Creativity, of particular interest in Europe and North America, has been defined in many ways over time, reflecting era and culture. Most definitions frame creativity as involving shaping novel possibilities using imagination, recognizing the originality and value of outcomes that are thus generated. A clear historical evolution of distinctive approaches researching creativity can be documented (Ryhammar & Brolin, 1999; Sternberg, 2003), many earlier approaches being clearly visible even in 2007, as, in common perhaps with many fields of study, intellectual fragmentation of discourse occurs.
The idea of creativity as inspiration produced by a higher power is found far back in Greek, Judaic, Christian, and Muslim traditions, the driving idea being that creativity comes from a mysterious, even divine source. Such ideas are still found in the early 2000s in attempts to understand the mystery of intuition, particularly in the arts (Bannerman et al., 2006; Ghiselin, 1985).
The Romantic era in mid-19th century Europe spawned a very different view, with creativity seen as emerging from human creative capacity for genius expressed as originality, insight, and feeling. Inspiration was seen during this period as being expressed artistically, with a core role given to the subjectivity of feeling. Subsequently many disciplines have contributed to the study of creativity, including psychology, which grew, by the end of the 19th century, to be perhaps the most dominant.
From the late 19th century, and rooted in the Romantic conceptions of creativity, psychological explorations focused initially on genius, with the first systematic study undertaken in 1869 by Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), leading to around a hundred studies well into the 1920s, exploring creativity as achievement acknowledged in the wider public arena.
Approaches from the early 1900s through the first half of the 20th century were characterized by a broadly deductive, philosophical approach within psychology, dominant threads being psychoanalytic, cognitive, and humanistic traditions.
The psychodynamic tradition in the early twentieth century saw the unconscious as playing a significant role in behavior and subjective experience. The work of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) (1908, 1910) offered insights born of his therapeutic practice-derived psychoanalytic theory, that great creators are driven to do what they do to satisfy unconscious desires. Others, such as Donald Woods Winnicott (1896–1971), followed, with psycho-dynamic theories of creativity as fundamental and intrinsic to human nature, as closely linked to play and necessary to development.
By the mid-20th century, creativity was seen as associated with science as well as with art; pragmatic approaches were also increasingly adopted as a global economy based on knowledge increasingly required creativity as a core capability (Haste, 2008). Also emerging from therapeutic practice, humanistic approaches to creativity in the later 20th century saw creativity as self-realization, or self-actualization (Rogers, 1954, 1961; Maslow, 1971).
But by far the most influential tradition has been the cognitive one, searching both conceptually and empirically, for models to describe creative behavior. This tradition generated many models, including seminal work by Graham Wallas (1926) of the creative process (preparation, incubation, illumination, verification), Mednick's 1962 associative process model, Finke's 1995 exploration of generative to exploratory thought, and Hudson's recognition (1968) that both divergent and convergent thought are involved in creativity.
From the 1950s, building from the cognitive tradition and launched by Guilford's 1950 work on limitations of intelligence testing, came perhaps more deductive, empirically based approaches than hitherto. Some focused on pragmatic strategies to increase individual and collective creativity. These included de Bono's 1993 creative thinking strategies, Buzan's mind mapping techniques (e.g., Buzan, 2006), and Osborn-Parnes' “creative problem solving,” triggered by Osborn's early work (1953). Others emphasized psychometric testing (e.g., Torrance, 1969, 1974). Studies proliferated exploring individual and social traits of creative persons and groups, with a remarkable degree of correlation (Brolin, 1992), leading to perspectives on creativity as inherently collaborative (John-Steiner, 2000). Researchers in Europe and North America sought to contribute to developing the creative organization (e.g., Amabile, 1988; Ekvall, 1996; Isaksen & Lauer, 2002).
Evolutionary approaches to creativity (e.g., Campbell, 1960; Perkins, 1995; Simonton, 1999) also developed, seeking to understand evolution in ideas and identifying two basic steps: first, blind variation (generativity), then, selective retention (novelty judged as valuable), the most creative possibilities surviving.
As the twentieth century drew to a close, many studying creativity began to recognize that multiple components must converge in a confluence approach. These include Amabile's work (1982, 1996, 1999) on intertwining intrinsic motivation, domain knowledge, and creativity skills, also the evolving-systems model generated by Gruber (1981, 1989) integrating knowledge, purpose, and affect, as well as documenting “networks of enterprise” surrounding creative practitioners. Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (1988, 1996), too, proposed a systems approach, comprising dynamic interaction between individual, domain, and field.
