Teaching creativity in higher education


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Teaching creativity in higher education

  1. 1. ARTS EDUCATION POLICY REVIEW, 111: 59–62, 2010 Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1063-2913 DOI: 10.1080/10632910903455884 Teaching Creativity in Higher Education Larry Livingston University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA Individual creativity is ubiquitous. New technologies both enable and urge fresh approaches to creativity in the context of education. University-level education offers a natural place to adjust pedagogical structures in favor of a more individual approach to learning that organizes the intellectual community into new patters of interaction and time allocation. This direction is made possible by the vast improvements in access to information, data, knowledge, and opinion. College students live in this world of access, in an ever-expanding sea of material. Networking second-by-second is central to their zeitgeist. The result is far more than social. Interaction and collaboration are now important in most workplaces, and are expected to be even more important in the future. Higher education needs to use its natural resources in ways that develop content knowledge and skills in a culture infused at new levels by investigation, cooperation, connection, integration, and synthesis. Creativity is necessary to accomplish this goal. When central and culturally pervasive, creativity becomes exemplified and enhanced for every student. Problem solving becomes the driving pedagogy. Problem solving is a technique that can be advanced through practice, but practice takes time. Universities must meet the challenge of reapportioning time if suggested changes are to occur. These matters are important to P–12 arts education, because colleges prepare teachers and citizens who then provide leadership. Possibilities abound for changing paradigms that now hold arts education back in many policy situations. It is important to take advantage of opportunities inherent in the coincidence of present conditions, youthful energy, technological capabilities, and interest in creativity. Keywords: creativity, curriculum, higher education, student learning, technological culture Human beings are inherently creative. We confront and deal To establish a new experiential paradigm centered on cul- with issues large and small through our capacity to produce tivating creativity requires nothing less than an institutional and invent as a means of negotiating life. A carpenter designs intervention. As long as we cleave only to traditional peda- a window frame of irregular shape and brings into existence gogies and courses of study that leave little or no room for something heretofore unseen. A chef comes up with a recipe new experiences, we will not find the time or space necessary for peach flamb´ and generates a work of culinary art. A e for nurturing the act of creativity. football player runs a passing route but suddenly diverges How can we find or make room for creativity? One so- to catch a touchdown pass, and, in the process, performs an lution may lie in turning the technological expertise of our unplanned act of striking originality. As a result, creativity is students into a greater asset. We start by fully accepting a neither foreign nor new to our students. They come to school fact. Operating with almost organic technological facility, with a life history of creativity, whether it is manifested in the our students traverse the ether like Evelyn Woods–trained use of the Internet, various extracurricular pursuits, or even, virtuosos of old foraging in a library. Although the label occasionally, the classroom. Hence, we need not fret over might seem stiff to them, college freshmen are highly pro- how to encourage creative behavior in our schools. However, ficient “researchers” at heart, chasing down books, friends, we do have an obligation to explore the means by which ideas, facts, clothes, experiences, and music—and the list is we may anchor creativity in the mission of our educational much longer—on a global scale, instantaneously connected, institutions. rarely lingering more than a few seconds on any Web site. Across this increasingly more powerful modality of behav- Correspondence should be sent to Larry Livingston, University of South- ior, creative thinking, being, and doing are constants. In fact, ern California, 2438 North Altadena Drive, Altadena, CA 91001, USA. it is the play of creative interaction, dialogue, inquisition, and E-mail: llivings@usc.edu imagination all firing concurrently, that feeds the young. It is
  2. 2. 60 LIVINGSTON what we might have wished for long ago if we had only been teachers and students alike, who provide opportunities for prescient enough to see it in the offing. We must find ways of sparking and enlarging one’s creative processes. Each human integrating the use of the Internet not only into the mission being has a unique way of looking at the universe. As well, statement, but into the curriculum itself. each has a distinctive imagination, the seedbed from which Second, we must be willing to honor and live up to the true originality grows. If the academy wishes to center its priority of the university as an institution about learning, mission on honing creativity, it can best do so by pedagogies not teaching. Historical assumptions that these two actions that maximize opportunities for students to practice being automatically articulate are more than ever in need of review. inventive. Although it is a normal form of human behavior, If indeed, learning is the goal, we need to rethink the role of creativity is also a technique, a skill that can be developed pedagogical constructs, such as the classroom lecture, that and refined over time. have long stood as absolutes in the university catechism. The classroom lecture format is, by nature, not a natural Although lectures can be provocative and highly personal, laboratory for interaction and collaboration. Making the cur- the format itself presumes that requiring students to sit in a riculum about interpersonal exchange opens the experience lecture hall and parallel-process information meted out by a for every student to express, share, and test his or her creative “sage on the stage” is a powerful didactic strategy. In fact, instincts. Exchange turns the historical paradigm around and much of what is presented in the typical university