Big C and Little c


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Big C and Little c

  1. 1. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c Big-C and Little-c: The Creativity Crisis in the U.S.: How can we encourage students to move toward Big-C solutions? Art educators have the daily joy of seeing little-c performances when children in classrooms discover new techniques, interpret assignments in an original ways, or present fresh images. However, according to a recent article in Newsweek, the flow of enthusiastic, creative production appears to have slowed in the U. S. The article suggests that the lack of creativity development in our schools is a cause of the decline (Bronson & Merryman, 2010) What happens to Creativity in Schools? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi situates creative thinking on the boundaries between disciplines and occupations. Taking Csikszentmihalyi’s view, creative production in education appears to be an oxymoron. Academic structures, such as classes, courses, grade levels, and divisions, divide and isolate experience and knowledge to construct and define academic epistemology within disciplines. The processes contained within academic structures are intended to replicate the disciplines. The replicative nature of these structures limits the potential of teachers and students to incorporate knowledge from other fields and life experiences into their primary disciplines in order to develop useful, innovative solutions and products for problems within and outside of the field. Mark Runco, Director of The Torrance Center for Creativity & Talent Development, recently gave a presentation at East Carolina University. Runco takes the view that creative thinking should be incorporated into all school disciplines. The following is an example of a project that Runco has done. “In his research, Runco asks college students, ‘Think of all the things that could interfere with graduating from college.’ Then he instructs them (college students) to pick one of 1
  2. 2. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c those items and to come up with as many solutions for that problem as possible. This is a classic divergent-convergent creativity challenge. A subset of respondents, like the proverbial Murphy, quickly lists every imaginable way things can go wrong. But they demonstrate a complete lack of flexibility in finding creative solutions.” In Runco’s subsequent research, those who do better in both problem-finding and problem-solving have better relationships. They are more able to handle stress and overcome the bumps life throws their way. A similar study of 1,500 middle- schoolers found that those high in creative self-efficacy had more confidence about their future and ability to succeed. They were sure that their ability to come up with alternatives would aid them, no matter what problems would arise. (Bronson & Merryman, 2020) Similarly, in a community project here at East Carolina University and in Pitt County, we have found that the middle and high school students that we work with are able to identify problems in the community, but they are less able to visualize solutions to these problems. Often their solutions simply visualized the problem and display the image with the prohibit sign. Based on Runco’s work, there is great value in teaching students problem-solving behaviors—to develop reflective thinking and divergent solution generation. Students who have confidence in their problem solving abilities display less stress. Definitions of Creativity and Innovation “Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel (i.e., original, unexpected) and appropriate (i.e., useful, adaptive concerning task restrains)” (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999, p. 3). In creativity studies, researchers enumerate characteristics of persons who are celebrated for creative achievements to find commonalities between these persons. Other researchers conduct cognitive studies to identify and measure creative thinking methods or conditions such as (1) an 2
  3. 3. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c aspect of intelligence; (2) an unconscious process; (3) the ability to solve problems; and (4) an associative process (Brown, 1999). Researchers develop categories of cognitive processes such as problem finding, formulation and redefinition; divergent thinking; synthesis and combination of information; and idea combinations through random or chance-based processes. Studying the cognitive nature of creativity, neuroscientists have begun to look at neural substrates of these processes (Abraham & Windmann, 2007). However, understanding the traits and biological locations of creative cognition in an individual is only one area that explains the multiple facets of creative production (Sawyer, 2006). Creativity may be thought of as a culturally determined process dependent on what a social, cultural, or ethnic group perceives as novel, original, or unexpected and what product or action the group determines as appropriate and useful. Therefore, researchers have begun to focus more attention on the environment surrounding the creative individual and the person’s interactions with the social and cultural contexts of creative production. Although concern with the relationship between environmental factors and intrapersonal factors has been present in creativity research for some time (Brown, 1999, Torrance, 1975), recently there has been an increased interest in the relationship of culture and place to creative production. Interest in explaining varieties of creative expression in many cultures and awareness of the value of creativity in complex modern institutions such as education, business, and community networks has led to new theory. Cognitive scientists, art and design educators, and business researchers have developed systems-oriented models that consider situational factors in the environment as well as the creative factors of an individual person’s cognition and behaviors (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, James, Lederman Gerard, & Vagt-Traore, 2004, Jamil, 2009, Sawyer, 2006, Amabile, 1996). In relation to art educational settings, Clark and Zimmerman (2005) 3
