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[edit] Factors Influencing Creativity in Post-Secondary Education

Creativity is defined by the Oxford dictionary as: relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something. Post-Secondary education has been known for its lack of creativity, supplementing a lack of creative initiative from both students and teachers in the learning environment. This wiki will further discuss the differences between the implementation of creativity in college and university education. As well, it will provide information concerning new ways creativity is being increased and put to practice in the educational system through teaching methods, and lesson plans. Although focus is on curriculum, each notion lends itself to the interrelated concepts surrounding what students can do on their own time to help increase their post secondary experiences through creative outlets.

[edit] Creativity In University and College

As students climb the academic ladder of elementary school through to high school they are faced with the choice of college or university for their post secondary education. Whether they choose college or university, each offers a unique way of fostering creativity through academics and student life.

[edit] College

Many people have started to choose the college route for their post secondary education. There are many benefits to attending a college as opposed to a four year university. For anyone who has sat in a university lecture hall and has listened to a sole professor speak for up to three hours about a topic understands that it is not only boring, but one minded and does not foster the students creativity. In college, it is believed that students thrive due to the smaller class sizes, the ability to have more intimate social relationships with not only their peers, but with their professors, allowing for fluid learning and creative learning styles.

College has always been viewed as much more hands on than University, offering visual and kinesthetic learners a much more interactive environment for them to thrive in. Carla Hannaford[1], author of Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head reveals that this is indeed true; “My college students have commented that just having clay available to manipulate during a lecture allowed them to more easily take in information. Whenever touch is combined with the other senses, much more of the brain is activated, thus building more complex nerve networks and tapping into more learning potential.”

Similarly to Hannaford, Donnelly[2] states that creativity comes from tacit and intuitive understanding and to achieve creativity, the need to express this tacit and pragmatic knowledge through work is extremely significant. College can offer an environment that allows for the expression of tacit knowledge and creativity by both the teacher and the student. A creative curriculum will ensure creativity in the learning process which is essential for students in higher education[2]. The aspect of teaching creativity to students and inspiring them to include creative expression in their work is of utmost importance and can be implemented through guided project work and training students through work in a creative process[3].

[edit] University

As the number of university applicants and students increase, this means larger class sizes, growing tuition costs and an environment not conducive to creativity. Gibson[4] states that in University classes’ creativity from both professor and student is necessary for success, but when a lecturer is speaking to 100 plus students they are pressed for time and inspiring creativity on an individual level comes with increasing difficulty. Not only in University, but College as well, there are restricted choices for students, increased competition, conforming pressures, strict evaluations, amplified risk for failure and repetitive and routine learning that can effortlessly wipe out creativity in any educational setting[4].

According to Huerta, Watt, and Reyes[5] students with goals of graduating from post secondary education have more potential to succeed if they choose a four year university versus a two year college as students in college often have part time jobs and will take longer to complete their degree in college. Huerta, Watt and Reyes[5] also address the development of relationships with students and their professors as well as their peers. Students who attend university are more likely to develop relationships with their professors and other students due to their environment as opposed to students in college who often view their professors as callous towards their academic success.

[edit] Fostering Creativity In Higher Education

More often than not teachers in higher education maintain their focus on reporting the content information instead of acknowledging students and how they differ in their learning styles and strategies and to tailor their lessons to encourage learning and creativity[5]. Eljarh[6] addresses creativity in higher education and suggests that innovation and creativity needs to be implemented in a way that encourages staff and students to develop in new and different directions that have not been formerly promoted.

The government of Ontario[7] has recently implemented new ways to conduct creativity in universities and colleges which will help encourage students to engage in new and innovation learning. The vision presented by the government is:

“Ontario’s colleges and universities will drive creativity, innovation, knowledge, and community engagement through teaching and research. They will put students first by providing the best possible learning experience for all qualified learners in an affordable and financially sustainable way, ensuring high quality and globally competitive outcomes for students.”

Sir Ken Robinson addresses the ideas of teaching creativity in higher learning to ensure not only success in school and academia, but also living in our world;

“Teaching for creativity aims to encourage self-confidence, independence of mind, and the capacity to think for oneself.”

