Share This Blog Post

Friday, 30 May 2014

Knowing Creativity - Part 3/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.

Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 3

How do we know what creativity is?  Is it when somebody comes up with an idea and expresses this idea through a chosen medium?  Anyone can do this.  The value of what is created is objective.  Its value is perceived by the maker and viewer.  The creator had an idea, planned it out, bought the materials and then stuck it all together with an abundance of nails and glue.  The end result might be an eyesore to some or an interesting take on sculpture for others.  But fundamentally it is their creation.  They had the knowledge that they could build it and applied this knowledge to go through the certain steps of creation.  I would argue that it doesn't matter whether the creator likes what they created or not, little own what others opinions are.  If one knows that they are creating then they are creative.  But if creativity remains around just this proposition then there are impacts on the creator.  

In the words of Pablo Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”.  

Without an outlet of expression the creator might conjure up feelings of self-loathing, self-doubt and feel a lack of purpose in their creations and consequentially life.  This would impact on their intrinsic motivation, self-belief and consequentially their work.  This may have both negative and positive outcomes to the end product.  Propositional knowledge is where the conflicts of creation lie.  This is the knowledge that pushes the boundaries and understandings of life.  This is the level where interaction occurs with its audience.  It is the influence of its impact.  The emotions, thoughts and ideas generated from propositional knowledge may produce work that is successfully expressive of the emotions and provide satisfaction for the creator and or it could leave the creator in a consistent state of disappointment.  But as Friedrich Neizsche said, “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”.  

However, it is the understanding of personal knowledge that has a more structural impact on how the end product looks.  The personal knowledge that the creator has of the world, whether it be opinions (informed or uninformed), interactions (I push this and it moves) or ideas (expressed or internalised) will have a profound impact on what is produced.  Having personal knowledge of creativity allows the creator to have experienced creation before.  There is some propositional knowledge in this. For example, if the creator has seen a sculpture, but can’t remember a single thing about it, then they probably wouldn't claim to know sculptures.  The fact is that knowing such a thing requires many propositions about them.  What is important that applying personal knowledge to creativity involves more than knowledge of propositions.  No matter how much one may tell the creator about sculpture, no matter how many facts they learn about it, if they haven’t seen a sculpture then they can’t be said to know about sculptures in the sense required for personal knowledge.  

Personal knowledge thus seems to involve coming to know a certain number of propositions in a particular way.  But for one to grow in their creative journey through life one must experience creativity personally.  It could be argued that the more one does this, the richer the knowledge-base to create.  This could be generated through experiences in an array of environments such as walking through an art gallery, swimming in the ocean, driving down a highway or hiking through a jungle.  It could also be social interactions between different people, perhaps from different cultures and the sharing of thoughts and ideas or interactions with nature or space.  These are interactions between the external world and the individual.   These can be used to motivate and inspire the creator. 

Procedural knowledge permits the creator to make the final product.  With procedural knowledge the creator can articulate their ideas in ways that rely on certain learnt skills and abilities.  Knowledge of this is formed through direct sensory experiences of creation.  There are many learning experiences they could go through such as having the elements of a creative process explained, be guided through the procedures step-by-step, have certain aspects demonstrated, explore others work, collaborate and discuss ideas and thinking with others, and then practice to hone their skills. 

However, herein lies the tragic shortcomings of schools in developing students as creative beings.  Teachers focus too much on developing student’s procedural knowledge and do not spend as much time on having students develop their personal knowledge or their propositional knowledge through meaningful learning experiences.  This is where teachers are deficient in their understanding of the creative process and inhibits their ability to create creative beings.  To develop student’s creative knowledge they need to be actively captivated in their learning.  Creativity is not about being passive.  A teacher must provide a stimulating learning environment that a student can actively interact with.  A teacher must also challenge the children’s perceived understandings and develop their critical thinking.  Children need to be empowered to be brave and take risks.  Be nurtured to trust their instincts.  Given the freedom of choice.  If students are not given the opportunity to develop this belief, then their knowledge and creative abilities will be constrained, restrained, diminished, extinguished.  Teachers must hand back the learning to their students.  In doing this a teacher will help their students become more creative.  

