Creativity in Learning


Today we celebrate Halloween in the United States. Halloween provides a good opportunity for children to express themselves and highlight their creativity – costumes, carved pumpkins, scary stories, decorations. Halloween also provides us a great topic for today’s blog post, the topic of creativity.

Ronald Beghetto, a creativity researcher, has described creativity as occupying a “conflicted position” in education. Although teachers and parents say that they value creativity, creativity is not often included in educational practice. Creative expression is often limited to art or music classes, writing seminars, class celebrations, or special events.

The status of creativity in gifted education is similarly conflicted. Although included in federal and research conceptions of giftedness, creativity is not included the guidelines of all state departments of education for identifying gifted students. GRS co-author, Steven Pfeiffer, reported in 2012 that the number of states that included creativity in their definition of giftedness decreased from 30 states in 2000 to 27 states in 2010. At that time, 45 states included intelligence in their definition. According to the 2014-2015 NAGC State of Gifted Education Report, the number of states that included creativity in their state definition at that time declined to 21 states.

In some cases, even though creativity is included in a state’s definition for gifted identification, this category does not stand on its own. For, example, Ohio Department of Education’s definition of Creative Thinking Ability requires students to score one standard deviation above the mean on an intelligence test and also attain a qualifying score on a creativity test or checklist.

Ohio’s definition of creative giftedness aligns with Renzulli’s category of “schoolhouse giftedness”, which refers to students who score well on traditional intellectual assessments and perform well in school. This is in contrast to what Renzulli refers to as “creative/productive giftedness”, which refers to students who develop original knowledge or products and employ integrated and problem oriented thought processes. The Gifted Rating Scale, in its 12-item creativity scale, addresses both types of creativity, highlighting creative thinking, innovative approaches to problem solving and academic activities, and also the production of creative products and activities.

What do restrictive definitions of creativity, or the lack of focus on creativity mean for gifted students and educators? How do we ensure that students who display high creativity as well as those who have the potential for creative thinking are engaged in creative activities?

A research study released just this week can support our work.  The Creativity in Learning Gallup study found that creative thinking in classroom assignments supports higher-order cognitive skills and more engaged and confident learners.  The study described creative activities as those in which students were able to:

  1. choose what to learn in class;
  2. try different ways of doing things;
  3. come up with their own ways to solve a problem;
  4. discuss topics with no right or wrong answer;
  5. create a project to express what they’ve learned;
  6. work on a multidisciplinary project;
  7. work on a project with real-world applications; and
  8. publish or share projects with people outside the classroom.

Teachers who used these strategies in assignments saw in their students higher levels of critical thinking, stronger connections between subjects, deeper knowledge of subject matter, and more effective retention of knowledge than teachers who did not use these strategies to engage the power of students’ creativity. Teachers who used technology to support creative assignments saw the highest learninglevels of cognitive engagement and learning.

The Gallup study provides a compelling argument to ensure that assignments and lessons allow students, particularly highly creative and productive students, to engage their creativity. This is a particularly important, considering another key finding of the study, which supports Ron’s notion of the conflicted position of creativity: despite the fact that teachers and parents agree on the importance of creativity in learning, students spend little time on activities that foster creativity and that connect with real-world applications.

Download a copy of the Creativity in Learning report here to read more about how creativity in learning supports positive outcomes, how technology can support creativity, and the importance of a collaborative and supportive school culture to support creativity in learning. The Gallup study findings can provide evidence to support your work with all students, but particularly with gifted students who might not be experiencing activities that harness and engage their creativity.