  4. 4. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c identify collaborative group work, supportive environments, and a wide range of tasks among the interventions for nurturing creative talent. These are common environmental factors found in systems-oriented creativity models. For gifted students the problems of situation are large. For example the language and communication skills of the talented student may not be matched to the cultural group where he or she is situated. Creativity and Innovation Finding a relationship between creativity and innovation, Sawyer (2006) suggests that creativity is the science of human innovation, thereby providing a framework that permits exploration of creativity in individuals, groups, organizations, and societies. Innovation is closely associated with the appearance of creativity in social systems and the development of products that require the participation of many people. Designers and economists are likely to speak of innovation because creative results in those fields enlist many interdisciplinary participants (Jamil, 2009). It is the area of social creative development that our Community Problems/Community Solutions project addresses. We want to develop a community that prizes and displays interest in the creative thought of all its members. What is YAEP? The ECU School of Art and Design and other university and community groups have developed a project that has the goal of stimulating creative solutions to community problems. Youth Art Expressions Project (YAEP) exhibits Pitt County Schools students’ artwork in the Greenville Mall. YAEP is a collaborative project sponsored by the Eastern North Carolina Council on Substance Abuse, Citizens’ Coalition Against Violence, The Greenville Police Department, Art Education Program of Pitt County Schools, and East Carolina University School 4
  5. 5. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c of Art & Design and College of Fine Arts and Communication. The YAEP has been in existence for four years and has involved more than 400 students per year. Based on best education practices, the YAEP links instruction in the public schools to organizations and businesses in the community. Goals of the Project The overarching goal of the YAEP Exhibition is to encourage youth to enter into civic dialog and action by imagining and artistically visualizing ways to address current problems related to substance abuse, youth violence, and related social issues. The project links multiple facets of a diverse community to create an innovative community-learning environment to support youth as they develop into healthy, creative, future thinking citizens. The YAEP uses the public space of the Greenville Mall as a forum for social critique and public identity building. The watchword of YAEP might be “Using artistic creativity for the common good.” For the two weeks of the YAEP Exhibition, the Greenville Mall serves as a market place for ideas about the future. We invite any school to participate in the YEAP exhibition. References Abraham, A. & Windmann, S. (2007, May). Neurocognitive mechanisms of creativity: A toolkit. Methods, (42) 1, 38-48. doi:10.1016/j.ymeth.2006.12.007 Amabile, T. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to the social psychology of creativity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Bronson, P. & Merryman, A. (2010, July 10). The creativity crises: For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong and how can we fix it? Newsweek. Retrieved from crisis.print.html Brown, R. T. (1999). Creativity: What are we to measure? In E. P. Torrance, J. A. Glover, R. R. Ronning, & C. R. Reynolds (Eds.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 3-32). New York: Plenum Press. 5
  6. 6. Bickley-Green and Quinn Big-C and Little -c Clark, G. & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Teaching talented art students: Principles and practices. New York: Teachers College Press. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008, December 22). The creative person and the creative context. Retrieved from James, V., Lederman Gerard, R., & Vagt-Traore, B. (2004). Enhancing creativity in the classroom. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from Jamil, S. (2009). The challenge of establishing world-class universities. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank. Sawyer, R. W. (2006). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sternberg, J. R. & Lubart, T. I. (1999). Concept of creativity: Prospects and paradigms. In J. R. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3-14. Torrance, E. P. (1965, Summer). Scientific views of creativity and factors affecting its growth. Daedalus, 94(3), 663-681. Retrieved July 18, 2010, from 6