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[edit] Creativity in Education

At present, creativity is not being fostered in the education system. This is due to the fact that the current system was built for the students of a bygone era. The change in today's student population demands a new educational system from elementary school to higher education. The rigidity of the current educational model creates a problem for both students and educators alike because it is not fostering creativity and stifles motivation to change.[1] In fact, both Eastern and Western cultures do not value creativity as much in the classroom since the majority of teachers often associate creative students with nonconformity and impulsiveness.[2] In certain cultures it is more difficult to emphasize creativity when students live in rural areas as opposed to urban due to lack of funding.[3] This lack of financial support for creative programs leads back to the issue that the government does not value creativity as much as other professions like engineering or science fields. Nevertheless, if creativity is not fostered in a school environment, there are other ways to promote creativity such as parental involvement, extra curricular activities and community programs outside of school.[4][5]

[edit] Is there a problem?

Some of the key issues that this wiki will investigate include:

  • The education system of Canada was established during a time of consolidation and growth, but public education has not yet changed to accommodate the new generation of students from elementary to post-secondary schooling.[6]
  • How cultural differences value creativity in students and the attitudes of educators.
  • How financial support for arts programs that foster creativity are not widely available to students.
  • Alternative solutions outside of school, specifically how parental involvement, extracurricular activities, and community programs can promote creativity in students.

[edit] History of Education

The establishment of formal public schooling in the late nineteenth century had a curriculum that consisted mostly of arithmetic, writing, geography and grammar as the basics. [6] It wasn't until some years later when creative subjects such as music or art became part of the curriculum and even then teachers were resistant to the subjects in favour of the classic subjects.[6] "As children remained in school longer, class sizes and schools grew proportionally; and as students had to master a broader range of subjects, the workload of many teachers increased", making the mastery of subjects like music or drawing a daunting task for many educators at the turn of the century.[6]

The higher education system was originally intended only for elite individuals where the development of intellect remained of the utmost importance until the mid-20th century.[7] The introduction to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century incorporated engineers, scientists, and technologists into the realm of higher education and specialized training in order to compete with other nations.[7] With this shift, there was no longer a distinct focus on nurturing intellect or creative thinking because the purpose of university changed to accommodate industrial capitalism.[7]

With the industrial revolution came a mass of education reforms and the advancement of technical and managerial positions, which sidelined agricultural jobs.[8] These new professions required a mastery of abstract principles so the role of education became a motivator for innovation and creativity to support the social change.[8] A magazine article by Folger illustrates how the change in society and increasing intelligence influenced changes in educational reform.[8] At the time, this was a necessary and widespread movement but its relevance in modern society is questionable.

[edit] Why is it a problem NOW?

Overcrowded lecture hall of a university
Overcrowded lecture hall of a university

The current state of learning does not recognize the rapid evolution that separates the modern student population and society from an era that focused on skills accommodating for the industrial revolution. There is less concentration on fostering creativity because higher learning has become an industry like any other business.[7] An interactive web article by The Globe and Mail highlights some of the key issues such as overcrowding, disengaged students, and lack of innovative thinking in Canadian higher education.

Students are taught that ‘hard skills’ like programming or accounting are deemed more useful in society despite evidence that employers often value soft skills like communication and teamwork when assessing job candidates.[9] Getting a job is the main focus of students in higher education but universities give little to no guidance about job prospects or how to apply learned skills after graduating.[10] A study by Burke analyzed student perceptions of personal skills acquired during their undergraduate degree program and found that students were able to identify many different skills but had difficulty communicating those skills to prospective employers.[9] Students are being provided with the relevant information, but they lack experience and the ability to transfer learned skills into real situations.[9]

[edit] Fostering Creative Thinking

The industrial revolution had a tremendous impact on the development of the education system, but it is not sustainable in light of the current changes to society. Reforming education is a difficult but necessary task that must be undertaken in order to reestablish its relevance and usefulness for today’s student population.[7] The following video illustrates the issues associated with the unsustainability of the traditional education system:


As the video illustrates, the current learning parameters that define today's education system are not giving the opportunity to express creativity, which is necessary for innovative thinking. To tackle this issue in the Canadian education system, a comparison must be made with other cultures in order to determine whether or not the stifling of creativity is a universal phenomenon.

[edit] Culture and Creativity in Education

[edit] Defining Creativity

It is important to understand the difference in creativity amongst cultures before looking at how creativity in education differs amongst cultures; this is important because what one culture sees as creative may not be creative to other cultures.

