Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Teaching Creativity across Disciplines at Ontario Universities

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Teaching Creativity across Disciplines at Ontario Universities

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is a pressing need for institutions of higher education to develop creativity in their students, regardless of the students' discipline of study. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has suggested, "it takes creativity not to be blinded by the trappings of stability, to recognize the coming changes, anticipate their consequences, and thus perhaps lead them in a desirable direction" (2006, p. xviii). Many have noted that the challenges that future leaders and professionals will face are extremely complex and will be insurmountable if we are equipped with only what is presently known (Craft, 2006; McWilliam, 2008; Shaheen, 2010; Smith-Bingham, 2006). If these challenges are to be met, some scholars argue, educational structures will have to undergo a "dramatic transformation" in order to facilitate the development of students' creative capacities (Seltzer & Bentley, 1999).

In Ontario, these ideas have been reinforced by the provincial government, which stated in a 2012 report that "Ontario's colleges and universities will drive creativity, innovation, knowledge, and community engagement through teaching and research" (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, 2012, p. 7). While such statements suggest broad support for enhancing creativity in Ontario universities, the ways in which this imperative plays out in actual institutions remains to be seen. At present, there is little research examining this issue in the Ontario context. Scholarship from other countries, however, identifies a number of areas of potential concern. Some authors argue, for instance, that the coupling of creativity with the neoliberal "impact agenda" in governmental discourses has ultimately stifled curiosity and risk-taking and thus effectively reduced creativity in research (Walsh, Anders, Hancock, & Elvidge, 2013). Of more immediate relevance to the question of facilitating students' creative abilities, other work suggests that creativity occupies a comparatively minor place in day-to-day considerations of university teaching and learning-in spite of its growing presence in educational discourse (Jackson & Shaw, 2006; Kleiman, 2008)-and that it is only rarely incorporated into courses and curricula as an explicit, central, and intentionally facilitated learning outcome (Jackson, 2008; Petocz, Reid, & Taylor, 2009). Should these findings hold in the Ontario context, the capacity of the province's universities to develop student creativity is seriously circumscribed. With this in mind, the present study seeks to understand the perspectives of Ontario's university instructors with respect to creativity and the position it occupies in their classrooms.

Of particular interest here is the question of whether or not instructors' disciplinary identities impinge upon their conceptions of creativity and the ways in which they seek to teach it.1 While common definitions of creativity hinge on the combination of novelty and usefulness (e.g., Mumford, 2003; Plucker & Makel, 2010; Zacher & Johnson, 2014) and/or emphasize concepts such as originality, imagination, exploration, transformation, and synthesis (Jackson, 2006; Kleiman, 2008), many scholars nonetheless point out that these generic characterizations can only be understood and actualized within specific domains (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Jackson & Shaw, 2006; Kaufman & Baer, 2005). That is, for an idea, product, or process to be considered creative, it must add to or play out within a particular field in a manner that practitioners of that field see as distinctive, original, and worthwhile. This, of course, means that disciplinary norms, values, and epistemologies can exert a palpable effect on assessments of creativity within different domains (Reid & Petocz, 2004). Moreover, some research indicates that individuals from various disciplines may have distinctive conceptions of creativity and its relevance to their work (Jackson & Shaw, 2006; Walsh et al. …

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