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Education and Creativity

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There have always been teachers and education experts encouraging creativity. And there have been almost no voices against it. But creativity is a poorly handled aspect of education. It is ill-defined, hard to teach and hard to assess. In subjects like Math, there is usually a specific answer, and we can be right, or get partial marks for being close. But how do we assess creative things like art? Why is one piece of art better than another? Is it personal preference?

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Any education that goes beyond rote learning looks at patterns. This is how information, facts and ideas interconnect. Intelligence and understanding are about discovering these patterns in the outside world, or sometimes in ourselves. Creativity is about creating patterns rather than observing and recording them, though this distinction is sometimes blurred. Great scientific and literary discoveries used creativity to suggest possible solutions to problems, and to understanding the natural world. Technology uses our understanding of science to create useful, often necessary devices. Creativity so fundamental to developing civilisation.

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So can we teach creativity? Or are we, like Picasso claimed, all creative till education suppresses our creative ability? Certainly, children are creative, or at least like to play. But this includes imitation of the natural world as a means of understanding it. Could they continue in their understanding without education at a later age? Probably not. But why would education get in the way of understanding?

It is too easy for education to simply repeat other people’s ideas and understanding. These are important, for we build our understanding of the people who came before us. But understanding how they developed their ideas, how they build on what came before them and developed original ideas from the raw information available at the time. This can be inspiring and give some insight into the creative process.

When developing creative ideas:

  • This might be a starting point for creativity. Do we have basic facts right? Get the objective information right before we start to do something creative.
  • Brainstorm. Throw ideas around and combine them.
  • Is something reasonable? Could it lead to something reasonable? Dismiss anything unreasonable.
  • Productive. It is producing something physical (like a model, artwork or a useful idea?
  • Reflectivity – What can we do with this? How can it be developed further?
  • Evaluate – we can do this after we are creative, and assess what the creativity has produced. Don’t let evaluation hold you back from the creative process. Only evaluate afterwards.

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Education develops the individual who then contributes to the society they live in. Good grades should be the result of a developing student.

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