In Western cultures, people tend to be more focused on the final outcome or product whereas in Eastern cultures, people tend to focus more on the process that was used to get to that final outcome or product.[11] According to Goncalo and Staw, creative work is considered to belong to the community in some Indian cultures. People that come from collectivist societies, typically in the East, care more about the interest of society as a whole rather than individual efforts being put forth.[12] Western cultures differ in that uniqueness is a crucial part of creativity; the ability to create something unique was found to be more important than being able to recreate something that had previously been done.[13]

[edit] Cultural Similarities Between Eastern and Western Cultures

Studies show that in both Eastern and Western cultures, teachers have mixed feelings about creative students in the classroom. In a study conducted by Westby and Dawson (1995), reports showed teachers had a liking to creative students. They were then asked to define creative students using adjectives, and they used adjectives such as conforming and well behaved. When the same group of teachers were then given adjectives that have been commonly associated with creative people, their reports showed that they disliked the students who the adjectives were attached to.[14]

Teachers in Western cultures put more value in bright students than they do in creative students. They also associate creativity with nonconformity, impulsivity, and disruptive behaviour. [15]

Others studies show that teachers in both America and India showed a liking to creativity, but also associated words such as emotional and impulsive (which have also been linked with mental illness) with creativity. [16] [17]

Tan conducted a study in 2003 that showed teachers in Singapore took more of a liking to students who they deemed pleasant when compared to students described as risk-taking and over creative.[18]

Looking at studies by Guncer and Oral in 1993,[19] and Chan and Chan in 1999[20], it can be seen that socially undesirable traits were associated with student creativity in both Chinese and Turkish teachers.

It is interesting to know that even within some cultures there are educational differences. Children that live in the rural areas of China complain of not being able to be as creative or as educated as Chinese children living in the city. A teacher spoke of wanting to allow the children to be able to be creative and join in sports club and such, but the teachers at the school are just not equipped to take on that challenge. This topic is discussed in further detail in the video below; the video shows children wanting to be creative within the classroom and coming up with innovative ideas when given the opportunity:

[edit] Moving Forward with Creativity

Because collectivist cultures value the benefit of society over individuality, most people would think teachers would encourage, or at least favour creativity in students because ideas that differ from the norm may work out to benefit their society in some way, shape, or form.

AnnaCraft wrote an article in 2003 suggested that there is a cultural limit on creativity. Anna Craft argues that terms like ‘extraordinary’ and ‘ordinary’ are not terms that can be applied universally because different cultures define these terms differently. She suggests that in Western cultures are more able to freely express themselves and individuality whereas in other cultures people may not be able to manifest their creativity or choose to suppress it due to social or political sanctions. Craft further goes on to say that the terms ordinary and extraordinary “reflect the globalization of significant aspects of Western culture” and a way to increase the relevance of creativity is to increase the influence of Western culture globally.[21]

The first step in increasing creativity in Western cultures would be to fully allow creative individuals to flourish within the Western culture and then that may lead to the rest of the world adapting our values. This has been seen in England where creativity has been a part of the school curriculum for children ages 3-5.[21] This would be benifcial because it will spark the creativity of children while they are still young and their brains are still developing.

A company called Metamorphic Toys has come up with toys that can be used by teachers in the classroom to help encourage creativity in their classrooms. The video below was taken at the National Education Association Expo in 2012 and shows feedback from teachers who got a chance to view the toys:


While companies like Metamorphic Toys will help teachers foster creativity in students, it is crucial to also remember that funding for the fostering of creativity is limited within the education system.

[edit] Funding Arts Programs

[edit] Rising Expectations

Unfortunately, a higher education is the norm presently and as such Canadian school systems have become something like a factory for training employment. The idea of being trained specifically for receiving a job at the conclusion of one’s post secondary education has been implemented in many areas of the United States – however targeted specifically to high school students [22]. These institutions are called Governor’s Schools and operate as a sort of highly intensive and competitive summer program. The school in question however only accepts professional artists, rather than the amateur – in an effort to push teens into a career in their particular field they are most proficient. However, this is sill problematic; not only are Governer’s Schools few in number but their enrolment rate is somewhat low. In short, they only take the best students[22]

Not all students have equal access to the arts; their chances of experiencing arts programs in their elementary or high schools (which is some student’s one and only time to partake in the arts in general) depends greatly on the area they reside in and whether not their parents are financially stable enough to put their child into an after school activity or fundraise. [23] By 2004, many schools have felt such tax cuts that the overall amount of music teachers had declined thirty two percent. Arts programs, especially in schools located in England and United States are being relegated into the bottom tier of a two –tier curriculum along with social sciences and physical education. Regardless, the Ontario curriculum continues to call for extensive instruction in music, visual art, drama, and dance in elementary schools [23]. However, the Ontario funding formula does not provide the necessary funding required for specialist teachers to teach the required classes.

