C is for Creativity (Part 1)
Creativity is one of the five areas mandated for gifted identification. In my mind, this talent is under-served and does not receive the cultivation and attention it deserves. This week, I will define creativity, explain how creativity is assessed in schools, and list common skills and attitudes of highly creative students. Next week’s blog will focus on the undeniable importance of creativity for our students and what is happening to this crucial, neglected ability in our schools. Resources and strategies on how to encourage and grow creativity will be included in the third blog of this series.
Definitions of Creativity
When I first ask students to tell me what creativity means, the overwhelming majority instantly answer, “To think outside the box”. But when I ask them to explain what it means to think outside the box…crickets! It is disheartening and ultra ironic to me that creativity has come to be defined in their minds by a phrase that has become so cliche, way overused, and not the least bit creative anymore! It is much more effective for teachers to encourage creative thinking by challenging students to generate ideas, processes, connections, and/or solutions that have never been thought of before, something surprising, something unexpected.
There are many definitions of creativity, but I have chosen to include the following two definitions from Robinson and Naiman:
"The first step is imagination, the capacity that we all have to see something in the mind's eye. Creativity is then using that imagination to solve problems--call it applied imagination. Then innovation is putting that creativity into practice as applied creativity." - Sir Ken Robinson, Towards a Definition of Creativity "Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but do not act on them, your are imaginative but not creative." -Linda Naiman, What is Creativity?
Creativity is a skill and, just as with any skill, it can be strengthened and improved through practice. I remember believing this wholeheartedly as a classroom teacher in the 90’s. I watched it happen. When my principal asked for data, I decided to pretest all of my students at the beginning of the year and post test them in spring. For the three years I repeated this process, every single student’s score went up. No exceptions! There was a wide range of scores, and everyone grew at different rates, but every score improved! It’s the same as playing an instrument or participating in a sport. Not everyone is a gifted musician or athlete, but every single person determined to learn and improve at a particular skill, will get better at it! Creativity can and should be taught! (More to come on this next week.)
The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking is the most widely used standardized assessment of creative ability. Scores are give for each of the four components of creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. It is important to remember that this test will not find all creatively gifted students that it assesses because each of three nonverbal sub-tests has a ten minute time limit. While it seems incredibly unfair to put a watch on creativity, time limits are necessary in order to norm the assessment in order to identify the top 2-5% creatively gifted students. Other data used to identify creatively gifted students include portfolio evidence of creative classwork, teacher and/or parent referrals, and self recommendations.
Characteristics of Creative Thinkers
The following chart, created by Dr. Bertie Kingore, illustrates some differences between high achievers, academically gifted students, and creatively gifted learners. Please remember that every child is unique. Not every child will exhibit every characteristic, and the degree to which these behaviors are observed will also vary from one child to another.
Creative thinkers are curious and able to generate many ideas. They are flexible, adaptable, and not afraid to take risks. Their creative minds enjoy questions that have more than one correct answer, and they are comfortable with ambiguity. Creative thinkers are open-minded and are able to see possibilities from diverse perspectives. Our world is in desperate need of creative solutions, innovations, and forward thinking. Creativity can be taught, strengthened, and improved. Shouldn’t our schools be doing more to develop this skill?