Trusting the “neeeerrr” and the “aahh” – creativity in LAT.

James Wadsworth

Forgive me. It’s been a good few months since I’ve written a blog so my rhetoric may be a smidge rusty and my prose a little ponderous, but I’ll give it a go.

I thought I’d share some reflections and fusions on three pieces of work that have been rattling around in the dark recesses of my mind recently and endeavour to give them a little context to assist in our LAT. The three relate to the concept of creativity; not necessarily in an educational setting but all in general agreement that its possession is virtuous and desirable.

A hasty review of each piece…..

The first, an experimental piece by Kelsey Medeiros and colleagues, challenged empirically, the commonly held view that creativity is all about boundless freedom or a blank canvas the size of a house side to find and express your inner answers. This study took a bunch of students and set them a marketing task but limited a differing number of task objectives factors, such as a budget. A natural reaction here maybe to think that if constraints are applied creativity decreases, surely. Well, yes and no according to this study. Medeiros et al.’s findings suggested that when multiple constraints were applied, then yes, the creative problem solving displayed by the students decreased but when a single or small number of constraints were enforced, creative problem solving actually increased. Hmmm, who’d have thought?

The second article, theoretical in its approach, was penned by the wonderful Dean Keith Simonton in 2009 and appears to propose that creativity is domain regressive in its nature. Erm, in English that means…? Boiling the theory down, Simonton essentially suggested that generally the physical sciences are innately less creative than the social sciences, which in turn are less creative than the arts. He further suggested that, for example, if a physical scientist wanted or needed to be creative for some reason, they should regress into the social science space to find inspiration and be creative. Following on social scientists should regress into the arts space and artists should, as the most creative domain by default, should have sufficient space anyway (or in some unfortunate cases, regress into potential mental ill health to find creative space).

Finally, I had the great pleasure of attending a conference last year which included a memorial lecture (to the late Anna Craft) from Professor Guy Claxton on the subject of visceral creativity.

(I know there are only 25 hours in each of the 8 days in the FE week, but if you can spare 57 minutes, all at once, or in nibble sized morsels, or even just the last 5 minutes, it will be time well spent watching this clever, profound, thought provoking and witty lecture. https://youtu.be/2wFGVVFMmyI )

So, what can be taken from the lecture? In reality, a huge array of insight but a couple of highlights….

Firstly, the fascinating comparative made between western and eastern thinking about the creative process (and the Winnie the Pooh analogy J) which illustrated that we, the west, tend to go looking for creativity rather than, in the eastern cultures, the mind is prepared to receive it. We tend to view it as almost a commodity to be sought rather, in the east, than a gift to be absorbed.

The second is the use of non-intellectual decision making; the lecture talks at length about visceral creativity, that is, using the whole body to be creative and feel creativity not just your brain. The best bit of the whole lecture, in my opinion, is when Prof Claxton describes that feeling when a creative thought or idea is not just quite right as the “neeeerrr” moment (and conversely when it does feel right as “aahh”) – that feeling inside that is just telling to do it or not, despite the sharp focus on the numbers perhaps telling you differently.

So, what can be gleaned from these pieces in terms of our LAT practice?

Developing creativity is for us as much as it is for our learners. We should conceive creativity as symbiosis between the tutor and the learner; a tutor needs to be creative in their thinking when preparing and delivering sessions to ensure that a learner exposed to creative opportunities and hence develop their creative thinking. The creativity then shown by the learners could spark further ideas for the tutor which then leads them to think more creatively again…and so on.

It’s easy to say to yourself, a colleague or a learner (usually with a gleefully clichéd set of jazz hands) “let’s be creative today folks!”, shove all the desks back to the wall and adorn the walls with flip chart paper and hope that the Nobel winning alternative to the internet will shortly be created. Hope is not a strategy. What is a strategy, however, is to manage a physical and temporal space to be creative; get people (including yourself) to realise that creativity can be absorbed from the world around you and from domains not in the slightest bit related to your own; get people to appreciate creative space but put some limiters on it to give focus (or even get people to devise their own limiters) and get people to listen to how they feel about an idea, not at the expense of intellectual consideration, but certainly letting intuition be the greater influence.

Finally, creativity and being creative is daunting, scary and, realistically, time consuming. I’m sure you’ve heard the words “I haven’t got a creative bone in my body” or “what if I create something that goes wrong or isn’t right” or “I’ve got no time to get through even the basics of this subject”….and as I sit here, I can’t disagree with them (well, the “bone in the body” bit isn’t a growth mind set so I would challenge that one). But what I would say is that not making space for it at all is doing a disservice to our learners, as to be happy and successful, however you may define it, needs an element of creativity as a personal attribute to deal with the ever changing world around us. It’s also doing a disservice to ourselves, if we are indeed to be enabled and liberated in our lives.    

JW

Just in case you want to hear more of my ramblings on this topic, have a look at my project blog https://jamesw76.wordpress.com/

References

Claxton, G. (2016) Anna Craft memorial lecture 2016. Visceral creativity: embodiment, ethics and the creative process. [Video]: Available from https://youtu.be/2wFGVVFMmyI [Accessed on 13th March 2017].

Medeiros, K.E., Partlow, P.J. and Mumford, M.D. (2014) Not too much, not too little: The influence of constraints on creative problem solving. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(2) 198-210.

Simonton, D. K. (2009). Varieties of (Scientific) Creativity A Hierarchical Model of Domain-Specific Disposition, Development, and Achievement. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (5) 441-452.

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