creativity /kriːeɪˈtɪvɪti/ ’n’
The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.
“firms are keen to encourage creativity”
Synonyms: inventiveness, imagination, imaginativeness, innovation, innovativeness, originality, individuality.
When I was at primary school, I remember long summer days playing tig on the grass, swirling mismatched paint in pots and picking dried PVA glue off my fingers. We were allowed the freedom to choose our own reading books in English and make up stories and write and cross out and write all over again in our blue jotters. We went for walks in the park and did bark rubbings and fell in the mud on introductory field-trips. We made rockets and paper aeroplanes in Science. And we dressed up in costumes at least 3 times a year to put on plays for our parents – once, I was Cleopatra in a melon-seed necklace made lovingly by my mum. I wore it with pride.
We were creative and we learned.
It didn’t matter that we made mistakes. And we did make mistakes. Lots of them. Because that is part of education. I didn’t know what a noun or adjective or foregrounded subordinate clause was until I started my A levels and it didn’t matter because I didn’t need those words. I had been educated in the seventies and eighties when having fun and being creative was high on the educational agenda. If you wanted an answer, you had to figure stuff out for yourself. You had to be independent. You see, being creative isn’t just about gluing pasta onto a piece of card or making potato prints. Creativity teaches consequences. It teaches you to be organised and to make decisions. It teaches you to dare to have an opinion. And if necessary to defend that opinion. And it teaches you to fail. Without fear.
Fast forward 20 years to the late nineties when I trained to be a teacher and was introduced to the works of Bloom and his taxonomy of educational objectives. A framework that teachers live and die by – held in the highest esteem by the finest pedagogs and educational philosophers. It follows a structure of cognitive processes moving from the comparatively low level process of remembering to understanding to applying. The list gets more difficult as it moves to analysing and evaluating and then finally, the highest order thinking skill recognised by educators, ‘creating.’
So, why is creativity considered so important?
Well, creative thinking involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, and metaphorical thinking. The aim of creative thinking is to stimulate curiosity … to ask the biggest question of all, ‘what if?’ This is perhaps where the greatest confusion of all lies. Creativity is not limited to the Arts and the stereotyped ‘creative’ subjects – media – film – drama – music, et al. Creativity should lie at the heart of our curriculum. It should be the aim of all syllabi to encourage pupils and students to be creative with their knowledge. There’s no point in learning about CAD in Design Technology lessons if you can’t use the process yourself. It’s disheartening to think that you have to sit through one algebraic equation after another if you aren’t given the opportunity to use this knowledge creatively to solve real life problems. Just ask Ken Robinson. He’ll tell you.
Consequently, it leaves me aghast and incredulous when I see political intervention and revision after revision to established educational doctrine which flies in the face of Bloom and his beloved taxonomy. Teach kids to deconstruct sentences? Teach kids to recognise prepositional phrases? Teach kids to recite poems? None of this develops a deep seated love of discovery within education. How does this teach and inspire curiosity and imagination? How does this teach children to question or to challenge? It doesn’t. Maybe that’s the aim. A homogenised future workforce unable to think for themselves.
We recognise that there is an existing and ever-growing skills gap in the UK. Students leave education with the ability to sit exams – the sensible planners – the late night crammers – the last minute flappers – and they revise and learn and regurgitate and store all kinds of incredible information.
But can they apply it?
Can they think for themselves?
Can they be creative?
If you ask the UK leading employers, the answer is a resounding and deafening ‘no.’ They recognise a group of highly qualified graduates who can follow instructions and listen to orders but who lack that innovative flair and drive to question the established status quo. Creative thinkers are problem solvers, they are reasoned and resilient. They persevere until they succeed. All too often, students are divided into those who are creative and those who aren’t. Those who have flair and those who haven’t. Creativity is nothing to do with this. All teachers should be given the flexibility within their classrooms to encourage students to be creative. This skill can be encouraged and it can be taught – students must be challenged in discussion, they should be taken out of their ‘comfort zone’ (apologies, I hate this term) and made to approach problems differently. Ask that they solve a problem stood on one leg or ask them to mind map a topic and then present a seemingly unrelated object to the group and ask them to find a connection.
Question your own methods and make creativity a daily goal.