and problem solving is a significant component of 14 of the 15 models described by Renzulli (1986), and consideration for stimulating student creativity is one aspect in the development of curriculum for gifted learners (VanTassel-Baska,1992). Many curriculum units for gifted students, such as Bulls and Riley (1997), Elgersma (1990), O'Day (1996), and VanTassel-Baska (1992), have a creative component, and the majority of programs describe by Coyne (1995) include some aspect of creativity or divergent thinking. For example, the list of desired student outcomes in Connecticut included "critical and creative thinking skills" (p. 19), and Puerto Rico included "construct their own knowledge" (p.71). Delaware listed "fosters creativity" (p. 22) among the recommended measures for differentiating the curriculum. In addition, nurturing creative abilities is a widely recommended practice in the education of the gifted (Shore, Cornell, Robinson & Ward, 1991). An examination of the activities that teachers are expected to undertake to enhance students' creativity illustrates why teachers themselves need to be creative. …