segunda-feira, 27 de junho de 2011

Research summary - fostering creativity III

How important is creativity?
'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Albert Einstein

Whether creativity is a good thing or not depends on the use to which it is put and on the beliefs and value systems to which it is attached.

There appears to be no doubt that creativity is of great economic importance. Sir Ken Robinson estimates that, during 1988 the financial contribution generated by creative industries in the UK amounted to £6 billion. By 1998 this figure had grown to £60 billion - a ten-fold increase. Employment in these industries grew 34% over the same period against a background of almost no growth in the economy as a whole. Creativity, therefore, is widely regarded as a vital component of economic growth.

Robinson recognises, however, that it is not simply about employing more people in the creative industries. The qualities associated with creativity and ingenuity are needed at all levels in both the private and public sectors. The increased pressure of competition has heightened the need for employers to be customer focused and working to achieve continuous improvement. This requires people at all levels use initiative when making decisions and to think differently.

In the modern world, the skills and qualities that we associate with creativity and ingenuity are required to help us work more effectively together.

Being able to come up with new ideas and solve everyday problems is also important for people on a personal level. It plays a critically important role in learning and personal development, as well as building self-esteem.

The implications for learners
How is it possible to become more creative? There is certainly no shortage of advice around. The business and the self-help sections of bookshops contain a large range of titles on the subject. The problem is trying to make sense of it all, particularly when some of the advice seems to conflict. From the range of strategies that have emerged the following are of note.

Developing a ‘could-be’ attitude
Many authors talk about the importance of being able to develop a creative attitude or states of mind and of fostering creative habits. These include:
*Overcoming the perception that ‘I am not creative’
* Expecting the unexpected
* Having fun playing with ideas
* Practising not knowing or tolerating ambiguity
* Being curious
* Facing your fears
* Talking to people about ideas along the way
* Being proactive and going for it

Slowing down your hare brain
'Saturate your mind with your subject, then wait.' Lloyd Morgan, 1930

One of the paradoxes about creativity is that although it often involves hard work and effort, ingenuity stems from relaxing and letting go. This concept has a long and distinguished pedigree in psychology. Arthur Koestler (1964) observed that this paradox is perfectly illustrated in Pablo Picasso’s famous phrase 'I do not seek, I find.'

For many people, creative revelations come after they have let go of a problem that they have struggled with: a view perhaps reflected in Thomas Edison’s edict that 'creativity is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.' For many people, it is not the hard work that is difficult; it is waiting for inspiration. Guy Claxton believes that in order to develop creative capacity, individuals must learn and absorb techniques that alter their states of mind. In particular, this means slowing down what he refers to as the hare brain, the conscious mind, and giving the tortoise mind or subconscious, a chance to be dominant.

Changing the way we see the world
'Originality is simply a fresh pair of eyes.' Woodrow Wilson

Most writers agree that much of creativity and ingenuity is about improving perception, going beyond the obvious and seeing what no one else is able to see. Claxton and Lucas argue that human brains are hard-wired to make preconceptions that allow us to make the strange familiar. The problem is that our brains become focused on what we expect to see. What we see is what we look for. This means that we often jump to conclusions and accept the first and obvious solution to a problem.

One of the main ways in which we can train ourselves to be more creative, therefore, is to use techniques that help us see beyond the obvious. Edward De Bono’s range of thinking tools (for example, brainstorming, thinking hats and PMI) are designed to help us heighten our perceptions of the world, to avoid impulsivity, to defer judgement and remove the need to come up with quick answers.

Making thoughts visible
We were mainly educated to think with words, but many of the most creative minds in history - novelists, artists and physical scientists - have reported that their greatest inspirations came not in words, but in visual images. They were able to think in pictures rather than words. Once they got a visual idea, the words were easy. Visualising the solution first and then verbalising it, often promotes creative thinking and there are a range of techniques to support this, such as concept maps and spider diagrams.

Rethinking your thinking
The more ideas we can generate, the better our thinking is likely to be - quantity tends to breed quality. The trouble with this is that we are not brought up to think that way. Traditional schooling has never really embraced the more divergent and lateral thinking modes. Learners have been trained to think linearly and vertically, and to work logically through a problem to reach a single solution or a conclusion. People have been taught to make sense of the world by classifying and categorising ideas. They are expected to learn facts and be able to recall them.

There are other ways of thinking - sometimes described as divergent thinking or productive thinking - which can help to generate new ideas, although these are rarely, if ever, taught systematically in the context of a school. The foremost advocate of these techniques is Edward De Bono who invented the term lateral thinking, which he defines as the ability to change perception and keep on changing perception.

