Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who proposes that creativity is a cognitive state of flow, where the challenges of a task are balanced with the skill level of the individual.

Any human characteristic must be complex, given the many differences between people including their opinions, experiences, and mental abilities. Creativity is one such concept; an idea that everyone understands but that no one can agree on. We know that it exists and is widely distributed, but we cannt agree on what it actually is. I have been crawling down this rabbit hole for my entire professional life and especially this last year as I have begun a doctoral program in Innovation and Education Reform at the University of Northern Colorado. In my last post, I tried to lay out all the concepts related to creativity and innovation in order to systematically explore them over the four years of my doctorate (and beyond). The first concept that needs tackling is to develop a working definition of creativity, then move on to a definition of innovation.

Personal Destinies by David L. Norton. Not the easiest book to read, it discusses a philosophy of eudaimonism, or the development of the individual’s full potential, something that resonates with me as an educator.

For my first semester EDF 670 course, I was required to complete a detailed doctorate-level literature review. I delved deeply into the research on creativity, going all the way back to a Creativity course I took in college back in 1982. The leading definition then was that creativity was a process for solving problems using a rational sequence of steps (more akin to the current definition of the engineering design process). In a political philosophy course during my masters degree program, I was required to read Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism by David L. Norton (1976, Princeton University Press). He used a Greek conception of creativity as an inner trait or drive (called the daimon) that must be expressed for an individual to become themself, the second great Socratic imperative. Everyone has individual talents or gifts that can be developed; these talents are commensurable, in that our society consists of many different people whose talents compliment each other. Further research has identified other definitions for creativity, such as a great deal of research I did on creativity as flow, a mental state where skills balance challenge as proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

While preparing for this blog post two weeks ago, I researched websites that attempted to define creativity, thinking that I might find some alternative explanations beyond what was in the literature. I came across a website from Dr. Donna Hardy at Cal State Northridge who taught a course in the Psychology of Creativity (Psych 344/444) from 1997 through 2010 and asked her students to provide their own definitions of creativity, which were posted on the site at: (http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/creativity/survey.htm).

I have downloaded these definitions and analyzed them to develop an expanded list of possible approaches to creativity, including those I had already identified from my literature review. This resulted in a list of nine possible definitions. With these in hand, I went back through the student survey and tallied which categories their definitions fit into. In some cases the choice was obvious, but in others the definitions fit into more than one category, so I gave them multiple tallies. It was an admittedly subjective process, and the definitions are not mutually exclusive and possibly not comprehensive. There could still be other definitions that I have not considered. There were some students who refused to define creativity or said it was undefinable, used a tautology to define it (such as “creativity is the act of being creative”), or said that it was different for every person. I created a category 0 for these non-definitions. Altogether 548 students wrote their own definitions, of which I recored 748 tallies.

The nine definitions I came up with are as follows:

Categories of creativity definitions:

0. Undefinable, or refused to define, or said that it has a different definition for each person

  1. An innate personality trait, skill, talent, drive, need, passion, daimon, muse, or genius. There exists a commensurability of talents where each person has a different set of gifts. It is a human characteristic that cannot be taught, but it can be enhanced, encouraged, or diminished.
  2. constellation of cognitive or mental skills that can be taught, practiced, and improved.
  3. A mode of thought or frame of mind that is autotelic (self-rewarding) including imagination, exploration, conceptualization, appreciation of beauty, spirituality, visualization, and flow (when there is a balance of skills and challenge).
  4. A process or series of steps that can be rationally and sequentially followed and which is informed by experience and intellect. The problem-solving process.
  5. A moment of insight, clarity, or inspiration – the “Ah hah!” moment. This usually follows a period of incubation.
  6. Ideation or fluency with generating many new and unique ideas through synthesis and the creation of greater complexity. Brainstorming; conceiving that which does not yet exist or making something from nothing.
  7. Thinking outside the box, open-mindedness, breaking boundaries, originality, divergent or unconventional thinking, mental challenge, and conceptual blockbusting. Seeing things in a new way.
  8. Persistence and resourcefulness in bringing a final useful, socially valuable, or aesthetically pleasing tangible product from conception to fruition; innovation.
  9. Self-expression, artistic expression, individuality; one’s personality or feelings and emotions made manifest which resonates with the emotions of others. An outlet for the soul; self-discovery, empowerment, fun, and play.

