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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 

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