Creativity: On or off the school agenda?
'Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting'
Edward de Bono
Nurturing creativity in young people was high on the UK government's agenda until (see The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's "Nurturing Creativity in Young People" document above, or download it as a PDF below) the recent election of the Conservative Party. As a teacher of Drama, creativity is at the heart of everything both myself and my students do. As a result of this, in one of the units of my MA programme I decided to explore creativity. The aim of my research was to get an understanding of creativity: What does it mean to be creative? This involved identifying different versions of creativity and considering their implications. I also put my creative hat on and produced a video "i Creative" as a way of exploring and measuring my own creativity. My research soon highlighted to me that creativity is polysemous - it has multiple meanings. Creativity is a philosophy.
'Creativity now is important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status…we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it’
- Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson is suggesting that schools kill creativity (see the video above for further information). As a teacher of Drama I would say that creativity is extremely important in education. In my literature reviews, I learned about how remediation and convergence culture has cross-over into most industries. As a result, it is no longer wise to have one skill set. A plumber can no longer rely on his classified advert in the back of a local newspaper. He has to embrace the Internet and look at creative ways of advertising his business if he wants his livelihood to continue. However, students with the most advanced skills in the world are of no use to potential employers if they lack creative thinking and are unable to bring fresh ideas into the fray. I pick up on this point further in 'Collaboration: The Arts-Based Initiative' which can be found by clicking on the Alice Project tab above.
At first glance, it would appear that creativity can occur in the classroom. However, is it really possible to be truly “creative” when students have a set of criteria to meet? Sternberg and Lubart (1999) comment that creative thinkers are like good investors who buy low and sell high. In Drama lessons students (and teachers) are forced to think ‘out of the box’ in order to progress. This progression could be something as simple as learning to ‘refashion’ a play text so that it does not require expensive sets, lighting or costumes suggested by the playwright. Minimalism is a powerful alley for the creative thinker particularly in these times of financial woes.
Sternberg and Williams (1996) suggest that as teachers we need to encourage all of our students to be creative thinkers. But this is perhaps easier said than done. What exactly is a creative thinker? What does the term creative actually mean? And how can students be creative thinkers when assessment criteria literally suggests how students should think. Assuming that creativity is defined as a process in which something original is achieved...how can creativity be possible when students need to have a structure and style to their work which, as a result, is, in all actual fact, something that has gone before which is therefore not original?