These definitions are a work in progress, and I will continue to tweak them until I am satisfied they are good enough to start doing some serious research with. I would like to do a survey through both of my blog sites and of teachers I know. There is still a lot of overlap between some of the categories. I think putting them all together, I am approaching a fairly comprehensive definition of such a complex human characteristic, but I haven’t quite arrived yet.

After tallying the categories, the results are shown in the table below:

Screen capture from a spreadsheet used to tally definitions of creativity.

The most commonly held definition of creativity by the college students in the Psych 344/444 class was that creativity is self-expression or artistry, an outlet for feelings, emotions, and personality. It is individuality, self-discovery, empowerment, fun, and play. 28.07% of the students wrote some variation on this definition. It may be too broad of a category and in need of subdividing; it is too tempting to use it as a “grab bag” for all definitions that don’t fit elsewhere. The next most common definition was that creativity is open-mindedness, thinking outside the box, unconventionality, and divergent thinking with 19.52%. The third most common definition was that creativity is the act of ideation or the development of new and unique ideas through brainstorming, synthesis, and greater complexity (complexification?) with 15.37%.

A pie chart of the percentages of each category of definitions of creativity used by students in the Psych 344 class at Cal State Northridge from 1997 to 2010.

Other definitions were not as common, with some showing only a low percentage of usage, the lowest being Definition 5, where creativity is the moment of insight, inspiration, or sudden clarity at 2.14%. Although this is the least common category, I included it because there are a number of well-documented cases in the literature of moments of insight following long incubation, such as the famous example of the discovery of the structure of benzene by August Kekule.

There was no demographic information provided other than the students’ names. Cal State Northridge is in an ethnically diverse part of northern San Fernando Valley, and the students’ names suggest that their classes are also ethnically diverse, as do the photographs provided of student projects. I do not know if the Northridge students have provided significantly different definitions than students at other universities would. I tallied the various semester classes in two groups; the first 12 semesters from 1997 through 2003 and the final 11 semesters from 2004 through 2010. For most of the categories the results are not significantly different, but there is a slight increase in defining creativity as self-expression and a decrease in defining it as an act of imagination. I have not tried to calculate standard deviations or do any sophisticated Chi-squared or other tests. The subjective nature of my categories is not scientific enough to warrant that kind of analysis. I simply wanted to develop definitions that could be used for further studies that will be more statistically valid. I am thinking ahead to my dissertation, which will center around the need for and practices of teaching creativity in science classrooms.

I will try to unpack the details of each definition and give some backup literature in my next post. Eventually, the core of what I am writing and speculating on here will find its way into Chapter 2 of my dissertation. I still have a long way to go, but this is a necessary first step. I hope you don’t mind my taking you along with me.

Read Full Post »

Jakarta Day 5: Wednesday, July 19, 2017

David by SMAN 8 sign

David Black standing by the sign for SMAN 8 Jakarta (Jakarta Public High School # 8).

We had traveled through narrow, winding streets and across railroad tracks to get here, but once we arrived at SMAN 8 Jakarta, it was in a quiet neighborhood. This public high school is in a low-lying area of the city, and I was immediately impressed by the nice mosque that stood at the entrance to the school.