Donnelly[2] addresses teaching creativity not only for school success, but for life in general since we live in a complicated world and for most students in post secondary education, the world is filled with problems for which simple solutions are hard to come by. By teaching creatively and implementing creative and tacit learning through school curriculums, students will be better suited for not only survival in this world, but to thrive successfully and will have the ability to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.

[edit] Extra-curricular Activities and Universities

As a child, we are open put into after-school activities such as soccer, dance and piano lessons. If we had asked why, our parents would tell us, “It's good for you, keeps you out of trouble” and so you continued. Now, grown up and in post secondary schooling, these extra curricular activities continue to appear on most people's schedules. Does the same principle still stand all these years later, that these activities will promote positive behaviors? This is the big question that many psychologists are pursuing to answer. With age comes greater responsibility, and in turn many wonder if these extra curricular activities aid in the productivity and grades in post secondary education, or if they help develop an advantage through team work and creativity.

[edit] What are considered extra-curricular activities:

  • Sports
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Art
  • Creative outlets
  • Work
  • Volunteer work

[edit] Concerns with Extra-curricular Activities in Post-Secondary Schooling

[edit] Over Scheduling

One of the greatest concerns with such extra-curricular activities for students in post-secondary education is that the students over-schedule themselves with too many activities, leaving them with less time to properly prioritize their time. This theory is called the Over-scheduling Hypothesis.[8] Much research has been conducted observing psychological characteristics of adolescents and young adults, and the differences in those who participated in extra activities and those who did not. A study published in 2012 observed youth in a longitudinal study and observed the differences between those who participated and those who did not.[9] It was found that on average these students only allocated a portion of their “down time” to extra curricular. Those that did participate in extra curricular activities displayed significant results to suggest that it increased positive adjustment in young adult hood.[9] In proper moderation these activities can cause positive outcomes in future decision making for students in post-secondary schooling.

[edit] Emotional Stressors

[edit] Working Students

If activities that take up time other than school activities are considered to be extra curricular activities that can negatively impact post-secondary performance than work should be of equal consideration. Many students have part-time, if not full-time jobs to help pay for schooling, but does this “extra curricular” really negatively impact performance in university or college life? When adding work to the schedule, students must learn to balance not only school work, and their social life, but they also need to balance in this third variable. In a study published in 2012, it was found that students grade point was not significantly different from one another depending on if they worked or not. [10] Thus, these students were found to minimize their socialization rather than their school work when needing to incorporate a work schedule into their university life.[10] This displays that by filling one's schedule with meaningful extra-curriculars, students learn prioritization skills.

[edit] Extra-curricular Vs. School work.

A big debate amongst those arguing against extra-curricular activities concerning school grades, is that having these extra-curricular activities causes extra stress upon the students, which will effect their school grades. At the same time, the same counter argument can be made, that these extra-curricular activities are a positive part of their life. Students participate in these activities to relieve stress and let off steam. When studies have been observed, it has been shown that the placement in the semesters work is the main cause of stressors in students.[11] When observing students that have been both active and inactive participants in extracurricular activities, it has shown that there is not much significance in degree of stress in these students. What is most significant is the period of the semester in which they are going through. Mid-terms, exam time, and essay writing are what caused the greatest spikes in stress for these students.[11] Meaning that electives did not show negative consequences such as causing increased stress for students.

[edit] Socialization and Transferable skills

Although there are many arguments that have attempted to go against participation in extra-curricular activities in post secondary education, they also provide many beneficial elements to the development of young adults. These activities are often used as outlets, or for pleasure, something fun to do in the spare time available between work and school. The wonderful thing about extra curricular are the transferable skills that can be taken away from their participation

[edit] Transferable skills

Transferable Skills Checklist[12]

  • Problem Solving
  • Team motivating
  • Manage money
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Begin Tactful


By participating in these activities, especially sports teams, one must learn to interact with others and work as a team. The socialization and the encouragement of team work produce skills that will be of great importance in the professional atmosphere. These skills will be used in not only the job market once graduated but when needing to work with classmates throughout school. By obtaining these skills one could even improve grades.[13] It was found that in the workplace, employers looked for extracurricular activities. Many looked at this for longterm commitment of the student. Volunteer work was also strongly looked at displaying communication skills and qualities of their personality.[13]

[edit] Creativity in the University Classroom

Along with the outside factors like choosing university or college and extra-curricular activities, the environment surrounding a university student inside the classroom can help facilitate or hinder their creativity as well. Teaching styles of the professors, the layout of the classroom and the use of colors and design can contribute to the creativity of university students.[14] The following is focused on discussing how the environmental aspects like the layout of the classroom and teaching styles of professors contributes to the creativity of university students and how this is relevant for students in the future once they graduate.

