Examining the creativity effect

UAA’s Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence hosted a workshop Sept. 11 that aimed to encourage student creativity inside the classroom. There, faculty members had the chance to embrace their inner creativities while playing games related to this concept.

Guest lecturer Suzanne Burgoyne said a movement is afoot that encourages teachers to educate in a more innovative light.

Education professor Kyung Hee Kim measured creativity from a test called the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. These exams were given to students from kindergarten through twelfth grade over the course of several decades.

According to Psychology Today magazine, the scores on these tests at all grade levels began to decline somewhere between 1984 and 1990, and they have continued to decline ever since. The drops in scores are statistically significant, and in some cases very large.

Kim says this data indicates “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing and less likely to see things from a different angle.”

Peter Gray, research professor at Boston College, said, “Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today. In the real world few questions have one right answer. Few problems have one right solution. That’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world.”

This linear style of thinking leads teachers to only focus on the goal at hand, teaching to the test, rather than incorporating lessons their students can actually apply to their professional careers.

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Creativity expert Sir Kenneth Robinson believes schools often squander the innate creativity of children.

“You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid — things you liked — on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that: ‘Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician. Don’t do art, you won’t be an artist,’” Robinson said. “Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken.”

It’s no secret that diversity is key to success. Yet, if educators teach only the ladder of mathematics, reading and writing — which emphasizes linear, convergent thinking — how diverse will every student truly become in terms of creativity?