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discovering creativity in higher education

Page history last edited by Norman Jackson 11 years, 11 months ago

The cave paintings at Lascaux are as good an image of creativity as any other. They embody the idea of creativity as imagination, as seeing and knowing the world in a sense making cognitive, emotional and spiritual way and as a means of communicating the wisdom of how and why a complex world works in the way it seems to work. 

In considering the idea of supercomplexity, Ron Barnet talks about the role of higher education in the development of people so that they can deal with complexity. Jeff Cronklin talks about the challenges of Wicked problems and the creative way in which experts tackle wicked problems. We cannot work with complexity without tapping into our creative energies and capabilities.


So often in life the economic considerations seem to dominate. While acknowledging that creativity is necessary for economic well being I am more interested in the moral argument that if education is fundamentally about developing human potential then we have to take creativity seriously and encouraging and enabling students to be creative should be an explicit part of their higher education experience. It is this simple belief, combined with a perception that creativity is undervalued in the higher education enterprise that encouraged me while I was at LTSN in 2001 to try to grow a better understanding. Since 2005 I have tried to apply some of the thinking that has emerged as leader of the Surrey Centre for Excellence in Professional Training and Education.


New June 2010 Developing Creativity through Lifewide Education 


Whats the problem?




Teaching and assessing creativity

 Personal accounts of teaching and interview-based research suggests that teaching to promote students' creativity requires an open facilitative approach in which teachers:

  • Demonstrate their own creativity and provide a role model
  • Are prepared to take risks themselves
  • Are prepared to reveal something of themselves in the teaching process
  • Act as guides, coaches and facilitators
  • Adopt a questioning approach to learning
  • Are prepared to let students make mistakes
  • Create opportunities for problem or enquiry-based approaches to learning
  • Are sensitive to the balance between challenge and reinforcement
  • Are sensitive to the balance between freedom and control
  • Are responsive to students as a group and as individuals
  • Adapt their teaching as new possibilities emerge.


Hertfordshire workshop March 2005.doc

Creativity workshop Portsmouth.doc

Creativity workshop IUPUI.doc


Assessing creativity

Assessing Creativity Synthesis of Teachers' Views.rtf


Student views on creativity

One of the most important messages to come out of research  into how students see creativity is that it lies at the heart of a student’s own identity. ‘Even where creativity was not taught, not considered teachable and not valued in assessment, it was still relevant in defining how the students saw themselves.’ Oliver et al (2006).

05_Higher Education570.pdf


Creativity in the disciplines

If creativity is central to being, then higher education needs to understand what it means to be creative in the many domains it embraces e.g. historian, biologist, lawyer, engineer or any other disciplinary field of endeavour (Jackson and Shaw 2006). We need to raise awareness of what creativity means in these different contexts and encourage educators to support forms of learning that will enable students to develop the forms of creativity that are most appropriate for their field(s) of study and future careers.


08_Higher Education570.pdf


Examples of what creativity means in disciplinary learning and practice





Creativity_Working_Paper_Modern Languages.doc








Pedagogy & Curriculum





Learning to be creative in a particular field requires people to be enculturated into the field often by legitimate peripheral participation - apprenticeship. John Seely Brown describes the dimensions of learning to be as : a way of seeing; a way of knowing; seeing what constitutes and interesting problem; knowing what consitutes an elegant (in this context perhaps novel) solution; and being able to engage in productive enquiry. These fit the idea of learning to be creative in a field very well.


Learning to be creative: cognitive apprecticeship

10_Higher Education570.pdf 


Personal Development Planning (PDP) and creativity

Creativity and PDP WORKING PAPER JAN 06.doc



Creativity and problem working: Creativity is often required in challenging problem working sitiations so what is the relationship between creativity, enquiry and problem working? In May 2006 a small group of people came together to explore this relationship and try to develop a better conceptual understanding.


 Creativity enquiry and problem working.doc


Creativity and Supplemental Instruction



Creativity as agency connected to and nourished by other things

We need to see creativity not as a stand alone competency but in the context of other abilities and capacities that are developed through a tertiary education. Sternberg and Lubart (1995) argue that we need three different sorts of abilities to be successful: analytical abilities–to analyse, evaluate, judge, compare and contrast; practical abilities – to apply, utilise, implement and activate; and creative abilities – to imagine, explore, synthesise, connect, discover, invent and adapt. To these families of abilities I would add, abilities to reflect to learn from and make sense of experience.


An essential ingredient for being successful: Creativity doesn't work by itself. To be successful creativity needs to be integrated into a package of beliefs, personal agency and dispositions. This video clip - Secrets of Success in 8 Words by Richard St John, says it all!






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