Let the child be. Let the child do. Let the child know.

Be creativity.
Do creativity.
Know creativity.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Doing Creativity - Part 2/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.


Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 2


“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.” (Pressfield, 2002, p.165).

Being creative isn’t an easy task.  Some days ideas come in abundance.   There are times when you’re in a state-of-mind to just let your mind wonder.  There are days that you are inspired and motivated to get things done.  These days you make your thoughts and ideas come into fruition.  They flow. Without action thinking creatively just remains an energised and stimulated moment.  This step of “doing” creativity is paramount to current educational discourse about creativity.  But doing creative work is difficult because it requires us to think in a specific way and work with an ambiguous ending in sight.  It can be messy.  There is failure.  Creativity needs time to grow.  There needs to be analysis, evaluation, reflection and adjustment which can mean frequent changes and a consumption of time.  Perseverance is a key element during this process.  Writer Stephen King (2000) articulates this, “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position (p.7).”  

It is undeniable that some people are more creatively talented than others.  To these people the complexity of the creative thinking process is cohesive and intelligible and they can generate these thoughts into action that is practical and logical.  Those that don’t have a natural talent for such things have to work hard to develop it.  This is a vital note in the discourse of creativity.  People can become more creative with work.  Even those people with talent will be limited in their output if they lack motivation to act, direction to aim for, drive to continue, inspiration to grow or resilience to handle external and internal feedback.  Motivation is extremely important in creativity because it drives an individual to persist at problem solving.  Creative potential is not fulfilled unless “the individual (and his or her social support) is motivated to do so, and creative solutions are not found unless the individual is motivated to apply his or her skills” (Runco, 2005, p. 609). 

The Australian Curriculum incorporates creative and critical thinking in the curriculum identifying that it involves “Generating and applying new ideas in specific contexts, seeking existing situations in a new way, identifying alternative explanations, and seeing or making new links that generate a positive outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavour can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality” (ACARA, 2012).  This dismisses a misconception that creativity is just about the process of coming up with new ideas, as some ideas might be completely crazy and impractical.  Therefore an essential start of the creative process is the evaluation of its worth.  

Doing creativity entails making, playing and exploring.  There are many models that compartmentalise the process of creative thinking.  These were established for different purposes and have different outcomes in mind.  Plsek (1997) has attempted one such model which identifies three common themes that stream through all of the models.  The first link is that the creative process involves purposeful analysis, imaginative idea generation and critical evaluation.  This implies the notion that the total creative process is a balance of imagination and analysis.  In comparing models over different periods of time Plsek notes that older models tend to imply that creative ideas results from subconscious processes, largely outside the control of the think.  Modern models tend to imply purposeful generation of new ideas, under the direct control of the thinker.  This reflects the changing paradigms in education and society.  The implication of for education is that teachers in the 21st Century need to ensure that students are given opportunities to consider different ways of understanding and different approaches to thinking. Giving students the opportunity to think critically and creatively about human problems, issues and challenges, allowing students to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to reconceptualise and develop new ways of thinking. Students need to have discussions and ethical and moral debates in small groups and with the whole class to explore, think to seek and find the answer to those big questions. Teachers must give students the opportunity to explore many of the fundamental questions that often cannot be seen or proven.  Pselk’s comparison reflects how mindsets have changed from fixed to growth mindsets.

Finally, Plsek identifies that the total creative process requires a drive to action and the implementation of ideas.  We do more than simply imagine new things, we must work to make them concrete realities. During this time of creation a creative being can enter a ‘transfixed’ space where time blurs into the background and ideas just intrinsically surge to realisation.  Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2002) refers to this experience as being “in flow”.  This describes the way that the experience seamlessly unfolds from moment to moment, and one enters a subjective state.  Poet Mark Strand articulates this cognitive process when he is experiencing flow.  “You’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing…there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning”. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, p.121).  During this state of flow the individual operates at full capacity.  Entering flow depends on establishing a balance between perceived action capacities and perceived action opportunity.  The balance is intrinsically balanced.  