[edit] How Research Can Help Graduates

In the academic science field, money definitely takes precedence over creativity. It has become such a common occurrence that submitted proposals for academic research assistance has reached an all time high [24] . Members of the faculty are required to spend in ordinate amounts of time writing proposals, while their graduate and post-doctorate associates are tasked with the more creative thinking.

The solution that Carlson presents in one of his papers, is that such academic sciences should be placed in a stable environment away from any sort of financial stress - ultimately being independent of the universities' administration and funding agencies [24] . If this were to happen, Carlson proposes that such assistants will not be as tired or likely to neglect their teaching in favour of finding funding for their research. However, because universities are commonly likened to that of a business, the chance that this action will occur is unlikely [24] .

[edit] Influence of Technology

We cannot “simply ignore the [higher education]’s sector’s increasing involvement in practice-led research when we discuss the future directions, needs, and potential of the creative industries”. [25] Harper makes note of the technological revolution that we are currently experiencing has strongly impacted the creative industries – for example “music, film, and the cinema industry, television, all areas of design, leisure software […], publishing, and even the architectural and fashion sectors” have been transformed by digital technology.[25] In addition to this, technology increases student engagement because it applies modern concepts like social networking to give relevancy to learning material.[26] In a study evaluating E-Learning Systems, it was found that students were more satisfied in an online course if they were engaged using tools like social networking.[26] These E-learning systems were web-based integrative tools like forums and videos which allowed students and educators to interact in a flexible way that provided "unique opportunities to think about their thinking, and to trace the evolution of their understanding." By providing opportunities for creative reflection such as open forums and online course material, students are more engaged in their learning."[27]

[edit] The Government’s Limitations

Presently, the government remains the main source of funding education, which understandably places the government in a position of power. The issue with the government is while it is able to set certain things into motion the government’s powers are limited. While it may decide the population is in need of more of a certain vocation and is able to distribute money accordingly [3] the government cannot direct the flow of students into the predetermined fields of study. However, at a provincial level funding for teachers’ salaries may be up to ten percent lower than the amount teachers are actually paid. Much of this funding is used to pay for regular classroom teachers and smaller class sizes. Smaller schools are at a particular disadvantage as they are much less likely to have specialist art teachers on fulltime. For example; in Northern Ontario approximately twenty percent of schools report having a music teacher compared the sixty three percent of children in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who do as well [23].

Elementary Schools that report fundraising for the arts commonly have the following characteristics:

  • On average, these schools are ten percent larger in enrolment than the provincial mean.
  • The schools report fundraising totals that are up to 25% higher than the provincial average.
  • The majority of these schools are in urban centres (cities).
  • Parents contribute 12% more volunteer house compared to the provincial mean. [23].

The parents of the students on average fundraise for arts-related programs more than one third of elementary schools – however this is still limited to the larger schools The parents of the students on average fundraise for arts-related programs more than one third of elementary schools – however this is still limited to the larger schools [23].

[edit] Outside of School

In regards to education and creativity, whether education fosters creativity or if education kills creativity, society expects teachers to promote creativity in the school curriculum. Leaving education and teachers responsible for fostering creativity in students is a challenging job. There are many different types of activities with multiple components that promote creativity. [28] For example dance which includes a variety of different dance styles as well as a physical component, aesthetic appeal, self-expression and performance. [28] It is difficult to choose what activities will be taught in schools and what components will be stressed because of the vast variety, limited time and lack of funding. It has been debated whether or not schools foster creativity; nevertheless, students are not doomed if education does not foster creativity. There are many activities that can promote creativity throughout an individual's life outside of education such as parental involvement, extracurricular activities and community programs.