One of the major purposes of obtaining a university education is to prepare students for the job market once they graduate and teach them the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Our economy is in a shift toward more creative innovative technological ways of doing things, which is what Warner and Myers [14] found from their review of current research on the creativity. If students are sitting in non-stimulating classrooms being lectured at instead of being promoted to engage and to express their individuality and creativity, then when they enter the modern job market, they will be unfit and unprepared. Therefore, the more universities promote creativity by the layout and color of the classroom, and the more professors can keep their students engaged and facilitate their creativity, the better their odds are of being successful outside of the classroom. We can see from this clip that some professors like Professor Andy Aylesworth from Bentley University are starting to see this trend in the job market and are trying to enhance student creativity. [15]

[edit] Environmental Conditions

In an overview of the current literature on what effects university students creativity in the classroom, Warner and Myers [14] found that the lighting and use of colors effect creativity and are often overlooked for the content of course material. They found that research suggests that natural lighting, the use of bold colors and unique shapes and classroom design are all favorable factors to have in a classroom. These factors enhance the students’ creativity, energy and involvement. Using bright yellow and orange colors on the walls have found to stimulate creativity in students as well as reduce anxiety and provide a sense of calm.[14] When students are energized and more focused they will be more likely to engage in learning and take creative risks.

[edit] Professor Teaching Styles

Jankowska and Atlay [16] found that having open discussion and utilizing collaboration among students working together helps facilitate creativity but that working alone should be integrated as well. They tested this open environment discussion concept and found that it helped create a connection between professors and students, helps them stay mentally engaged and if students feel more involved they are more likely to try harder to get better grades. [16]

Professors that place more importance on facilitating the students learning actively as opposed to passively lecturing have shown to help students’ creativity. [17] In addition, utilizing group discussions, self-reflection, and giving students as much control and autonomy over their work as possible fosters creativity and learning. These results were found from Horng et al.[17] from their interview process they went through with students and successful instructors. The students suggested that they learned the best and had the best experience from the type of student-centered learning mentioned above. As well, the top rated instructors were the ones who were already doing all of these things and fostering creative thinking and learning in the students. [17] We can also see from the image provided the difference between a fixed and creative mindset and how adopting a creative mindset can have many positive results. [18]

[edit] What Can Professors do to Foster Creativity in their Students?

Based off the studies done by several researchers, the best way professors can foster creativity in their university students' is to use active learning strategies. This includes class discussions and groups, having the students be actively engaged in the material by participating and problem-solving. The research from Jankowska and Atlay [16] and Yang [19] suggests that the learning needs to be student focused, needs to give the students the individuality to choose their best way of learning and taking notes and to put them in an environment that creates a relaxing, focused and inspiring setting upon which to learn and express themselves. [16];[19]

Another way professors can encourage creativity among their students’ is to use problem-solving techniques that promote a challenge to the students’ that helps them think independently and creatively on their own or in groups on how to solve the given problem. [20] Giving students problems to solve enhances their ability to critically think on their own to find solutions and engages them in the learning process.

[edit] The Effects of Assessments on Creativity in Higher Education Students

One of the ways that creativity can be stifled in higher education is the way that students are assessed by educators and how they are forced to follow the school curriculum.[21] Creativity is very important for the world today especially when there are strains on our political and financial institutions, on health care, and in our education.[22] We need ingenuity, imagination, and creativity to tackle these problems.[22] Many companies are looking for people who can be innovative and be able to think differently.[22] Currently, instead of promoting creativity, we are systematically educating children out of it.[22] Traditional methods of assessment stifle creativity in students through the use of standardized tests or grades.

