PART 2: Why the Current Structure Doesn't Work

international education

"The inclusion of creativity into educational policy documents is evidence of the fact that the focus on creativity is not merely a matter of paying 'lip service' to the concept," says Robina Shaheen, part of the faculty at Open Universities Education and Language Studies Department (UK), "but rather that action is being taken."

In fact, action has been in progress as early as 1999, when O'Donnell and Micklethwaite reviewed the curriculum documents of 16 developed countries (American, European, and East Asian), identifying the place of arts and creativity in education. They found that creativity was included at various educational levels, at least from early years through primary education for most countries, and beyond, up to higher education, for some:

In Canada "creative thinking" is outlined as one of the common essential learning(s) (p.8). In Kentucky, USA, one of the learning goals is to enable students to "use creative thinking skills to develop or invent novel, constructive ideas or products" (p.57). In Korea, the National Curriculum defines an educated person as "healthy, independent, creative and moral" (p.33). In Sweden the Government's National Development Plan for Pre-School, School and Adult Education (1997) stated that education should provide "the conditions for developing creative skills" (p.52). In France schools in lower secondary are expected to develop in children the "taste for creation." (p.14). In Germany, the emphasis of primary education is placed on developing "children's creative abilities" (p.20). In Netherlands one of the principles on which primary education is based is "creative development" (O'Donnell & Micklethwaite 1999, p.38). In Florida (USA) one of the goals of restructuring the schools was to provide students opportunities "to learn and apply strategies for creative…thinking" (Treffinger, 1996). The second educational goal for young people in Australia is to "become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens" (ACARA, 2009). In Japan the school curriculum has included development of creativity since the Second World War, outlining the development of creativity as the most important objective of education for 21st century (O'Donnell, 1999). In Singapore the aim of new initiatives, launched by the Ministry of Education, was to foster "enquiring minds, the ability to think critically and creatively" (O'Donnell, 19990)—created in response to leading industrialists and entrepreneurs indicating that staff in Singapore were more "conforming" than "independent" and "not curious enough" (Tan, 2006).

But at the 2013 ADOBE Education Leadership Forum, the findings of a study entitled "State of Creativity in Education in Asia Pacific" reflected a widespread shortcoming in creativity education. The study surveyed 1,014 educators (teachers, administrators, heads of institutions) representing 13 Asia Pacific countries with an aim to gauge the state of creativity across the region's educational landscape. Even considering ADOBE's business interests, the results are striking:

43% of the surveyed educators feel the current education system is either outdated or restrictive.
The lack of resources, tools, and training are identified as the biggest barriers.
62% felt they should be creative regardless of the subjects they teach.
When asked about the efficacy of the current education system in developing a new generator of innovators, educators rated it a mere 5.0 on a scale of 1 to 10.
In India 69% said they are hampered by an education system that is not geared towards creativity; 45% cited a lack of resource to support their efforts.
The surveyed educators, on average, spent 45% of their time last year fostering creativity skills in the classrooms while they wanted to spend 58% of their time for it.

"Timetable structures such as seven 45-minute periods from 8:30am to 3:30pm and up to seven different areas of unrelated content per day as well as rules like no access to smartphones in class heighten the disconnect between students and teachers," says Tim Kitchen, director of learning technologies at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School in Australia.

Educators in the United States would likely agree that their own current model restricts their ability to address creativity in the classroom, especially since the Common Core Standards Initiative was passed in 2010. With so much standardization of assessment, mechanization of policy, and conformity of learning, it's no small wonder that education has been labeled a "crisis" in America. Math teacher and Stanford University fellow Dan Meyer describes today's curriculum as "paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them."

China's universities are highly ranked worldwide, but many Chinese students perceive their own schools and colleges to be focused on rote learning and not receptive to creativity and critical thinking. One international business student chose to attend an English language university, run by Britain's Nottingham University, specifically to acquire the "critical thinking" that her uncle says is lacking in Chinese graduates. A recent study of engineering students at three top Chinese institutes and Stanford University found that 22 percent of Stanford grads planned to start or join a startup, while 52 percent of top Chinese graduates plan to join the government.

But according to Shaheen, creativity has been an important component of Chinese education since 2001. Hong Kong's education policy includes creativity as a "higher order thinking skill," and there are educational reforms being carried out in preschool, primary, and secondary institutions throughout the country in which the development of creativity is being given "top priority."