Csikszentmihalyi (2007) identifies that the dimensions of the flow experience are:

  • ·      Attention is focused on a limited stimulus field.  There is full concentration, complete involvement. 
  • ·      Action and awareness merge.
  • ·      There is freedom from worry about failure.
  • ·      Self-consciousness disappears.
  • ·      The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • ·      The experience becomes its own reward.

Teachers may feel confronted and challenged by developing their pedagogy and promoting creativity in the classroom.  It should be seen as a fun and exciting challenge and supported by a whole school approach.  Further to what previously mentioned, teachers may need to have mentors, outside professionals such as actors and artists model creative teaching and have administrators creating a feeling of ‘safety’ to experiment with the concept and be creative.  To change a school’s culture to be one that harnesses and celebrates creativity takes the entire school community.  When students can see that creativity is valued by adults then they will thrive.  As Sternberg (2003) states. “The most powerful way for teachers to develop creativity is to model creativity.  Children develop creativity not when they are told to, but when they are shown. (p.126)”  


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012). Critical and Creative Thinking. ACARA, 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Flow and Education. Retrieved 22 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Wolfe, R. (2005). ‘Conceptions and research approaches to creativity: Implications of a system perspective approach to creativity in education’. In K.Heller, F. Mönks, R. Sternberg, & R. Subotnik (Eds.), International handbook of giftedness and talent, 81-93. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd.

Nakamura, J. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. ‘The Concept of Flow’. In Snyder, C.R. & Lopez, S.J. (2002). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
Pslek, P. (1997) "Working Paper: Creativity Models." Working Paper: Creativity Models. Directed Creativity. Retrieved 20 June 2013. .

Pressfield, S. (2002). The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles. New York: Black Irish Entertainment

Runco, M.A. (2005). Motivation, competence, and creativity. In Elliot, A. and Dweck, C. (Eds.),  Handbook of competence and motivation, 609-623. New York: Guilford Press.

Stephen King, S. (2000).  On Writing. NY: Pocket Books.

Sternburg, R. (2003).  ‘The Development of Creativity as a Decision-Making Process’. In Sawyer, R.K., John-Steiner, V. Moran, S. Sternburg, R., Feldman, D. Nakamura, J. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (Eds.) (2003). Creativity and Development.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Being Creativity - Part 1/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.

Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 1


Transforming student identity so that they view themselves as ‘creative beings’ should inspire teaching and learning.  Creativity is a unique creature.  There is no set formula for harnessing it or expressing it.  A teacher’s ability to assess student creativity provides unique challenges as one can’t be totally objective in viewing and analysing work.  A checklist may not help.  Creative work has to be perceived, experienced, interpreted and valued which brings forth prejudice.  No one looks at creative products or goes through the creative process in the same way.  This is the beauty and wonder of creativity.  In its ambiguity lies its true value to education and society.  Creativity means diverse things to diverse people.  Creativity can be thought of as thinking outside of the box, being innovative, being able to problem solve.  There are many interpretations to what creativity is.  A playful definition by Thorne (2010) refines creativity as “freedom, jumbled thoughts, words and deeds each fighting to claim their own ideas, the original thought, the spark, the ignition, the original design concepts or the blue print” (p.17).  For students and teachers I believe that creativity is a way of viewing the world and channeling this into an expression of ones thoughts, emotions and spontaneous motions. One cannot be creative without giving part oneself.  That feeling of vulnerability when you show something that you have created speaks volumes to its value to the essence of life.

In becoming creative beings, students view the world in a different way. They can find an identity.  They find beauty and ugliness, power and impotence, strength and vulnerability, comfort and conflict.  They look on history, on the present and on the future with critical questioning and curious wonder.  Creative beings express their feelings and thoughts through an avenue of choice, whether it be something that they are comfortable with or something that is exposing.  This openness is so valuable. This perception is an extremely important thing. Fundamentally, to become a creative being starts from a self-belief.  Educators need to focus on empowering students to think creatively, to feel creative, to be creative.  They need to instill in their pupils a belief.  If education should have one focus, it should be this. Self-belief.

