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Day 21/04/2014

How to think about CREATIVITY in education…* { Part 3 }

For my third installment of how to think about creativity, I will explore the questions:

1) How does creativity function with grades and assessment?

2) Is creativity always a good solution?

(see Part I and Part II for more ideas about creativity in education).


As discussed within some of the previous ideas, creativity is comprised of multiple factors, including ways of thinking, dedication, teamwork, and interest. Therefore, any assessments of creativity or creative potential should take this into account. Rather than simply giving students a test of divergent thinking, for example, one would want to potentially assess personality variables, prior experience, and interest in the subject area.

Another interesting aspect of creativity and testing is that adding external rewards (extrinsic motivators) to a task has been shown to be detrimental to creative output. Many educators already know of the benefits of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation in the classroom, and creative products are particularly sensitive to the type of motivation behind their inception and development.

Furthermore, people can modulate their creative focus and behaviors based on the expectations of a task. Students produce more creative work when asked to be creative, and can excel in particular ways (i.e., flexibility, originality) on divergent thinking tests if they are specifically instructed to be more flexible or original.

For educators, this research suggests reducing evaluative pressure on students and encouraging them to produce work that will not be graded. It also suggests making creativity explicit; define the concept and explain its value. Additionally, allowing students to partake in self-directed work can foster the context where they will have greater intrinsic motivation and therefore greater creative success.


This last powerful idea about creativity is similar to #3 Creative People Can Be Difficult. Hanson (2013) discusses the danger of creativity as a disruptive force, shaking the status quo. In addition to the ways in which creative individuals can be perceived as troublemakers and uncooperative, the uncertainty of creative work in terms of grading makes many uncomfortable in our assessment-driven education system.

Furthermore, any large-scale creative endeavor inevitably includes protocols and practiced “uncreative” components. In fact, many tasks include only a small creative component. It is important to recognize that creativity is NOT a cure-all and students will vary in their creative expression across subjects. As Hanson (2013) states, “…educators need to think of using theories of creativity to enhance good, overall education more than using education simply to produce creativity” (p33).


Overall, I believe that creativity is and will continue to be a valued construct in our society. It is important to understand how it functions, what kinds of environments foster it, and how it interacts with other educational efforts. However, I strongly agree with Hanson’s overarching idea: creativity research can inform better education, but we should make sure not to over-emphasize its importance or underestimate the amount of hard work and dedication that truly creative work entails. We should take efforts to identify and be encouraging of those students with passion and creative potential who may deviate from the norm and be labeled “uncooperative.” Lastly, I would urge educators to become more explicit in defining what they expect when they ask students to “be creative.”



Hanson, M. H. (2013). CREATIVITY THEORY AND EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE: WHY ALL THE FUSS?. The Creative Imperative: School Librarians and Teachers Cultivating Curiosity Together, 19.

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