lecture makes the presence of other students and faculty the core can be easily acquired on the Internet. attribute of the curriculum and the scheduled classes value Imagine Philosophy 101 in an alternative paradigm. The added. professor gives two lectures at the beginning of the semester In Daniel Pink’s seminal book, A Whole New Mind, he covering the major points and concepts to be comprehended, makes the point that in the twenty-first-century workplace, and then, fully supported by a digital syllabus, office hours for collaborative thinking and interacting will be increasingly individual help, and the Web itself, simply gives midterm and core. Although jobs will change, diverge, and morph, em- final exams based on the course content. In this arrangement, ployers are more and more going to seek workers who the student is given the responsibility to do the work, but on a are adept at teamwork and capable of contributing original schedule of his own making. Those students who wish for or thought to group assignments and tasks. As the university’s need more personal help can find it by accessing the professor purpose lies beyond mere career preparation, it is also in- in private tutorials. Meanwhile, the professor and students cumbent on the academy to validate the college diploma as are now released from the constraints of a lecture-oriented relevant to the future of its graduates. Therefore, the curricula class-meeting schedule to interact in small group settings and must be intentionally formed around courses, projects, and creatively explore the applied and social viability aspects of seminars in which both collaboration and creativity work in Philosophy 101. consort. We have always learned from each other. As universi- Through such normalized routines as social networking, ties have evolved over centuries, they have become environ- text messaging, playing interactive games on the Internet, ments in which credit is given for enrolling in classes, with partying, or simply enjoying each other’s company, young the community of students and faculty presumed to be value people coact as a matter of course. The road to collaboration- added. At its nucleus, the academy has a pedagogy that en- based curricula and programs has been paved by the students tails a highly organized means for conveying information, themselves. They have presented us with a gift that we need ideas, and concepts. However useful traditional pedagogy only unwrap. has been in the service of human enlightenment, the goal of Young people show up at our doorsteps as informational a school cannot simply be the dissemination, but rather, must omnivores, which the digital domain both prompts and cul- be the absorption, of information. In recent years, the cost tivates. If we are to challenge and stretch students’ creative of higher education has soared, running well past the annual capacities, we need to enthusiastically celebrate the reality consumer price index. Concurrently, the job market is fraught that each of them has long been a habitu´ in a multidiscipline e with rapid change and the evanescence of stable ongoing po- world. It is the university that has clung to discipline-specific sitions. Now, only in the credential-dependent professions, study and has only recently been attracted to interdisciplinary such as medicine or law, may a college diploma be a reli- concepts as meriting inclusion in the academy. The reason able asset. This circumstance begs the question, “Why go to our students are technological omnivores is because they college?” can be. The Internet does not parse information by “siloed” The answer may be found in the university’s greatest as- characteristics, but is instead an open-ended system that the set: human capital. Because the Web acts as an Archimedes navigator organizes based on his or her predilections. Our stu- spiral of content, information expanding outward from each dents investigate all manner of diverse topics without being site and link in the vast realms of the digital domain, virtu- trapped by discipline-based limitations. They do so because ally everything can be studied at home by a student who is no one has told them otherwise. motivated, enterprising, and technologically facile. What is The university has been invited by every entering class not easily available at home is a community of individuals, to build experiences that flow gracefully into the stream of
  3. 3. TEACHING CREATIVITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION 61 learning behaviors by which students have grown up. The universities have also been highly adaptive, able to re-valence multidiscipline river is ours to use as we wish, to swim and themselves in the face of large cultural changes. We now con- wade in rather than dam up or portage around. By what front a challenge of perhaps greater import than ever before means could this task be best accomplished? By carving as a result of rising costs and the availability of increasingly out time in the curriculum to work in collaborative, small- competitive and easily accessed alternative forms of learn- group formats, addressing issues both relevant and timely. ing centering on the Internet. It is precisely at such a tipping By seeking creative solutions to problems that cut across a point that curricular transformation, or, more to the point, ex- battery of subjects or disciplines. By using human capital as periential transformation, is ours for the taking. We have the a credit-bearing framework for shared quests. By providing critical mass of equipment, buildings, staff, and, most signif- time and space for students to mentor each other. By letting go icantly, the human capital to once again adapt. It is simply a of the need to replicate old pedagogical models as educational matter of will. anchors and instead crafting new formats that tether students Although universities are optimally positioned to address to each other and to joint enterprises that can only be realized the place of creativity in the collegiate experience, their through cooperation. By importing into the daily business of preparation of K–12 arts teachers is a natural subset of that the university the all-night informal dialogues, sometimes initiative. Taking action is important for P–12 arts education known as “bull sessions,” which have been for decades the in a number of ways. Colleges prepare P–12 teachers in the sine qua non of dormitory life. arts and other disciplines, and, as