What is creativity?
There are many definitions of creativity, most of which have common characteristics. All focus on the identification and analysis of problems. Common too, is exploring ideas and the processes employed to evaluate, refine and implement these ideas.
Having conducted a significant amount of analysis of literature and discussion with national and international experts, Education Scotland defines creativity as follows:
‘Creativity is a process which generates ideas that have value to the individual. It involves looking at familiar things with a fresh eye, examining problems with an open mind, making connections, learning from mistakes and using imagination to explore new possibilities.’
Creativity is complex and can positively impact on children and young people in many ways. Although sitting at the top of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, creativity, like all higher order skills, is not hierarchical. It is part of the suite of skills that includes understanding, analysis, application, evaluation and systems thinking.
While it is widely acknowledged that collaboration is a major dimension to creativity, it is not included within Education Scotland’s defined creativity skills. The reason is that creativity can happen without collaboration and is quite distinctive in this aspect.
The report, Creativity Across Learning 3 – 18 (Education Scotland, September 2013), draws clear distinctions between the creative process, creativity skills, creative learning and creative teaching. Although they are different, there is a natural relationship between them. Creativity Across Learning 3-18, provides the following definitions:
- A typical creative process involves investigating a problem or issue, exploring multiple viewpoints and options, generating and testing out ideas, developing, refining and communicating solutions and evaluating whether or not they have worked.
- Creativity skills are those skills which contribute to an individual’s capacity to understand and apply a creative process.
- Creative learning describes the range of activities and approaches undertaken by an individual which supports the development of creativity and other skills
- Creative teaching describes approaches and activities, developed and delivered by those who lead learning, which are usually exciting, innovative and often use unexpected techniques to engage learners. They might for example, be used to help learners acquire knowledge and understanding effectively, rather than the development of creativity skills in learners.
What are creativity skills?
Creativity skills include being:
constructively inquisitive, by:
- being curious
- registering patterns and anomalies
- making use of previous knowledge
- researching productively
- formulating good questions.
open minded, by:
- using lateral thinking
- using divergent thinking
- exploring multiple viewpoints
- being flexible, adaptable and functioning well with uncertainty.
able to harness imagination, by
- exploring, synthesising and refining multiple options
- generating and refining ideas
able to identify and solve problems, by
- understanding and defining problems
- crafting, delivering and presenting solutions
- demonstrating initiative, discipline, persistence and resilience
- evaluating impact and success of solutions
- identifying and implementing next steps in refinement of development process.
All of these do not apply all of the time, but combined and usually in a loose sequence they form a suite of distinct skills, which support the creative process. While the individual elements of this suite of skills can influence many learning situations positively, it is their combination and the consequent generation of ideas which distinguishes creativity as a separate concept. Those familiar with design processes will recognise a similar concept.