Sunday, 15 April 2018

Risk to Blossom (part 4)

The words in this poem by writer Anais Nin sum up my current position:

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

Over the next few posts I will be reviewing the following White paper on Creativity:
Lai, E. R., Yarbro, J., DiCerbo, K., & de Geest, E. (2018). Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Creativity. London: Pearson.

Today I looked at the Definitions and Models of Creativity:
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One of the most enduring theories associated with creativity is the model of divergent thinking, which Guilford (1950) popularized. Adapted for the framework of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT).
Divergent thinking is generally understood as a composite idea-generation skill. The original model of divergent thinking captured in the Torrance tests comprised four subskills:
  1. fluency—the ability to generate many ideas;
  2. flexibility—the ability to move fluidly between different representations;
  3. originality—the ability to produce novel and unusual ideas;
  4. elaboration—the ability to fully develop ideas.
Divergent thinking could be viewed as an indicator of creative potential.

Amabile’s (1988, 2012) componential model of creativity identifies four main components of creativity:

1. domain-relevant skills, which include factual knowledge and technical skills: This highlights the value I bring as the teaching expert, to include subject specific knowledge and model skills relevant to developing my students. I aim to deliver this through media or technique introductions with small and large groups as well as on a need to know basis with individual students. Besides these teacher sessions, I also record the skill/media introductions and load the videos onto our class blog for future reference. For example, this is a clay introduction lesson taught by me to Y2 students in small groups and the video has now been loaded to our class blog for future reference.    

Furthermore, these teacher directed lessons are NOT for assessment. They are only the teaching component. Students are given time to develop their own creations using the skills learnt during teacher intro to create their own items considered for assessment.
Below is an example of 6yr old student work. His teacup from the learning session and his Kiwi with fern leaf and grub from his independent session.
These teddy bears were a learning session for 9-10yr olds but by this stage, more confident students are already expanding on the basic teacher instructions as can be seen by the varied details.

Independent work that followed included a range of original ideas, from frogs to foxes.

2. creativity-relevant processes, which Amabile defines as cognitive styles related to taking new perspectives, as well as aspects of personality such as a tolerance for ambiguity and risk-acceptance, plus heuristics* for ideation and divergent thinking: I want my students to become more open-minded so include regular buddy feedback sessions and group conferencing at the start of term. (video augmented with CLIPS to protect student identity)

As student realise the value of (divergent) feedback and one-to-one conferencing, I have noticed that they soon seek this out independently. Another way is when they work on collaborative projects or in collaborative ways. I found play, both structured and unstructured, to be a fantastic avenue to advance heuristic development. Media gets put out in exploratory centres for students to discover. One example of this was when I put out only primary colours and a range of texture making tools - no paintbrushes for a Y2 (6yr old) exploratory session.
The brief was to create with the paint on your card. Their explorations yielded a range of textures and effects plus a range of original colours that they created through mixing. The spontaneous learnings and teachings occurring between students was tremendous. Later they were asked to use this card as both the inspiration as well as the backdrop of their collage design, see examples below.

 By progressing beyond teacher directed projects and developing a Design Thinking Process (DTP) for my classes that supports them to design and create original work, I am also building their tolerance for ambiguity and a true understanding about learning through mistakes that we make along the way. I will elaborate more about the DTP that I am trialling with my students in a later post.

3. intrinsic task motivation: I see this internal, self-motivation coming from the connection that a student feels with the piece that they are working on. This has been true in the past for some students following teacher directed projects, possibly because they are enjoying the making process or prefer being guided as they are low level risk-takers. When students devised and created their own designs for the first time, I noted a sense of apprehension mixed with excitement. As the term proceeded, exceedingly greater engagement was clearly evident. That first trial showed me that time must be built in for students to prototype, especially with media that they are considering using for their display work. They get really nervous about spoiling this and like to have a 'play' first. So I built this session into the programme as a purposeful exploratory time to explore any number of 2D media and then to reflect on the outcomes. I provided different types of paper, for wet and dry media, all cut down to A6 (trading card size). This intervention reduced anxiety about spoiling work as students had the opportunity to learn how the media would perform for them. 
(video augmented with CLIPS to protect student identity)