Although it is a regular public school, most schools in Indonesia have religious facilities such as a mosque or mushollah (prayer room) for students to use during prayer times and as part of their Islamic or Character studies classes. The United States places a strong value on separation of church and state, brought on by the persecutions of the Church of England or Lutherans against many religious groups (such as the Pilgrims, Quakers, and Puritans) who then came to America seeking religious freedom. It was built into the original Bill of Rights. But other countries don’t have such a value, and they establish state approved religions. Indonesia recognizes five religions officially, and in theory all are allowed to create religious facilities at school and hold religious classes. In some places, such as Bali and the Maluku Islands, Muslims are the minority. But in most of Indonesia, they form the majority religion with about 87-90% of the total population, such as in Jakarta. So there is a beautiful mosque with golden domes at the entrance to this public high school, and classes are arranged so that students can attend the noontime call to prayer.

Mosque with bougainvillea

Bougainvillea and school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

This might seem strange to some Americans, who tend to think that the way we do things must be the only way to do things, but its not unusual in many countries. Being from Utah it is not strange to me. We have LDS Seminary available to Utah students; although the seminary buildings must not be on school property, they are usually adjacent or nearby the schools, and students are allowed to have “released time” periods to attend seminary classes. This time doesn’t count toward graduation requirements, so seminary students have less periods with which to meet those needs, but with only 22 credit hours required, it’s not hard.

School mosque

The school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta. Indonesia does not have the value of separation of church and state that Americans have. Religious education is a required part of their school curriculum.

This school is considered a model high school in Jakarta and we could tell that they are much more accustomed to having visitors. There wasn’t a sign welcoming us, nor any great fuss about us. We were shown to an auditorium room and given snacks and water against the heat and waited awhile for the assistant principal to arrive. A teacher there who has been an ILEP alumnus greeted us and answered some questions while we waited. They had a nice Promethean board in the room, with a fancy computer control station to run it, and all the male teachers were looking it over as the female teachers discussed the dress code and daily operations of the female teachers who were there.

At SMAN 8 Jakarta

In the auditorium room at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We were shown around the school, and went in to some of the classes. They had nicely colored bougainvillea growing in planters along the inner railing, and many trophy cases showing excellence in academic competitions, such as Science Olympiad. They have had students win all the way to the international competition, which is an amazing accomplishment. We watched a group of students presenting in a biology class, and other students asking excellent questions.

Biology presenters

Students presenting in a biology class at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We saw a math class that Mike was especially interested in, since he is a calculus teacher. We talked with students in an English class, and I walked into the Kimia (chemistry) lab and saw the standard supply kit – alcohol lamp, a few beakers, a test tube rack, and a few test tubes. Not much, but at least here the equipment was well used. The biology lab room was well stocked with microscopes, models of various body parts, and even preserved specimens in jars. The computer lab was well equipped. We were shown the teacher preparation room, with more trophies, and I discovered that the word for teacher in Bahasa Indonesia is “guru.” Next to the Guru Room was the Guru Toilet. I had to take a photo. I think maybe I should insist that my students call me Guru.

Chem equipment

Lab station kit for the chemistry lab. Notice the well-used test tubes and alcohol burner. They don’t have much, but they use it to good advantage.

We walked to the principal’s office and were shown a plaque designating this school as one of the top schools in the country, an accomplishment that they were very proud of.

School philosophy

Five areas of intelligence according to the faculty of SMAN 8 Jakarta, an award-winning school in the city.

The assistant principal spoke to us about the school’s philosophy. SMAN 8 considers and builds its programs around five aspects of intelligence: Intellectual Intelligence (IQ), Spiritual Intelligence (SQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Creativity Intelligence (CQ), and Adversity Intelligence (AQ) – what we are calling “grit” at American Academy of Innovation, or the ability to learn from failure and be persistent. Most schools in Indonesia consider only the first three, but this school believes that creativity and persistence are important things to teach to students. He said this is the main key to this school’s success.

Explaining school

We might not agree with how spirituality is one of the central values of Indonesian education, because we are so conditioned to see religion as completely separate from school. And yet it is not separate in the lives of our students or of the teachers in our school; it just isn’t talked about much. Back when I taught World Civilizations in California, I would teach about Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions as part of the culture and history of different civilizations and no one batted an eye. Yet when I talked about Christianity as an important aspect of western civilization, the students would start to protest that I shouldn’t be teaching religion in school. I had to point out that I had already been teaching about religions all year, and that you can’t understand the central motivations of a civilization without knowing about religions or the spiritual beliefs of its peoples.