So what is the problem? If we all have good intentions, why are we facing such great obstacles when it comes to creativity education?

One obstacle that has received considerable attention lately is teacher training. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) came out with a report earlier in 2013 exposing the shameful state of teacher preparation programs in the United States. The report has been criticized by the education community for various research methodology flaws, but Stanford professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond said the NCTQ accurately focused on the most important aspects of teacher education — candidate selection, preparation for teaching reading and math, and student teaching. The report ranked only four out of 1,130 programs as being worthy of their highest rating, concluding that poor quality teacher education programs are to blame for new, underperforming teachers and students.

The report's flaws aside, educators and specialists tend to agree that most of these programs do not adequately prepare teachers to design and sustain a creative learning environment.

In a 2009 survey conducted by the European Commission, an average of 40% of teachers in Europe declared to have received training in creativity. But the figures varied widely between countries: Slovakia (66%), Estonia (65%), and Romania (62%) all reported to have received training, in contrast with France (14%), Lithuania (25%), Hungary (27%), the United Kingdom (28%), and Spain (33%), who received little.

Teaching may be a creative profession, but that doesn't mean that all teachers are creative.

Herein lies the trouble: in a world where opportunities for creativity are slipping between our fingers, we turn immediately to examining the classrooms when we should be examining something else—the teachers themselves.

Creativity specialist and professor Anne Bamford insists that insufficient emphasis is given to creativity in teacher education. "We must provide creative professional development and training for all teachers and school leaders," she says.

Still, even the best-prepared teachers face challenges when it comes to implementing creativity in the classroom.

"Too many teachers and administrators are weighed down by the yoke of political influence," says retired high school English teacher Dawn Hogue. "It takes educational anarchy to push out of the box these days, and it may simply be easier to do what one is told. I have known many teachers who are afraid to try something new. Some feel their jobs are at risk. Others just think trying something different will be too much work and they feel overworked as it is."

As Sir Ken Robinson said in a recent article for The Guardian, "For creativity to flourish, schools have to feel free to innovate without the constant fear of being penalised for not keeping with the programme."

Available resources can also dictate what an educator teaches and how. Not every school can afford the latest technology or an art kit for every student. But this is where creativity can come into play the most.

AP English instructor Shekema Silveri teaches at a Title I high school in Georgia called Mount Zion. Since Mount Zion can't afford the latest technology, Silveri is forced to find creative ways to keep her students engaged. While some classrooms don't allow cell phones, Silveri encourages her students to use them in order to look up definitions of words with apps like dictionary.com and conduct research for their assignments. She also believes her students write more when they're allowed to blog and use Twitter. In 2011, Silveri was one of 11 educators in the state to achieve a 100% student passing rate on all of her standardized tests despite Mount Zion's lack of resources.

Silveri is not alone in her efforts. Countless educators across the globe are implementing creativity into their classrooms and inspiring students every day despite various challenges. And now, due to society-wide awareness of creativity's growing importance, schools and governments are beginning to catch on as well.

What's Being Done Across the Globe

Reducing students' fears and inhibitions around art while also getting them to think in new ways is part of what Marty Henton, a senior lecturer in the School of Art and Visual Studies, aims for in her course, "Pathways to Creativity Through the Visual Arts."

In class, she often invokes a sense of childlike wonder as she explains the next assignment. "Even though I show you the path to walk on," she says, "I want you to jump into the grass and play."

Pairs of students sitting at computers select a digital image from the Internet and manipulate it in Photoshop at least 30 times, exploring different ways to make it unrecognizable. In other words, they develop their divergent-thinking skills. They then practice their convergent thinking skills by distilling their batch of 30 to a sequence of 10 images, which are supposed to start from the most-unrecognizable image and finish with the original.

Meanwhile, at the University of Kentucky, Ryan Hargrove, assistant professor of landscape architecture, describes a simple exercise to his students based on similarities. Start with a simple question, he says: How are an apple and orange similar? One might begin with the obvious: Both are fruits, have peels and seeds, and are found at the grocery store. But keep going and the associations start to become more unusual and personal. Perhaps you recall the time that an apple peel got stuck between your teeth, or the morning when you drank orange juice and the acid hit the blister on your tongue and made you yelp in pain.

Of the millions of possible associations, many people's will be similar, Mr. Hargrove says. "The key to creative problem solving is making connections that are unique."

