Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fostering Creativity

A recent Newsweek article, "The Creativity Crisis" shared a poll taken by IBM. 1500 CEOs were surveyed and the responses identified creativity as the number one leadership competency that will be valued in the future.

The same article also presented a research study conducted by a professor at William and Mary

"Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

Professor Kim's study is alarming and compromises the beliefs of current CEOs. This divide also presents a challenge to educators. Considering how much time children spend engaged in activities related to school, what is our responsibility to foster creativity amongst students?

Educators have to seriously consider experiences constructed for students. As cited in the article other countries have made it a priority to privilege creativity through engaging students in authentic problem solving scenarios. "The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity, financing teacher training, and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults." Countries such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore out-class American students on a wide range of assessments.

Further studies have shown that creativity can be a skill that is developed in classrooms. The challenge is to see that students are consistently engaged in creative problem solving endeavors. While content or foundational information is critical, it ceases to be relevant if students are not able to apply, reflect, make connections and continue the process of constructing meaning. Consider each classroom as a think tank where ideas and perspectives can be accessed and freely expressed by engaged participants. Empower students with the freedom to tackle challenging problems and to develop strategies/process for determining possible responses. Encourage learners to consider a broad range of possible solutions and welcome productive friction in the classroom.

While mentioned in response to current obstacles such as the BP Oil Spill, the following sure applies to classrooms and what students could experience.

"Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others."

To sustain a "martketplace of ideas" we have to see classrooms as a place of innovative and creative thought and see that students are actively seeking solutions to complex problems.