Rest Makes Rusty

Indonesian schools all have signs hanging up with mottos and sayings in English and Indonesian. This one is at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

My own school, although it hasn’t put its values in exactly these terms, also believes that creativity and grit are important for our school. We are supposed to be reading Grit by Angela Duckworth over the summer, but I haven’t been able to find a copy in my local library yet. We’re also reading Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson, which I read last summer. His thesis is that the factory model of education that is so prevalent in most American schools is literally crushing the creativity out of students at a time when it is so needed in our country.

Trophies

Just a few of the many awards and trophies at SMAN 8 Jakarta, and award-winning school in Indonesia.

If this is true, and SMAN 8 Jakarta is any indication of where Indonesian schools are headed, then we have much to worry about as we will soon be out competed by this rising country, the fourth largest country in the world.

Guru toilet

Gurus need toilets, too.

We walked out into the central courtyard and took some photos by the school sign, then walked to our pariwisata (tourist) bus, which was waiting for us.

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea growing around the courtyard at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

Headmaster with group

Headmaster of SMAN 8 Jakarta with the Teachers for Global Classrooms group.

Read Full Post »

This morning I accepted a job offer to teach full-time at Walden School in Provo, Utah. (here is their website: Walden School Website). I will be teaching a combination of chemistry, earth science, and multimedia courses at the high school level. Walden is a small charter school that follows the Montessori philosophy of providing a rich learning environment and letting students have a large say in the direction and content of their education. This happens to coincide very well with my own philosophy, which I have stated here before, that science classrooms need to go beyond hands-on learning and teach students how to be creative contributors to their own education, through building their own science content or conducting their own experiments.

Materials for Mars 3D activity

Materials for the Mars 3D activity

In fact, the fit for me is so good that if I had sat down and designed the perfect situation for what and how I like to teach, it would be very similar to what Walden School has to offer. And it will be ideal for The Elements Unearthed Project. It will provide a base of operations, so to speak, from which to apply for grants and gain support as well as a group of dedicated, creative students to work with. Teaching chemistry and earth science in addition to the multimedia I’ve taught for the last ten years will also allow me to cross-pollinate the classes so that students can do diagrams, animations, and videos for their multimedia class but also get credit in chemistry or earth science. This is the way project-based-learning (CBL) can be more efficient as well as more effective.

I’ve struggled this last year since returning from my fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to make financial ends meet by creating Business Profile Videos for clients. The economy being the way it is, all the businesses we’ve contacted love the idea of a YouTube video advertising their products or ideas, but hardly anyone can afford to pay what the videos are actually worth. So for the last two months I’ve been searching for full-time and part-time jobs; it takes a great load off my mind to know I will have a regular income. Although my days will now be spent teaching, I think the overall pacing of the project can increase; I no longer will have to spend all my evenings working on business videos and can devote almost as much time as now to the video episodes I’ve already filmed.

It will also be great to get back to science teaching. I’ve missed it, and I’m looking forward to dusting off and updating some of the great lesson ideas and activities I’ve learned from NASA and elsewhere. I can bring back the Elementary Science Tutorial Program I began at Juab High School so many years ago. Now my students can build the 3D model of the nearby stars I developed for my astronomy classes at Provo Canyon School. Now the Mars 3D project I developed at MATC can be shared between multimedia and earth science classes. Now The Elements Unearthed Project will be able to draw on students from multiple disciplines in a school that believes in student creativity, project-based teaching, and expeditionary learning.

Table top star model

Table-top 3D model of the nearby stars.

Instead of the factory model, one-size-fits-all style that is killing our public high schools, where subjects are fragmented and divorced from each other, I believe in teaching holistically and individually and expecting students to achieve highly creative work. Now I’m going to put this philosophy to the test.

Read Full Post »