At the Haig Girls' School in Singapore, students assess themselves and their peers by answering questions such as, "I am able to brainstorm multiple ways to reach a solution" (critical thinking) or, "I am able to connect ideas in an interesting and creative manner to create a unique idea" (creative thinking). Singapore is even considering doing away with the PISA—the national entrance examination that all students take at the end of primary school.

Individual schools, districts, and governments across the world are redesigning policy and curricula to meet the demand for a more creative student population.

Starting with the class entering in the fall of 2013, students at Stanford University will be required to complete two courses in aesthetic and interpretive inquiry, two courses in social inquiry, two courses in scientific analysis, one course in formal reasoning, one course in quantitative reasoning, one course in engaging difference, one course in moral and ethical reasoning, and one course in creative expression.

For years, the U.S. government has promoted so-called STEM education–science, technology, engineering and math. President Obama called for more STEM education in his recent State of the Union address. But at a recent conference, education advocates urged policymakers to acknowledge the importance of arts and design in STEM education, leading to a different acronym: STEAM, with an "A" for "arts."

Various statistics presented at the event, based on a survey of 1,000 college-educated working professionals, supported this amendment to the program: 1) 71% said creative thinking should be taught as a course, like math and science. 2) 82% wish they had more exposure to creative thinking as students. 3) 91% said there is more to success in school than focusing on course material. 4) 85% said creative thinking is critical for problem solving in their career. 5) 78% wish they had more creative ability.

The survey demonstrated that these professionals maintain STEM studies are in fact "creative subjects," with 59% saying that of math and 69% saying that of science. (Innovation specialists would say that every one of the four STEM emphases in fact demands creative thinking to fully excel.) Those same survey subjects, however, had 65% saying drama is creative, and 76% for music and 79% for art.

What is telling in those percentages is that those polled recognized that STEM subjects invite creative thinking, but also that art programs encourage it even more. So if we want more creative thinking among STEM students, why hope it will only come from their STEM teachers? Why not assume the exposure to creative processes they receive in their A (for art) classes will assist them in their STEM classes? Hence, the interdisciplinary power of STEAM—identifying and tapping into the creativity of each subject in terms of the others.

The European Commission is doing some notable things to promote creativity, launching a Youth in Action Program and a Culture Program to develop and sustain a creative workforce and to encourage partnerships between culture and creative sectors and youth organizations and youth workers.

Many schools are now offering degrees in creativity. To name just a few, ESCP Europe offers an MBA in Marketing and Creativity; Buffalo State University offers a Master of Science degree in Creative Studies, a graduate certificate program in creativity and change leadership, and undergraduate minors in creative studies and leadership; the University of Massachusetts Boston offers an online, on-campus, or blended MA in Critical and Creative Thinking; Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia offers programs not only in the arts but also an MBA in Multimedia Management; and the University of Kwazulu-Natal, School of Applied Human Sciences, offers degrees in Media and Society, Social Work, Criminology, and Communications.

Perhaps the best example of deliberate action towards greater creativity comes from Singapore.

Last year, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat told the BBC that Singapore is moving away from high test results and towards something that cultivates creativity—what they term as "holistic education."

"It's less about content knowledge," he says, "and more about how to process information."

He describes this challenge to innovate, which will prepare today's students for the demands of the next 20 years, as being able to "discern truths from untruths, connect seemingly disparate dots, and create knowledge even as the context changes."

This means that students will be spending more time outside the classroom, learning about the environment around them, and that schools will be under more pressure to come up with creative ways to teach the syllabus.

Singapore's teacher preparation programs are a huge part of its educational success. High-quality teachers in Singapore are not an accident but rather the result of "deliberate policy actions," said a report from the OECD.

Like many other countries, Singapore once faced a shortage of good teachers, due in part to the lack of prestige and respect for the profession, said National Institute of Education director Lee Sing Kong. This changed after concerted efforts were made from the mid-1990s to raise the image, providing training and better working conditions for teachers, he told a global round table discussion in March.

"But it does take time to really evolve the quality teaching force," he said.

Singapore enhances its strong initial preparation and induction programs with a sophisticated performance management system that articulates the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected at each stage of a teacher's career and, based on careful evaluation and intensive supports, provides a series of career tracks that teachers can pursue. This allows teachers to become mentor teachers, curriculum specialists, or principals, thereby developing talent in every component of the education system.

In addition, beginning teachers in Singapore receive two years of coaching from expert senior teachers who are trained by the National Institute of Education as mentors and are given released time to help beginners learn their craft.