[edit] Extracurricular activities and Parental Involvement

  • Students can enroll in extracurricular activities outside of school such as taking dance lessons in order to promote creativity. There are a variety of different types of dance all of which fosters creativity yet research found modern dancers are specifically more creative than other dancers in jazz and ballet. [29] Modern dancers are highly creative because they are required to improvise and perform more freely rather than being bound to strict choreography. [29] Not only can extracurricular activities foster creativity, specific types can promote creativity more than others. It is important to take this into consideration when deciding on what activities to enroll in. Other extracurricular activitiesstudents can participate in include drama, fabric and crafting workshops, painting classes, science club, singing lessons or learning a new instrument.
  • If extracurricular activities are too expensive or inaccessible, there are other activities parents can encourage in order to promote creativity at home. Handcraft activities, for example constructing a robot or ship from cardboard boxes, are inexpensive and easy to organize. For this activity, children can use materials from around the house and parents should encourage their child to use their imagination and create whatever they desire. Using handcraft materials, such as boxes, enhances children’s originality, flexibility and elaboration.[4] In addition, handcraft activities welcomes new ideas, enhances imagination, develops self-building abilities and improves problem-solving skills. [4] Overall, creativity is enriched when children use handcraft making activities opposed to those who do not.[4] Furthermore, children can continue making crafts throughout school into adulthood as a hobby that continues to challenge them and foster creativity such as knitting or scrap booking.
  • Even though parents may encourage activities that foster creativity, it is common in today’s society for the television to be on. However, child informative programs such as Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood emphasize creativity and surprisingly predicts participation in creative activities. [30] Specifically, individuals who watched a lot of child informative programs participate in more activities that foster creativity. [30] It is important to note that other programs that emphasize academics or general entertainment for example comedies or game shows, do not stimulate imagination or divergent thought as informative programs do.[30] For that reason, watching television informative programs are better than other programs in regards to promoting creativity.
  • Parents can also encourage children to play outdoors as a way to foster creativity outside of school. Being outdoors in an environment full of sensory experience allows for inventive play that enhances creativity [31]. Furthermore, travelling also improves creativity. [32] Creativity is enhanced when individuals compare similarities and/or differences as well as come up with novel and useful ideas in a new environment.[32]


If schools and teachers struggle to incorporate creativity into the curriculum, parents and students can take the initiative to help foster creativity. Almost all of these activities that promote creativity can be done outside of school and at home. Mel, a homeschooling mother says in her blog, “I don’t just want my children to be limited to arts and crafts, though they do that too, but I want them to experience other forms of creativity. The sky is the limit. And so where there is an opportunity for creative expression, we do it” [33]. Besides enrolling children into extracurricular activities after school or organizing other creative activities at home, parents can also promote creativity by encouraging intuition[1] and self-expression. [34] Most importantly parents must allow freedom of development by not setting restrictions or having “age-specific” expectations of child for optimal creativity which is not established in schools.[34] There is also a positive relationship between parents and highly creative children with parents who are open to feelings, stress emotional security and put less emphasis on companionship.[5] Important values such as these are emphasized throughout an individual’s life outside of school by parents. For more ideas on how to promote creativity click here

[edit] Community Programs

If some families cannot support or organize creative play outside of school, a creative role model in their child’s lives can help the parent encourage creativity as well as inspire and guide them. Community programs can also help foster creativity. For example, MacLaren, a community program in Barrie, Ontario, has free afterschool workshops for youth that focuses on the arts and inspires creativity. [35] MacLaren will also bring art supplies to in-house art classes on the weekends and offers family workshops on visual art projects. [35]There are many community programs like MacLaren that can assist families and foster creativity. Community involvement is another example of how to promote creativity outside of school for students.