[edit] Tests for Assessing Creativity

Is it possible to test creativity? How can one judge a piece of work as creative while deeming others as not? There have been several tests that have been created in order to assess different aspects of creativity, like divergent thinking, which is an important component to creativity. Divergent thinking is the ability to think of a variety of solutions or interpretations to a question and to not think in a linear fashion.[21] Having divergent thinking is an essential ability for creativity. [21]

[edit] Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT)

This test is used to assess individuals' capacity for creativity . It was developed by Paul Torrance in 1966 and it has been widely used to test creativity and is used in the educational field and in the corporate world.[23] Subjects are given specific tasks and at the end of the allotted time given to complete the task, they are given to a specialist for assessment. An example of one of the tasks in the TTCT is giving a picture of an incomplete figure and asking the subject to complete the picture by drawing what they think it could be. This test measures divergent thinking and the skills of creative production and behaviour.[24]

Listed here is a link to a gallery with additional examples of drawings from the Torrance test .[25]

The TTCT can be used to get a general idea of a person's creative ability, identify gifted children, and for instructional learning.[23] Creativity needs to be assessed at a young age to ensure that creativity is not forever lost as students become older and reach university. A study was conducted where students who took the TTCT between 1958 and 1962 were followed over the past 50 years in a longitudinal study.[24] The TTCT has been shown to have predictive validity by finding that those who scored highest when they first took the test show the most creative achievements as adults.[24] By using the TTCT, one can use it to make individualized plans for different students based on the test scores.[23] If these tests were administered to students, it can give the educator an idea about students' thought process specifically creative thinking. Assessing creativity and creating plans to enhance it at a young age is beneficial in the future when the students grow up and go into higher education.

[edit] Effects of Standardized Testing

According to Gallagher[26], standardized scholastic testing was implemented In assess students' knowledge and determine levels of proficiency. In “Assessing What Matters”, Sternberg[27] says that standardized assessments like the SAT reasoning test, which tests one's reading, writing and math skills, and the SAT subject test (content-based tests that allow a student to show their achievement in a specific subject where they excel), mainly assesses a person's remembered knowledge and analytical skills. Creativity, practical thinking, and wisdom are characteristics that are rarely assessed in these tests. This shows that creativity is something that is not looked for in students which is a problem because it gives the idea that creativity is not an important characteristic to have.

Sternberg[27] believes that educators should teach their students to be active and engaged citizens who embody qualities of leadership. Educators should cease only teaching students facts from books because it does not prepare them for the real world. For Sternberg[27], he found he was using skills that could not be easily observed or tested on traditional forms of assessment while he was in school (i.e. pen and paper tests): creativity, wisdom, teamwork, ethics, honesty, etc.


Sir Ken Robinson, who is a creativity expert, talks about the effects of standardized tests on student's creativity. The culture of standardized testing is counterproductive, having students sit in rows and not discovering the things that invigorate them or turn them on.[22] We are now completely alienating people from their own talents and, therefore, from the whole process of education.[22] He also states that we are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them.[21] Instead of this, we should be waking them up to what is inside themselves.[21] The growth of standardized testing causes conformity and instead we should go in the opposite direction.[21]


Joel Westheimer, a professor from the University of Ottawa, argued that large-scale assessment tests like the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) threaten democracy [28] The EQAO is used to measure student achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to Ontario Curriculum expectations.[29] They foster an education system where creativity and critical thinking are devalued and students are rewarded for not questioning authority.[28] He goes on to say that teachers are only focused on test preparation for students, i.e. how to pass the test.[28]

[edit] Grades

The concept of grades makes students think that their only concern in education is to achieve a high mark in order to get a good job in the future.[30] This causes them to think that acquiring knowledge, academic exploration, and intellectual ability is purely an instrumental activity.[30] [31] The education system teaches students that their only concern is whether or not a specific topic will be on the next test or whether the final exam will be cumulative.[30] As young students begin their schooling, they are quite inquisitive and excited to learn.[32] Winger[32]describes how young children are naturally inquisitive, but once they enter into the school system, the curriculum stifles any creativity or curiosity for compliance, to push for high grades and memorization instead of learning and inquiring. By creating meaningful grade components and separating out non-academic factors to guarantee that we assess true learning, one can use grades as a communication tool instead of a goal.[32]