"In Singapore," says Linda Darling-Hammond, an education specialist at Stanford University, "one of the things that is very impressive there is the ongoing professional learning and development of the career."

The story is similar in Melbourne and Toronto, she says, where education leaders believe that getting the right people into teaching, coupled with ongoing teacher training, is essential to improving student performance.

In Melbourne, the Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has launched a variety of partnerships with universities to transform pre-service preparation, focusing on longer-term clinical preparation around a set of Common Standards set out by the Victoria Institute of Teaching. "They're really deepening the preparation of teachers for the diverse learners that they have in Melbourne and in Victoria as a state," Darling-Hammond adds.

In Toronto, Darling-Hammond points to the very intensive work being done around the induction of beginning teachers. In addition to supporting the mentorship benefits put forward by Ontario as a province, the city of Toronto is providing training for beginning teachers for four years, including demonstration teaching, mentoring, and additional coursework geared toward customized instruction. These initiatives have resulted in a 99% retention rate of beginning teachers.

What all three cities have in common is that they "take the systemic approach," Darling-Hammond says. "They try to look at everything from recruitment through development, and so on."

There are creativity workshops around the world designed to enhance educators' understanding and potential for creativity. The Creativity Workshop, for example, is an organization based in New York City that has been holding workshops for teachers around the world since 1993. To help instructors access and develop their creativity, the workshop leaders have developed a progression of exercises and techniques that explore sense perceptions, free-form writing and drawing, associative thinking, mapmaking, constructive daydreaming, memory, collage, and photography.

From the workshop's webpage: "The Creativity Workshop is dedicated to helping teachers, K12 through University, develop and nurture their creativity and that of their students. The Creativity Workshop has developed a series of simple and effective exercises aimed at keeping the creative juices flowing both in the classroom and personally. The Creativity Workshop offers professional development courses for teachers from all over the world. This unique experience combines learning, global travel, CEUs, and association with peers from all over the world."

But creativity workshops like these should not exist solely outside of teacher preparation programs; they should exist within them as well.
Teaching demands a new type of classroom relationship management to capture anecdotal notes and evidence of student growth.

Teachers must become disciplined and analytical about identifying students' strengths and skill gaps, continuously turning classroom data into a plan of action, and must also seek a greater connection and collaboration between current research and their own teaching. This requires creativity. We need standards because we need assessment of progress, but it's up to teachers to be creative in meeting those standards in ways that promote creativity in students.

Implementing Creativity in Students

According to Torrance himself, the purpose of creative teaching is to create a "responsible environment" through high teacher enthusiasm, appreciation of individual differences, and so on.

During his time, he outlined the following ways of teaching children to think creatively based on 142 different studies:

Training programs emphasizing the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving procedures or modification of it.

Other disciplined approaches such as training in general semantics, creative research, and the like.

Complex programs involving packages of materials, such as the Purdue Creativity Program; Covington, Crutchfield, and Davies' Productive Thinking Program; and the Myers and Torrance and Torrance idea books.

The creative arts as vehicles for teaching and practicing creative thinking.
Media and reading programs designed to teach and give practice in creative thinking.
Curricular and administrative arrangements designed to create favorable conditions for learning and practicing creative thinking.

Teacher-classroom variables, indirect and direct control, classroom climate, and the like.
Motivation, reward, competition, and the like.
Testing conditions designed to facilitate a higher level of creative functioning or more valid and reliable test performance.

The most popular methods Torrance witnessed were complex programs involving packages of materials, the manipulation of teacher-classroom variables, and the use of modifications of the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving training program.

Torrance's contemporaries, Feldhusen and Treffinger (1980) and Davis (1991), also believed establishing a "creative climate" was important to stimulate creative thinking. Feldhusen and Treffinger (1980) provided several recommendations for establishing a classroom environment conducive to creative thinking:

1. Support and reinforce unusual ideas and responses of students.
2. Use failure as a positive to help students realize errors and meet acceptable standards in a supportive atmosphere.
3. Adapt to student interests and ideas in the classroom whenever possible.
4. Allow time for students to think about and develop their creative ideas. Not all creativity occurs immediately and spontaneously.
5. Create a climate of mutual respect and acceptance between students and between students
and teachers, so that students can share, develop, and learn together and from one another as well as independently.
6. Be aware of the many facets of creativity besides arts and crafts: verbal responses, written responses both in prose and poetic style, fiction and nonfiction form. Creativity enters all curricular areas and disciplines.
7. Encourage divergent learning activities. Be a resource provider and director.
8. Listen and laugh with students. A warm, supportive atmosphere provides freedom and security in exploratory thinking.
9. Allow students to have choices and be a part of the decision-making process. Let them have a
part in the control of their education and learning experiences.
10. Let everyone get involved, and demonstrate the value of involvement by supporting student ideas and solutions to problems and projects.