MacLaren Community Art Program


[edit] Notes and References

  1. Cotton, D., Bailey, I., Warren, M., & Bisell, S. (2009). Revolutions and second-best solutions: Education for sustainable development in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 34(7), 719-733.
  2. Dawson, V. (1997). In Search of the Wild Bohemian: Challenges in the Identification of the Creatively Gifted. Roeper Review, 19(3), 148-52.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Noonan, E. (2008). The Ends of Education. Psychodynamic Practice. 14 (4). 383 – 394.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Rezaei, A. & Zakariaie, M. (2011). Exploring the impact of handcraft activities on the creativity of female students at the elementary schools. International Education Studies. 4, 127-133. Retrieved from http://content.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/pdf25_26/pdf/2011/B08J/01Feb11/59208864.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=59208864&S=R&D=ehh&EbscoContent=dGJyMNXb4kSep7E4xNvgOLCmr0uep7RSsKi4Ta%2BWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGrs062qK9JuePfgeyx44Dt6fIA
  5. 5.0 5.1 Dreyer, A. & Wells, M. (1966). Parental values, parental control, and creativity in young children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 28, 83-88. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/350047
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Danylewycz, M., & Prentice, A. (1986). Teachers' Work: Changing Patterns and Perceptions in the Emerging School Systems of Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Central Canada. In Labour / Le Travail (pp. 59-80). Athabasca University Press.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 2. Butler, G. (2007). Higher education: Its evolution and present trend. Journal Of Australian Political Economy, (60), 28-53.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Folger, T. (2012). Can We Keep Getting Smarter?. Scientific American, 44-47.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Burke, V. J., & Doherty, M. I. (2005). Analysing student perceptions of transferable skills via undergraduate degree programmes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 6(2), 132.
  10. Wente, M. (2012, October 20). Access or quality: Our universities can’t have both. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/access-or-quality-our-universities-cant-have-both/article4625237/
  11. Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. NY: Oxford University Press
  12. Goncalo, J. A., & Staw, B. M. (2006). Individualism–collectivism and group creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 100(1), 96-109.
  13. Baer, J., & Kaufman, J. C. (2006). Creativity Research in English-Speaking Countries.
  14. Westby, E. L., & Dawson, V . L. (1995). Creativity: Asset or burden in the classroom? Creativity Research Journal, 8, 1-10.
  15. Dawson, V. (1997). In Search of the Wild Bohemian: Challenges in the Identification of the Creatively Gifted. Roeper Review, 19(3), 148-52.
  16. Raina, T. N. and M. K. Raina 1971 "Perception of teacher educators in India about ideal pupil." Journal of Educational Re- search 64:303-306.
  17. Runco, M. A., & Johnson, D. J. (2002). Parent’s and teacher’s implicit theories of children's creativity: A cross-cultural perspective. Creativity Research Journal, 14(3/4), 427-438.
  18. Tan, J. (2003) Reflections on Singapore’s education policies in an age of globalization, in: K. H. Mok & A. Welch (Eds) Globalization and educational restructuring in the Asia Pacific region (Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan).
  19. GUNCER, B., & ORAL, G. (1993). Relationship between creativity and nonconformity to school discipline as perceived by teachers of Turkish elementary school children, by controlling for their grade and sex. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 20(2), 208-214.
  20. Chan, D. W., Chan, L. (1999. Implicit theories of creativity: teachers’ perception of students characteristics in Hong-Kong. Creativity Research Journal, 12, 185-195.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Craft, A. (2003). The limits to creativity in education: Dilemmas for the educator. British Journal of Educational Studies, 51(2), 113-127.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Grant, D. (2007). Government-Funded Art Training for High-School Students, Drawing Education Supplement.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 People for Education. (2004). Noonan, E. (2008). The Arts in Ontario Public Schools. http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/The-Arts-in-Schools-2004.pdf
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Carlson, T. N. (2008). Current Funding in Practices in Academic Science Stifle Creativity. Dupont Summit 2008. 631 – 642.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Harper, G. (2011). Practice-Led Research and the Future of the Creative Industries. Creative Industries Journal. 4 (1). 5 – 17.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Kim, K., Trimi, S., Park, H. and Rhee, S. (2012), The impact of CMS quality on the outcomes of E-learning systems in higher education: An empirical study. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 10: 575–587.
  27. 3. Renes, S.L, & Strange, A.T. (2011). Using technology to enhance higher education. Innovative Higher Education 36(3): 203–13.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Fleming, M. (2008). Creative partnerships: exciting minds. Arts Council: London, England.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Choi, C. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/16025-modern-dancers-creative.html
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Anderson, D. et al. (2001). Early childhood television viewing and adolescent behaviour: The recontact. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 66, 67-78. doi: 10.2307/3181552
  31. MacAdam, C. (2013). Creativity thrives in the outdoor classroom. Retrieved from http://www.teachingtimes.com/articles/creativity-outdoor-classroom.htm
  32. 32.0 32.1 Bures, F. (2013). How travel enhances creativity. Retrieved from http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/articles/how-travel-enhances-creativity
  33. Mel (2012, June 28). Homeschooling and extra-curricular activities: creativity. Retrieved from http://mother-mel.blogspot.ca/2012/06/homeschooling-and-extra-curricular_5041.html
  34. 34.0 34.1 Shainess, N. (1989). The roots of creativity. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49, 127-138. Retrieved from http://pao.chadwyck.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/articles/displayItemPage.doFormatType=fulltextimages&QueryType=articles&ResultsID=13C3CA77B98157932A&ItemNumber=1&PageNumber=1
  35. 35.0 35.1 Farrell, C. (2012, April 27). Fostering creativity in young people: MacLaren matters. The Barrie Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2012/04/27/fostering-creativity-in-young-people-maclaren-matters-column
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