In lateral or divergent thinking, a logical pathway is often eschewed in favour of taking side trips down other roads where the destination may initially be unclear. Starting in, or making jumps to random places where there may be no clear pathways, can help avoid restrictions, limitations and constraints that do not actually exist. When problems do exist, lateral thinking can help question the assumptions being made about limits and boundaries and this helps to generate new ideas and solutions.

The implications for teachers and schools
'Many teachers feel strongly that current priorities and pressures in education inhibit the creative abilities of young people and those who teach them.' Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2001

It is often argued that the pressure on teachers to cover significant amounts of curriculum content in order to prepare pupils for national examinations inhibits the development of teaching and learning methodologies that foster creativity. Where the effectiveness of schools is measured in academic attainment, it is perhaps not surprising that some teachers and parents view the promotion of creativity and enterprise as added extras, or even distractions from the real business of schools - to prepare pupils for tests and examinations.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing understanding of creativity and how the development of creative thinking in young people can underpin effective learning and achievement. Two of Scotland’s most important national strategies - Curriculum for Excellence and Determined to Succeed - address the need to reshape the curriculum at all stages in order to better enable Scotland’s young people to develop self-confidence, self-reliance and ambition, and to become successful learners.

Creativity in the classroom
To foster creativity teachers must encourage learners to think laterally and make associations between things that are not usually connected. They must be able to reinterpret and apply their learning in new contexts, look at things from different points of view and experiment with alternative approaches to solving problems. Teachers must help learners to see possibilities and challenges and all of these skills can be taught.

The following approaches can help teachers to promote creativity in the classroom.
1. Ensuring that planning incorporates a range of teaching and learning styles.
2. Providing regular opportunities for hands-on experimentation, problem solving, discussion and collaborative work.
3. Creating opportunities where pupils are encouraged to actively do the work and question what is going on.
4. Making use of creative thinking techniques such as Brainstorming, Thinking Hats and PMI.
5. Sharing the learning intentions with pupils and providing them with opportunities for choosing how they are going to work.
6. Encouraging pupils to improvise, experiment and think outside the box.
7. Actively encouraging pupils to question, make connections, envisaging what might be possible and exploring ideas.
8. Asking open-ended questions such as ‘What if…?’ and ‘How might you…?’
9. Joining in with activities and modelling creative thinking and behaviour.
10. Encouraging pupils to develop criteria that they can use to judge their own work, in particular its originality and value.
11. Facilitating open discussion of the problems pupils are facing and how they can solve them.
12. Encouraging pupils to share ideas with others and to talk about their progress.
13. Using failure or setbacks as opportunities to learn.
14. Ensuring that assessment procedures reflect and reward creativity, enterprise and innovation.
15. Making effective use of encouragement, praise and positive language.
16. Creating opportunities to learn through the imagined experience, giving them a safe context to explore ideas using drama techniques.

Developing creative thinking skills are fostered when learners are given:
*authentic tasks that are relevant and which have a real purpose;
*meaningful responsibility to think for and organise themselves;
*real accountability in terms of setting standards for their work and agreeing these standards through discussion and collaboration.

National developments
In recent years, there have been two major reports into the state of creativity in schools in the UK. The first entitled - ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ was written by the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education, and published in England and Wales in 1999. The second entitled ‘Creativity in Education’ was published by Learning and Teaching Scotland in 2001.

Both reports took a very similar line in seeking to define creativity and in emphasising its importance for our society and our economy. They confirmed the belief that creativity can be fostered and developed, and published a range of recommendations for action.

The charge that schools fail to promote creativity is by no means new. A host of well-known educational thinkers and practitioners such as Froebel, Montessori, Steiner, Dewey, Piaget and Bruner have strongly espoused the importance of creativity in education over the past 100 years and several have set up their own schools that operate on the fringes of mainstream education.

Further reading
Books to help you reflect
'Hare Brain Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases When you Think Less' (Guy Claxton, 1998)
'Serious Creativity' (Edward De Bono, Harper Collins, London, 1992)
'Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative' (Sir Ken Robinson, Oxford, 2001)

Books with practical ideas
'Imagine That' (Stephen Bowkett, Network Educational Press, 1997)
'Fostering Creativity' (Ian Smith, Learning Unlimited, 2006)
'Be Creative' (Guy Claxton & Bill Lucas, BBC Books, 2004)
'Six Thinking Hats' (Edward De Bono, Penguin 1985)
'How to Get Ideas' (Jack Foster, Beret-Koehler, 1996)
'A Whack on the Side of the Head' (Roger Von Oech, Thorsons, 1990)
'Did You Spot the Gorilla?' (Robert Wiseman, Arrow Books, 2004)

Useful websites


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