Can creativity be cultivated in our current school system?
I’ve been watching more and more TED talks lately, and what I hope to do is share one or two of them each month on my blog. This time, I’m sharing “Why real creativity is based on knowledge” by Tim Leunig from TEDxWhitehall.
Freedom or Discipline?
In Professor Richard Kimbell and Professor Kay Stables’ book, Researching Design Learning, which covers two decades on Research and Development, a linear process of designing and making is offered. “… the teacher has to reconcile two conflicting demands: giving the maximum freedom to the pupils to develop their own ideas and to pursue any approach which seems to them to offer a reasonable outcome.
[Creativity] seldom proceeds by way of a series of clearly recognisable stages to a neat solution. There is always the possibility of refinement, of coming at a solution by a better route, or revising the original intention in favour of a simpler or more effective technique …”
Of course, knowledge is required, but how can creativity be encouraged in our schools that are likened to examination factories? Teachers will often cite that they are teaching to the test rather than teaching for the love of their subject.
In a Singapore study by Tan Oon Seng (2000), Seng makes reference to the Problem-based Creativity Learning (PBCL) programme and the emphasis on cognitive and meta-cognitive learning as the “content” and discusses the psychological development of creativity.
Seng concludes that problem-based creativity “can develop students to be flexible and creative thinkers.” On the one hand, it points to the modifiability of students’ abilities in these areas; but on the other, it points to a possible intervention to bring about this development!
Therefore, creativity has its foundations built upon a knowledge base, but with anything delivered in the classroom, it requires the skills of a good teacher to ensure outcomes are met.
Nevertheless, I have some further questions to raise about ‘real creativity’.
- Do we really want our students shoehorned into a particular group of subjects in order to meet government aspirations?
- Do we still believe Arts or Science is more important than the other?
- Do we still believe knowledge is more important than skills?
- Can students be creative in the current national curriculum and test culture?
Surely, we want all of our students to be creative; to use prior knowledge and skills to be able to solve problems. Isn’t that what real creativity is, regardless of what subject is being taught?