What is creativity, and how can it be developed? Both are fundamental questions, not only in education but in nearly every other area of life. Is creativity primarily associated with the arts: the creative industries of music, drama, art, literature, and so on? Is it an unusual talent that only a few great men and women, the groundbreakers and innovators of this world, possess? Can creativity be nurtured at school, and if so, what are the necessary components that push individuals toward originality, toward the achievements that only true creative genius can achieve? Or does creativity require absolute free expression, a lack of inhibitions or constraints, reminiscent of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile?
Let’s deal with the first part of the question: What is creativity? In his book Creative Schools, Ken Robinson defines it as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” There are also two other concepts to keep in mind: imagination and innovation. “Imagination is the root of creativity. It is the ability to bring to mind things that aren’t present to our senses. Creativity is putting your imagination to work. It is applied imagination. Innovation is putting new ideas into practice.” He adds, however, that our understanding of creativity is often obfuscated by various myths: (1) only special people are creative, (2) creativity is only about the arts, (3) creativity cannot be taught, and (4) it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression.”
The fourth myth he describes is, from my professional experience, the most misleading and challenging to deal with. The belief that creativity cannot coexist with discipline and control; that it is a substance stifled by the unfair and unnatural expectations of others. Robinson explains, “Being creative is not just about having off-the-wall ideas and letting your imagination run free. It may involve all of that, but it also involves refining, testing, and focusing what you’re doing. It’s about original thinking on the part of the individual, and it’s also about judging critically whether the work in progress is taking the right shape and is worthwhile, at least for the person producing it.”
So, let’s return to the second part of the question: How is creativity developed? For educators, this represents one of the big challenges of our profession. One truth seems to persists: “The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done.” Our job as teachers, then, is to not to simply transmit bits of information to audiences, but to deliver our energy, enthusiasm, and expertise in ways that remain meaningful to the dynamic economy of needs and interests from generation to generation.
As teachers, part of our role in nurturing creativity is to ensure that we stay committed and capable by developing our professional abilities. This year, KAIS will be restructuring our professional development system for new and veteran teachers, to involve more guided practice with expert teachers, the study of the history of education and its approaches, the understanding of theories of learning and research in the cognitive sciences, and opportunities to attend conferences, online seminars, and workshops on areas relevant to our craft. A meaningful and productive PD system is one of the foundational blocks to a successful school, so we’re excited to see where this initiative will take us. Thank you all for your continued support as we continue our work of becoming an inspirational, creative center of learning for your child.
KAIS Elementary & Middle School