Academic journal article English Journal

Cultivating Creativity

Academic journal article English Journal

Cultivating Creativity

Article excerpt

Although creativity is not a subject but a means to achieve a result, schools can contribute to cultivating it when educators design classroom activities to facilitate creative habits of mind. The endeavor will require time, not only to revise cultural archetypes and to operationalize social beliefs but also for educators and students to better understand the complexities of creativity and how to promote it. Teachers building an argument to convince administrators of the validity of nurturing creativity might begin with the ideas proposed here.

Advocates for Creativity

Current research tells us that generative energy surges in climates of discovery, invention, and investigation-where people engage in higher-order thinking, probe with questions, and solve complex problems that have more than one answer; when ownership, engagement, and flow are central to learning; and where protective psychological constructs support learners as they befriend failure and embrace cognitive dissonance. Those changes, however, depend on how willing society is to abandon contemporary educational designs as well as on how the current cultural climate defines and promotes creativity.

Advocates for creativity and change (Gardner; Gatto; Newkirk; Pope; Robinson) often cite the systemic focus on convergent thinking, knowledge consumption, and competition-a model that may have suited the interests of industrialism and a factory-driven economy but may no longer be relevant today. Newsweek's Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman also blame the schools, claiming that the culprit is "lack of creativity development in our schools . . . [where] there's no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children" (45). During the Opening Session speech at the 2012 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention, Sir Ken Robinson, author and international education advisor, argued that the three principles upon which the current educational system is built-conformity, compliance, and predictability-are at odds with principles of human behavior. Because those principles contradict natural human creativity and imagination, the system needs to change. To address the dropout crisis and to ensure economic productivity, Robinson believes education should (1) embrace multiple cultural values; (2) connect children to their spirits, customizing and personalizing curriculum to enable the discovery of true talents; and (3) awaken passions by focusing on innovation and creativity (Robinson).

The impact passion can have on learning and life was a recurring theme in Robinson's talk. To ignite passion in their students, Robinson claims, "Teachers should be flexible, willing to adapt lesson plans to personalize learning." If we insist that everyone takes every subject, we flatten interest, dilute passion, and kill creativity, according to Robinson. Robinson defines the imagination as the heart of human life and creativity as applied imagination.

If education is to persist, it must embrace these definitions. The current culture of standardization with its narrow conception of ability undermines innovation and bleaches out diversity. Educators must craftconditions that motivate creativity and design classroom activities that encourage experimentation and accept making mistakes as part of the process. Such an environment resembles a playground more than a school room.

Scrutinizing Models

For a contemporary definition of creativity, consider episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the number-one sitcom in syndication (Keveney) created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, which features tropes of creative production. In these scenes, physicist geniuses Leonard and Sheldon-whether they are working at the university or at home where they have turned their apartment's living room into a laboratory-surround themselves with gear, gadgets, and charts for information inputs. Sometimes the computer is central to idea generation or information processing. …

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