In 1996, members of the Association for Curriculum Development came up with a fantastic list of 25 ways to promote creativity in the classroom. The list includes tips like modeling creativity, building self-efficacy, questioning assumptions, encouraging sensible risks, tolerating ambiguity, allowing for mistakes, delaying gratification, finding excitement, and playing to strengths.

More recently, there's been an explosion of resources and recommendations on education blogs, focusing on promoting creativity in the classroom. These recommendations include tips like recognizing and rewarding creativity, introducing limitations, talking to parents, using technology and blended learning, multiliteracies approaches, combining creativity with task appropriateness, promoting creative problem solving, fostering creative metacognition, establishing expressive freedom, being familiar with the standards, designing multidisciplinary lessons when possible, understanding that creativity is important to a student's future in the job market, etc.

Most of these tips simply reiterate the older findings of Torrance and his colleagues, but here are some of my favorites, which also happen to be some of the more creative ones in the bunch:

De-emphasize context (The Science of Learning blog). In his book, Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (1973), Edward de Bono urges educators to de-emphasize context in order to teach students to think freely outside the box. In one example, de Bono describes how a teacher shows his students a photo of people dressed in street clothes wading through water at a beach. The teacher then asks the students to come up with interpretations as to what is going on in the picture. The teacher has de-emphasized the context; the crux of the activity is to develop the context using their imaginations. In this situation, de Bono says that students might respond by saying that the picture shows a group of people caught by the tide, or a group crossing a flooded river, or people wading out to a ferry boat which cannot come to shore, or people coming ashore from a wrecked boat. The fact that the photo is actually of a group of people protesting at a beach is completely irrelevant. The author stresses that the right answer is not important; generating as many interpretations as possible is. The teacher has created a safe, controlled environment and activity where students are encouraged to think outside the box and exercise creative habits of mind, free from qualitative judgment. He even goes on to suggest that if a student comes up with a particularly unfeasible interpretation, the teacher should not judge, but continue to question the student until the context for the interpretation becomes clear, encouraging cultivation of the student's creative skill.

Imagine your lecture room as a business (TeachThought). If you were an art director or innovation manager how would you inspire your employees? Use those same tactics in your class or lecture room.

Eliminate fear of failure.

Talk about creativity with your students.

Edutopia's "creative time savers" include having your students rely on each other as resources; pairing your higher achievers with lower achievers; having students read one another's writing to check for completion or suggest ideas before they come see you; using the Leap Frog Tag reading system to collect data; and having a "math problem of the day" journal to review skills in which your students scored low on assessments.

If you're worried more about your own creative capabilities than those of your students, there are countless resources out there to help you. Microsoft lists creativity as one of its key Education Competencies—one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.

Here are some tips from Microsoft (2006), intended to be used when interviewing educators, but equally relevant to educators themselves:

Generate ideas without initially judging them.
Ask more questions before attempting to craft solutions.
Define the problem. Ask questions and determine the causes of the problem.
Seek fresh approaches from people from other organizations, functions, levels, and disciplines. Other opinions are always more insightful than you think they will be.
Take on a tough and "undoable project" that others have tried and failed at.
Break up your work routine when you are blocked. Incorporate dissimilar tasks, activities, and rest breaks when you come to a roadblock.

To improve your creative proficiency, ask yourself the following essential questions on a regular basis:

What original ideas have I come up with lately?
What patterns do I see emerging in the information I have about a problem?
What is the least likely or oddest answer I can consider to solve my problem?
What specific analogies can I apply to a situation to broaden my perspective?
Do I employ brainstorming sessions to discover connections?
Whom can I enlist to be part of a broad, diverse, creative think tank?

The strategies presented here only scratch the surface of a huge repository of information from educators, business leaders, researchers, and specialists—just as the situation we've illustrated throughout this book can't help but be oversimplified by an attempt at summary.

In the next portion of the book, we present the views of 27 education bloggers and InformED fans on the topic of creativity education.

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