4. the social environment in which the creative process is taking place, including any extrinsic motivators, organizational norms, or constraints that may operate against the individual. I am lucky enough to have a classroom that students come to. It is known as The Art Space and students make that mental shift as they move between classes. They leave their classrooms where lessons and testing around Literacy, Numeracy and units of Inquiry occur... and arrive in a room filled with artwork on display from other students that is regularly changing as different pieces are progressed. Filled with a wide range of media all visible and promising any number of possibilities. Organisation is quite rigid and students follow this well. On arrival all students must stow away personal devices for safety and until needed, clean hands as all equipment is shared, collect on the mat for a roll call and daily briefing. This may be followed by centre choice, teacher guided lesson, sketchbook explorations or independent action on own work. Most lessons conclude with a reflection which is posted onto students' individual Seesaw accounts, followed by clean up. A music track is played and the room must be re-stored for the next class by the time the track finished (+- 3 min). If not achieved, that class packs up 3min earlier in their next session. Further constraints are imposed in the form of the 'creative box'. Students and given a brief based on the unit of Inquiry they are currently working on. They work through our DTP structure and create original work. Students can break out of this 'creative box' with justification.

For e.g. when a 9yr old made the clay horse above, she broke out of the 'endangered species' box by claiming that if we don't look after our planet and its wildlife, soon its our domestic animals that will be threatened. This was her way of hitting home with her message of concervation.
Csikszentmihalyi (2014), although not offering a definition of creativity per se, locates it at the intersection of three systems because no creative achievement can be interpreted or judged in a vacuum.

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  1. the field in which the creative accomplishment must be judged, whose members act as gatekeepers for the domain - for example Visual Art, Drama or Vocal Music subject areas

  2. the cultural domain, which will be responsible for taking up and preserving creative ideas for future generations - the programme, curriculum, principles and attributes valued by the school and its teachers

  3. the person responsible for generating the creative ideas (including motivational, affective, and cognitive factors) - the student 
The investment theory of creativity (Sternberg & Lubart, 1992; Sternberg, 2006) begins with creators taking on unknown or unpopular ideas that show growth potential and pushing these forward until they become accepted. Creativity occurs within the interactions of a number of factors:
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  1. intellectual abilities or “creative intelligence,” including the ability to synthesize (break the bonds of conventional thinking), and analyse the values of one’s ideas to decide which are worth pursuing, and persuade others (practical-conceptual skills),
  2. knowledge about the domain or discipline, Goldilocks principle applies - some knowledge of the domain is necessary to generate insights, but too much knowledge can make thinking rigid rather than flexible,
  3. thinking styles, or “preferred ways of using one’s skills,” including “a preference for thinking and a decision to think in new ways”, 
  4. personality attributes, such as a tolerance for risks and ambiguity, self-efficacy and perseverance,
  5. intrinsic motivation to engage in the creative tasks,
  6. an environment that supports the creative individual 

In Runco’s view (1996, p. 4), personal creativity ultimately involves some kind of transformation that takes place when a person interprets their experiences. It is inherently subjective and reliant on the perception of the individual. Encompasses problem-solving, problem-finding and articulation. The expression of personal creativity depends on:

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      1. motivation;
      2. certain cognitive styles (interest in novelty, information-seeking, and tolerance for ambiguity);
      3. metaphoric logic, or an aptitude for unconventional ways of thinking; 
      4. discretion or “mindful choice,” about what and how to transform, in an effort to ensure the transformation has utility and value; 
      5. the intention to create, and the use of processes, strategies, and heuristics to support that intention;
      6. relevant domain knowledge and experience.

      To conclude: Elements held in common across these various theories and models include:
      • intrinsic motivation to engage in creative tasks, 
      • domain knowledge and experience, 
      • certain cognitive styles related to unconventional thinking, 
      • a particular set of personality characteristics, 
      • and a supportive social environment (which can include a person’s home and family life, the classroom environment, and the broader social context). 
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      Each of these elements can be seen as a supporting factor for creative expression or potential.

      Creative construct still requires the elements of novelty or uniqueness, and  relevance, utility, or appropriateness for some purpose.

      *Definition of heuristic: discovery or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods, heuristic techniques, of or relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (such as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance (

      With Love


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