well, educate a significant Our graduates face a world of ever more perplexing proportion of the citizenry. What colleges teach and the ways change. The stable days are gone, perhaps forever. The crux they teach impact the future of arts education and public un- of creative behavior is all about change, or at least changing derstanding, not only about specific knowledge and skills something. If we can transform our educational institutions required for graduation, but also about the content and na- to make change part of every topic we study rather than the ture of knowledge and skill development. P–12 arts education daunting future we face, creativity becomes our most pow- suffers in the policy arena, partly because there is no common erful tool. Inventive people relish challenges, surprises, and understanding among a critical mass of people, including the even impediments. I remember the parting comments of Nor- college educated, about connections across arts study and man Hackerman when he retired from his role as President of the development of individual capacities and capabilities to Rice University. Citing the many things he would rue losing, work creatively with content. There seems to be a disinclina- Hackerman said, “I will miss most the problems, for it is the tion to find solutions that work when more than one solution problems which inspire our best selves, our most rewarding is possible. The arts are thus seen either as a nonintellec- days, our most creative acts.” tual realm, or as an intellectual realm that is unconnected to Practicing problem solving as a team game should be part more serious pursuits like science, technology, engineering, of every student’s experience. The problems can be specific and math, a realm that encompasses and nurtures a glam- or general, big or small. The question is how to develop orous playground for the talented and their patrons. In this facility in responding to problems. This, like any technique, benighted paradigm, serious arts study is viewed as perfectly can be practiced. Tackling a problem by oneself is useful fine for the interested and talented, but not necessary or par- and can help build skill. Practicing problem solving as a ticularly useful for anyone else; artistic creativity is placed in group initiative, however, opens doors to new approaches a jeweler’s box and admired as something beautiful but unre- and devices for coping. The university is a perfect beta-site lated to other kinds of work. Over time, the kind of curricular for working at acquiring a bigger repertoire of strategies. transformation recommended here can counter the thrust of Creativity is often referred to as a panacea, as part of this paradigm, particularly if university professors who teach the new “must be good” jargon in education. It is important the arts and prepare arts teachers seize the opportunities of to remember that creativity absent a meritorious goal is not the present time. Such transformation can address perennial automatically a good thing. Hitler was very creative. So were problematic conditions and current needs by establishing a Osama Bin Laden and Bernie Madoff. Creativity becomes a new, experiential strategy that centers on cultivating creativ- force of great value when it is applied to causes that benefit ity. If we work purposefully within higher education, P–12 humankind and the world at large. The study and application arts education can be brought into a new relationship with of creative behavior, then, should also be designed around P–12 education in general without losing the essences of the social justice and objectives that promote the general welfare. arts disciplines or the rigor and goals for excellence that they The motto, “It is not enough to do well. One must also do exemplify. good,” should pertain to every curricular experience, in every The ultimate question, then, is not how to teach creativity, forum in which creativity is being nurtured. but rather how to understand, harvest, and build up the very Universities are among the oldest institutions on the creativity that every student already possesses and uses. The planet. They have survived for many centuries by contribut- answers may be multiple and diverse, but, inevitably, we must ing not only to the education of their students, but also by summon the courage to reexamine the typical university cur- enriching the commonweal. As part of their vaunted history, riculum. By “reexamine,” I do not mean simply yet another
  4. 4. 62 LIVINGSTON exercise in curricular revision culminating in a “new” design advantage of their instinctual imaginings, which may begin that is little more than an ornamental version of the old one. with the fantasy palaces of youth, but which can be shep- I mean a fundamental commitment to transform the univer- herded into the magical corridors of adult purpose. I mean sity experience based on the unprecedented opportunity that centering school on helping students become agile brokers the modern information age makes possible. I mean looking of their own destinies, determined to spread goodness in the afresh at how four years can be structured to place the quest culture at large. I mean focusing our efforts on how we want for enlightenment at the center of the institutional mission, the graduates of our universities to be, and not just on what and to focus on the development of the whole human as an we want them to know. I mean growing the Ninja citizens of emerging societal adept. I mean making the sacred asset of the future. human capital core to the educational purpose and curricu- lum of the academy. I mean placing collaborative fora in the heart of the curriculum. I mean helping to forge decision REFERENCE makers who see creativity as an art form, as the instrument by which one becomes not only an able responder to, but Pink, D. H. 2005. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to also an agent for change. I mean helping young people take the Conceptual Age. New York: Penguin. Articles in this symposium are derived from several presen- tations held at the Teaching Creativity conference at University of Wyoming, February 24–26, 2009. This conference was part of a four-conference series titled Creativity, Curiosity, Col- laboration, led by Richard E. Miller, Chair and Professor of English at Rutgers University, and Mark Sheridan-Rabideau, Professor of Music at University of Wyoming.
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