Creativity every day!
My keen interest in aspects of creativity – problem finding, curiosity, perseverance, finding solutions, reflection, and transformation – is fueled by the work of art. Art making requires certain skills and competencies learned over a lifetime, but as Eric Booth (2001) reminds us “art is not apart. It is a continuum within which all participate; we all function in art, use the skills of art, and engage in the action of artists every day” (p.3). A similar notion of every day engagement with the action of artists is found in the National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning where imagination, investigation, construction, and reflection are viewed as meta-cognitive activities that nurture the effective work habits of curiosity, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration – all aspects of learning and life in the 21st century.
I believe the challenge for artist/teachers involves nurturing both the development of the meta-cognitive activities and the constant reinforcement of the working habits, specifically creativity. Creativity is not a simple concept. It is a complex system involving interpersonal factors like thinking, personality, and motivation; it often depends on our interactions with other people, and the supportive or destructive aspects of the social and physical environment (Cropley & Cropley, 2009). Whether we are teaching creativity to students or conducting creativity training for adults, what you know about creativity will foster excellence in both teaching and learning.
“Tell me what you learned from this” is one way I focus on the creative process not the product that also gives me an opportunity to encourage a differentiated understanding of the production of creativity, especially the phases: preparation, activation, generation, illumination, verification, communication, and validation. For students, an unsuccessful project may not be a disaster if what is learned in one setting is applied to another. Thus, a major artist/teacher task is to keep students genuinely motivated to learn and explore. If we do this, then students are encouraged by risk taking or making a mistake for the sake of discovery. Failure can be an option when reflection leads to increased knowledge.
Another task: find a way honor those “way out,” even off-the-wall suggestions or questions, still linked to the reality of the context. Thinking on my feet as I incorporate new or different ideas often takes a minute of reflective out loud musing. I know that students and colleagues are a valuable source of ideas especially when they challenge my ideas so respecting “other” is constantly a work in progress. The generation of novel thinking is a practical aspect of encouraging creativity. My preferred cognitive style of random abstract thinking certainly doesn’t fit every situation. This challenges me to question whether my thinking style is facilitating or blocking the generation of novelty or creativity in myself or in others and is a form of meta-cognition that helps me redefine plans when necessary, monitor progress on a project, change my approach if needed, keeps me aware of other alternatives, and helps me recognize opportunities when they arise (Cropley & Cropley, 2009).
Last I want to mention intentional noticing. With our five senses we are in a constant noticing mode, but as an art form intentional noticing moves us from the succession of experiences to reflective awareness. Booth (2001) suggests that we learn to set things about from the commonplace to attend to them in a special way. Intentional noticing is a way to shift our experience into conscious reflective action. Here’s an exercise: carry different color pens with you, then notice which one you select for writing. You can even record why you selected that particular color. Creativity calls for us to pay attention on many levels, to scan for similarities, to notice differences, to look closely then shift our gaze to the far away. Our noticing is an active tool and one of the best working habits I know. I’ll close with an expanded reference list including some not so recent and recent titles and authors that keep me connected to creativity every day!
Amabile, T. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Booth, E. (2001). The everyday work of art: Awakening the extraordinary in your daily life. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.com, Inc.
Cropley, A. & Cropley, D. (2009). Fostering creativity: A diagnostic approach for higher education and organizations. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Dacey, J. S. & Lennon, K. H. (1998). Understanding Creativity: the interplay of biological, psychological, and sociological factors. New York: Jossey-Bass.
Florida, R. (2012). The rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books.
Gelb, M. J. (2004). How to think like Leonardo da Vinci. New York: Bantam Dell.
National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/NationalCoalitionForCoreArtsStandards.
Seelig, T. (2012). inGenius: A crash course on creativity. New York: Harper One.