Reflections on Creativity

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about creativity.

A month ago, I was asked to decide whether creativity and critical thinking were mutually exclusive, overlapping, or one subsuming the other. My instinct was to say that they overlap; however, I thought that creativity was somehow bigger than critical thinking. I also thought that a purely creative act could exist without critical thinking.

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The more I have read and discussed and reflected on the topic, the more clear and the more confused I’ve become. As it turns out, creativity is a very complex construction. It’s meaning is often influenced by historical, cultural, and social context. After looking at a lot of the research, it seems there is no ultimate definition of the word. So now I’m thinking… What does it mean to teach creativity? How do we inspire such an abstract concept in our students? Is it valuable, or even fair, to try and assess creativity? How do critical thinking and creativity interact or overlap?

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I have to say that I don’t think our current model of “school” encourages creativity. Things are changing for sure, but we are not there yet. I like to think there is a link between creativity and imagination and that play helps to foster a sense of creativity. The’s no way to know for sure, but in my own personal experience, I have found this to be the case. Below is a short video explaining the importance of encouraging messy play.

I think too often we get focused on what is “important” and forget to allow our students time to explore in a messy, imaginative way. If we don’t allow them this opportunity, can we expect them to be creative when we want them to be?

After a lot of reading (check out Sawyer’s Explaining Creativity if you want a dry but thorough overview of the research on creativity) I am coming to terms with the fact that creativity and critical thinking may be even more interconnected than I initially thought. Is there truly such thing as a purely creative act? Many people would argue that nothing is creative without intent. For example, many beautiful, original things are developed in the natural world, but we would not call nature creative. In order for something to be deemed creative, someone would have to intentionally try to create something new or original.

I’m also wondering about the creative process. I am thinking we could argue that there is nothing created without the process of critical thinking. Someone – whether it be us or another party – has to evaluate our work in order to decide whether it’s the one we’ll share with the world or whether it needs to be revised, reworked. If this is the case, then critical thinking is a necessary component of the creative process.

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So what does all of this mean for our students?

I honestly have no idea. I am being pushed in my M.Ed. course to reflect upon these conceptions but I can’t honestly say I am there yet in terms of my understanding. What I do know is that I am willing to change what I think along the way.

I also know that I want EVERY child to believe they are CAPABLE of creativity.

How do we accomplish this? Exploring assessment of creativity is next on my agenda!

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2 responses to “Reflections on Creativity

  1. Is creativity only in the arts?

    • Thanks for the question.

      Absolutely not! I think creativity comes in many different forms. It could be a scientific discovery, an innovative business practice, or a new solution to a mathematical problem. Traditionally we associate it with the arts, but I think this leaves out some of the most creative things in human history.

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