A study into creativity by Seltzer and Bently’s (1999) identified that creative learners have four key qualities: the ability to identify new problems, rather than depending on others to define them; the ability to transfer knowledge gained in one context to another in order to solve a problem; a belief in learning as an incremental process, in which repeated attempts will eventually lead to success; and the capacity to focus attention in the pursuit of a goal, or set goals (p.10).  If teachers harness these abilities in their students then they will take up creative opportunities and their thinking will open-up across all areas of the curriculum.  These moments may occur many times over the course of the day.  It may happen just once or it may not happen on that day.  But it will happen.  Students need have a developed sense to recognise such opportunities and synthesise their creative thoughts and apply these to their learning.  

Creative inspiration occurs at different times in every setting of life. Creative jolts can occur on the sporting field, at home playing, whilst working on a task set by a teacher – whether engaging or mundane, whilst looking at art, watching a performance or even when on an excursion.  Teachers need to bring these inspirational moments into the everyday schooling experience of their pupils. 

Creativity is not just a skill which can be performed on command.  Creativity is a form of interaction between the learner and the environment.  Having the right space to be creative is paramount.  Learning environments that encourage creativity must empower the learner to be creative.  Students who learn in an environment where creativity is valued will recognise themselves as creative beings and be able to recognise learning experiences as a time to process their thoughts with patience and persistence in order to express themselves in a variety of ways.   Students should not be passive participants in their own learning.  They need to be provided a variety of learning experiences that permit students to have the freedom to make real choices in what they do and how they try to do it.  These experiences should be interactive and challenge the student’s understandings, thoughts and ideas. 

Currently, classrooms are not typically fully supportive of developing the creative child.  Teachers are prone to falling back onto what they know.  What they've done for years. Using their experience of their own education to guide their current practice. The cyclic nature of this stops progressive practice.  Stops teachers taking risks and changing what they do.  Handing over what they do and know to be a creative teacher. Creativity is about being vulnerable.  These teachers may never have been empowered themselves and feel nervous to stand-out from others and individually express their thoughts.  As a teacher, they might feel more comfortable considering creativity as allowing the kids to use whatever coloured pencils they like to colour within the lines.  Let go.  

Everyone should be respected and each child treated as an individual.  A great quote from Professor Susan Greenfield says that, “Original thought, and respect for originality of others, must surely lie at the heart not just of creativity, but also individuality – our only change of twenty-first century escape from zombie-ness.” (NACCCE, 1999, p. 62).  Teachers could reflect on their own classroom by considering Cash's research which identifies five other norms of the creative classroom: curiosity and questions are encouraged; problems can be solved in many ways; necessity is the mother of invention; judgement and criticism are suspended; and patience, perseverance, and persistence are mandatory (2011, p.161).  Once students are empowered within such an environment students will start valuing original ideas and develop their abilities to be creative, innovative, enterprising and adaptable, with the motivation, confidence and skills to use critical and creative thinking purposefully.  Can you hear the buzz?  Soak up that energy.  That feeling is the active and inspired learning is taking place and being shared among students.
Creating life-long learners is a conceptual term that is used in progressive educational papers and curriculum documents which has become a buzz-word or education trying to take a progressive step.  It suggests that teachers should be developing students to consider themselves as learners after they leave school and after they leave other educational institutions.  The use of the term is in contrast to the fact that humans don’t stop learning, no matter what.  It is the nature of humankind.  I feel that the focus of such thinking should focus on schools producing students that regard themselves as creative beings.  A creative being has to find a passion. It burns within.  It's unsettling.  This can be a quick search or a life-long one.  This is the effective belief for life-long learning.  The important thing is that one doesn’t just succumb to being stagnant in life.  A creative being looks at life like no other.  They tussle with it.  They ride apace with it.  They embrace all elements of humanity and life.  Creativity can make a spark in people’s lives.  It motivates people to live to its fullest.  Creative being is the essence of being human.


Cash, R. (2011). Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCC) (1999). All Out Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education. London: DFEE

Padget, S. (2012). An Introduction to creativity and critical thinking. In Padget, S. (Ed) (2012). Creativity and Critical Thinking. (pp. 1 – 16). London: Routledge

Seltzer, K. and Bentley, T. (1999). The Creative Age: Knowledge and Skills for the New Economy. London: Demos.

Thorne, K. (2007). Essential creativity in the classroom, Inspiring kids. London: Routledge