What is your current Job Title?

Professor of Education

How long have you been in this field?

30 Years

Why is creativity important to you?

With the heavy emphasis on high stakes assessment and increasing standardization and commercialization of teaching practices in the public schools, little room is left in the public school curriculum for nurturing and enhancing creativity and innovation in children. At the college level, we are seeing a generation of fact absorbers rather than problem solvers and innovators. I worry that the current generation of college students, though they are good test takers, are narrowly focused on what they have to do to get an “A” in a course  or as  my college aged son says  “play the game”.    I worry about the problems that plague the world like climate change, racism, the growing the gap between the rich and the poor, sustainability and so on. Our children, youth and college  students are going to need to be highly creative and innovative in order  to bring about positive sustainable solutions to the problems facing us.

On a less serious note, for me, creativity is what keeps life interesting.  I thrive on seeing new ideas, new ways of putting old things together, new twists on old ideas and so forth. I’m in the habit of  looking  for signs of creative thinking in just about every thing.

How do you foster your own creativity?

I read, write, draw, doodle, listen to music, and share any crazy idea I have with family,  friends and colleagues.  Recently,  I have been doing my own “idea marathon”.  I had attended a session at a conference on creativity in which  Japanese researcher, Takeo Higuchi shared the idea of an “idea marathon”.  It is a daily process where you think of at least one idea, write it down and talk about it with someone.   It is actually great fun, especially the part about sharing ideas with others.

How does creativity affect your daily work/job?

Creativity infiltrates my work life in several ways.    I have been engaged in  research on promoting creativity in children.    I am amazed at the creative potential in children when they have the opportunity for flexing those muscles.   I direct a creativity camp for children in the summers and teach a course for teachers in creative thinking and problem solving.  One of the things we do in creativity camp is teach the teachers and their students to use SCAMPER a process created by Bob Eberle.  SCAMPER is an acronym for taking an idea or product and changing it in new ways by considering possibilities for change such as substitution (S) ,  combination (C) , adaptation (A) , modification (M),  putting to another use (P), eliminating (E), or Reversing (R).   Using this process, we’ve had children create working hover crafts, airplanes from pizza boxes, squirrel proof bird feeders and so on.

I also try to be creative in my own teaching.  I am always looking for creative ways for presenting material and engaging college students in inquiry, reflection and  learning.

In what ways do you encourage creativity in others?

I hope that I encourage creativity by making the conditions right for creativity to flourish.  To that end, I use open ended assignments, give students choices,  and encourage risk taking.  But I think the most important thing I do in the area of fostering creativity is by encouraging my students to talk about and share their ideas with others.   Not until we have shared an idea can we unleash its full creative potential.  Finally, two of my  colleagues and I are currently designing a study around using an idea marathon with college students and intend to begin data collection in the near future.

In what ways did the Practice Creativity Challenge affect your thinking?

It was nice to see how other people interpreted the same prompts that were offered in the Creativity Challenge but most importantly, it was great to interact with other people who were in pursuit of creativity enhancement.

What advice might you give to a friend or colleague who wants to be creative?

Develop a mindset for creativity by thinking of yourself as creative, practicing creativity and talking about it with others .  And never, ever, ever say “I’m just not very creative.”


Image courtesy of: Lisa Bloom