Making Sense of Creativity

This source preferred by Mark Readman

Authors: Readman, M.

Start date: 1 September 2008

In an educational environment driven by skills and measurable outcomes we have seen an increased enthusiasm for and investment in the notion of creativity. This may be because creativity represents something which evades the systematic, predictable nature of conventional academic work; the verbs used around it, such as ‘nurturing’ and ‘fostering’, invoke notions of natural growth and self-actualisation rather than the routine acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Despite the general acknowledgement that it is hard to define creativity, there is a tendency to resort to a pragmatic, common sense application of the term, which is usually characterised by notions of originality and appropriateness. This, however, neglects the instability of creativity as a signifier of a range of often incompatible behaviours, activities and ways of thinking. Creativity is not simply a descriptive term for naturally occurring phenomena; even in a common sense context it can, contradictorily, refer on the one hand to almost any kind of expressive activity, but on the other hand to something so rare that it is the preserve of gifted individuals.

Perhaps because creativity is seen as ‘a good thing’ it may seem perverse to adopt an interrogative stance in relation to it, but if learners are to be encouraged to ‘be creative’ and assessed on the degree to which they demonstrate creativity it is necessary to engage with the concept critically.

This session will examine the associated meanings and implicit explanations that accompany the adoption of the term creativity and suggest that it should be deployed more cautiously and critically in an educational context.

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