The late 20th century saw a shift from measuring to characterizing, from simple to complex, from individual to collective, from universalized to situated (Jeffrey & Craft, 2001). Researchers began to see creativity as life-wide and domain-wide (Craft, 2005; Claxton, 2006), and as democratic (NACCCE, 1999).
Since the mid-1990s, creativity in applied contexts has experienced unprecedented resurgence globally as an area of scholarship, policymaking and practice, in the classroom, the workplace and personal life. Embedded is the assumption of everyday creativity as necessary and feasible, life-wide and lifelong, a distinctly different perspective to previous ones, which had emphasized the extraordinary, big c or high creativity.
The resurgence spans Northern, Central, and Southern Europe, the Middle and Far East and Australasia and North America, expanding the research discourse pool well beyond the earlier North-American community. Such international re-engagement with creativity reflects the relationship perceived at policy level between fostering everyday creativity within education, and economic competitiveness (Jeffrey and Craft, 2001; Craft, 2005). Research methodology shifted, from positivist, large-scale studies aiming to measure creativity, toward ethnographic, qualitative research (Jeffrey & Craft, 2001). Early 21st century studies of creativity in education increasingly emphasize cultural dimensions of creativity, in particular discontinuities between universalized and marketized North American creativity discourse and Asian perspectives (Craft, Cremin, & Burnard, 2008; Craft, Gardner, & Claxton, 2008).
In the first decade of the 21st century conceptual work examined the ethical dimension of creativity (Craft, 2005; Craft, Gardner, & Claxton, 2008), asking how creativity engages with wisdom and trusteeship, in a world facing unprecedented global problems (Craft, Gardner, & Clax-ton, 2008).
Approaches to fostering creativity reflect the perspectives discussed earlier. Creativity in education is increasingly linked both to the economy, and, in England in particular, to cultural development, reflecting several rhetorics (Banaji & Burn, 2006). Pedagogical developments include working in partnership with those beyond the classroom, initially recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE, 1999) and then by later government reviews (e.g. Roberts, 2006; Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2006).
How organizations and societies handle the spectrum of creative and cultural development in the learning age is a contested area spanning psychological, social, and economic theory. Richard Florida (2002) offers such a theory, suggesting, controversially, that urban and economic regeneration correlate with growth in “the creative class” (high-tech workers, artists, musicians, gay men, and bohemians), generating open, dynamic professional and personal activity. While critiqued (Malanga, 2004), the theory remains influential.
Knotty problems yet to be adequately tackled, include how creativity is assessed. Challenge exists in acknowledging how creativity is recognized and valued in different cultures, particularly where Eastern and Western perspectives are concerned (Craft, 2005; Ng & Smith, 2004). Such is the case because ways in which creativity is assessed imply an underpinning model of creativity.
Some of the most influential and widely used tests of creativity (Torrance, 1969, 1974) can be seen as being based on a temporally located Westernized model of creativity as individualized and involving the generating of a product-outcome. The Torrance Tests of Creativity (TTCT) drew directly on Guilford's 1967 characteristics of divergent production, that is, fluidity, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. Torrance saw creativity as an ability to notice omissions or gaps, to propose solutions to problems, to produce original ideas, to recombine these, and to be able to detect novel relationships between ideas. His figural and verbal tests of creativity imply creativity involves producing outcomes, triggered by challenges focused on exploring consequences of questions, improving ideas, considering unusual uses for artifacts, and imagining what might be, as well as involving figural invention, elaboration, and departure from structure. Responses to the tests are judged to be creative in terms of the following features:
- fluency (number) of appropriate or relevant responses
- flexibility in types of responses
- originality in terms of novelty of responses
- elaboration in terms of details that embellish or extend responses.
The Torrance tests, however, take no account of context or of how judgments are made. Amabile's Consensual Assessment Technique, or CAT, (1982, 1996) addresses this by recognizing creativity is embedded in its cultural context, thus a product may be considered to be creative when appropriate judges (familiar with the field) agree that it is so.
Amabile's CAT contrasts with Torrrance's in being contextually dependent but also because the field of judges may include those who have generated the creative products. The CAT process involves judges rating products in a random order by level of creativity a five-point scale, from very uncreative to very creative. Amabile's work with Hennessey (Hennessey & Amabile, 1999) suggests it is not only tangible products that may be assessed using CAT, but any open task that has multiple potential outcomes, leading to what might be seen as a relativist perspective on what constitutes creativity and one which is culturally sensitive (Cheng, 2008).
Attempts to explore assessment of creativity in a learning context include those acknowledging teacher stance in relation to learner stance (Craft, Cremin, Bur-nard, & Chappell, 2008).
See also:Gifted Education
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