Guide for Busy Academics:
What is creativity? down and think.. oh its Tuesday I’m
going to be creative today! Yet teaching
You will have your own ideas about what is an inherently creative act.
it is but for me creativity involves first Creativity in teaching is about using
imagining something (to cause to come your imagination and helping students to
into existence) and then doing use their imaginations to work with
something with this imagination problems and challenging learning
(creating something that is new and situations. It is about fostering intrinsic
useful to you). It’s a very personal act motivations for learning – something we
and it gives you a sense of satisfaction seem to have forgotten in our over-
and achievement when you’ve done it. assessed world.
Creativity is difficult to define and it is We live in an infinitely complex, dynamic
rarely articulated as an explicit learning and unpredictable world. Although we
objective in the academic curriculum. In rarely admit it, being able to work with
contrast, many top companies train their it creatively is an essential capacity for
graduate employees in creative ways of success and for the sense of happiness
thinking in order to sustain innovation that derives from being creative and
and remain competitive. successful.
Every HE teacher will interpret the idea How do I develop my teaching
of creativity in his or her own way. HE to nurture creativity?
teachers think it involves:
newness - novelty or originality for Nurturing creativity in student learning
an individual or group of individuals; through teaching and effective
excitement – its stimulating because curriculum design is the central goal of
it is different; the imaginative curriculum project. We
useful – it works, at least at are trying to create knowledge to help
present; teachers develop their understanding
pleasurable –gives a sense of and practice. This guide is no more than
satisfaction; a stimulator. If you would like to know
moral – results are constructive; more about creativity please read the
hard work –what you get out more detailed guide we have produced.
reflects what you put in.
Academics feel that there are certain
‘Creativity is the ability to look at things in conditions that stimulate their
different ways, to find satisfaction in creativity when they create a course:
making or creating something and
existing knowledge of the discipline;
persevering with it until the end product. It
enthusiasm for the discipline;
involves hard work...’
an interest in students and a
concern for their learning and
Teaching for creativity
a problem or issue.
They also think creativity is associated
Being creative is, for the most part, a
subconscious act. HE teachers do not sit
the ability to make connections and (focused, analytical, judgemental and
linkages between the formerly detailed thinking) and divergent thinking
unconnected and (diffuse, free flowing, associated,
intuition - that little imaginative perceptual and imaginative). It involves
spark.. the extended abstract (EA) outcomes
of learning like hypothesising,
There are strong similarities between reflecting, generating ideas, applying
the perceptions of academics of their the known to ‘far’ domains,’ working with
own creativity and what they perceive problems that do not have unique
are the characteristics of creativity in solutions
Creative performance also requires
Creativity in students’ learning positive attitudes and high levels of
motivation (passion) evidenced by
persistence and willingness to work
While different disciplines recognise
hard. Such attitudes derive from
and value different forms of creativity,
personal beliefs that obstacles can be
research studies recognise a range of
overcome (self-efficacy). So learning
intellectual attributes, attitudes and
processes to foster creativity must
behaviours associated with creativity.
develop self-confidence and self-
DeWulf and Baillie (1999 p14-15)
esteem, encourage risk taking in safe
identify three characteristics.
environments and help students to work
with messy/complex and unpredictable
The ability to visualise ideas –
situations where there are no right and
holistically, spatially, metaphorically and
wrong answers. Working with complexity
to be able to transform ideas through
in a self-sustained and determined way
imaginative manipulation (complements
is a fact of life helping students to use
reasoning). Flexibility, fluency and
their intellectual abilities in complex
adaptability are important to the
open-ended learning situations is a
transformation of ideas.
worthwhile enterprise for higher
The effective use of memory – for
previously learnt knowledge and the
Figure 1 attempts to show typical
ability to make connections and
creative learning processes and the role
associations with and through this
of the teacher and students in such
processes. If you would like to find out
more please read the extended version
Convergent and divergent thinking –
of this guide.
academic ways of thinking tend to value
convergent ways of thinking - logic,
reasoning, analysis, objectivity,
Jackson N J (2002) Designing for creativity:
judgement. Divergent thinking brings in
a curriculum guide. www.ltsn.ac.uk/
to play the right hand brain which is genericcentre
associated with openness, subjectivity, Dewulf S and Baillie C (1999) CASE
feeling, intuition, emotion, sensory and Creativity in Art Science and Engineering.:
imaginative processes. Convergent How to Foster Creativity. Department for
thinking focuses on one answer while Education and Employment. (Republished in
divergent thinking produces alternative 2002 as part of the Imaginative Curriculum
possibilities and solutions. Creativity Project).
involves both convergent thinking Version 1 04/10/02
Figure 1 Aspects of the teaching system (what the teacher does) and the learning system (what
the student does) at each of the typical stages of a creative learning process. The image should
be used heuristically to give a sense of direction and vision rather than a checklist.
TEACHING SYSTEM TYPICAL STAGES IN LEARNING SYSTEM
What teachers do CREATIVE PROCESSES What students do
Create the conditions Gain knowledge of creative
Introducing students to a processes and understand
way of learning and building why they are important to
confidence to learn this way learning.
Develop skills and
Create conditions of trust and behaviours that facilitate idea
secure environments where generation and manipulation,
students feel they can take risks reflection,evaluation & planning
without being penalised.
Stimulate imaginations Generation Engage in
Imagery Convergent/divergent thinking
Visual research Knowledge building
Brainstorming Personal development
New knowledge/research Use creativity techniques
New/innovative practice Incubation Work individually or in groups
Stimulating/inspirational Use/develop frameworks
teaching and tools for evaluating
Help to motivate students
and help students to Develop and use plans
understand their and learn how to use
motivations Recognising them flexibly.
that this way of learning is
promoted by a range of Learn how to review and
intrinsic /extrinsic Implementation evaluate the worth and
motivations. impacts of their ideas.
Did it work as expected?
Create the contexts If not, what next?
Solving problems without
clear answers Evaluation Types of impacts
Designing something Ideas
Developing something Personal knowledge and recognition
Producing something of own learning and creativity in a particular context
Performing something Products (written, graphical, audio, visual, auditory,
Connecting things designs) Knowledge of problem working
Analysing / synthesising Experience of performing
Role play Relationships, networks – knowledge of how to
Experiential learning create a social learning system
Research and enquiry Knowledge of how to develop and use frameworks
Networked and and tools
collaborative learning New learning Sense of achievement, personal satisfaction
throughout and self-belief
New learning for teacher!