[edit] Notes and References

  1. Hannaford, C. (1995). Smart moves: Why learning is not all in your head. Great River Books.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Donnelly, R. (2004). Fostering of creativity within an imaginative curriculum in higher education. The Curriculum Journal , 15(2),
  3. Lemmy, K., Teo, C., & Waugh, R. F. (2010). A rasch measure of fostering creativity. Creativity Research Journal ,22(2), 206-218
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gibson, R. (2010). The 'art' of creative teaching: Implications for higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(5), 607-613.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Huerta , J., Watt, K. M., & Reyes, P. (2013). An examination of avid graduates’ college preparation and postsecondary progress: Community college versus 4-year university students. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 12(1), 86-101.
  6. Eljarh, M. (2012, December 16). Need for a new higher education focus on innovation and creativity. University World News, p. 252.
  7. Government of Ontario. Ministry of Training , Colleges and Universities (2012). Strengthening Ontario's centres of creativity, innovation and knowledge (12-030) Queen's Printer for Ontario.
  8. Fredricks, J. (2012). Extracurricular participation and academic outcomes: Testing the over-scheduling hypothesis. J Youth Adolescence, 41, 295-306. doi: 10.1007/s10964-011-9704-0
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mahoney, J., & Vest, A. (2012). The over-scheduling hypothesis revisited: Intensity of organized activity participation during adolescence and young adult outcomes. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(3), 409–418. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2012.00808.x.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lang, K. (2012). The similarities and differences between working and non-working students at a mid-sized american public university. College Student Journal, 46(2), 243-255.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Goldring, M. (2012). Cycling through the blues: The impact of systematic external stressors on student mental states and symptoms of depression. Academic Learning & Achievement, 46(3), 680-696.
  12. Transferable skills checklist. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.roguecc.edu/emp/Resources/transferable_skills_checklist.htm
  13. 13.0 13.1 Stuart, M. et. al,(2011) The impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 203-215. doi: 10.1177/1469787411415081
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Warner, S. A., & Myers, K. L. (2009). The Creative Classroom: The Role of Space and Place Toward Facilitating Creativity. Technology Teacher, 69(4), 28-34.
  15. Aylesworth, A. (2012, December 19). Bentley University prepares students to be creative. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xVh1flgrl0.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Jankowska, M., & Atlay, M. (2008). Use of creative space in enhancing students' engagement. Innovations In Education & Teaching International, 45(3), 271-279. doi:10.1080/14703290802176162.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Horng, J. S., Hong, J. C., ChanLin, L. J., Chang, S. H., & Chu, H. C. (2005). Creative teachers and creative teaching strategies. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 29(4), 352-358.
  18. What is Creativity? (2012). Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/07/teaching-creativity-simplified for.html
  19. 19.0 19.1 Yang, H. E. (2004, May). To Foster Students’ Creativity through Classroom Teaching. In Fourth International Conference on ELT in China: New Directions in ELT in China.
  20. Livingston, L. (2010). Teaching Creativity in Higher Education. Arts Education Policy Review, 111(2), 59-62. doi:10.1080/10632910903455884.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 Robinson, K. (2010, October 14). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 Azzam, A.M. (2009). Why creativity now? A conversation with sir ken robinson. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 22-26.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Kim, K.H. (2006). Can we trust creativity tests? A Review of the torrance tests of creative thinking (TTCT). Creativity Research Journal, 18(1),3-14.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Millar, G. & Dahl, C. (2011). The power of creativity. ATA Magazine, 91(3), Retrieved from http://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA Magazine/Volume-91/Number3/Pages/Thepowerofcreativity.aspx
  25. Bronson, P. (2010, July 9). How creative are you?. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/galleries/2010/07/10/creativity-test.html
  26. Gallagher, C. J. (2003). Reconciling a tradition of testing with a new learning paradigm. Educational Psychology Review 15(1): 83–99.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Sternberg, R. J. (2007). Assessing what matters. Educational Leadership, 65(4), 20-26. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec07/vol65/num04/Assessing-What-Matters.aspx.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Brand, J. (March 2010). Campaign against EQAO launched. ETFO Voice, 12,(3),7-9.
  29. Queen's Printer for Ontario, (2013) About EQAO. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/AboutEQAO/AboutEQAO.aspx?Lang=E
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Jaffee, D. (2012, April 22). Stop telling students to study for exams. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Stop-Telling-Students-to-Study/131622/
  31. Rivero, L. (2012, April 28). Education reform, one assignment at a time. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201204/education-reform-one-assignment-time
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Winger, T. (November 2005). Grading to communicate. Education Leadership, 61-65.
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