Schools That Nurture Creativity
Creativity is a complex developmental system that is shaped by at least seven influences: (1) cognitive processes; (2) social and emotional processes; (3) family aspects, both while growing up and current; (4) education and preparation, both informal and formal; (5) characteristics of the domain and field; (6) sociocultural contextual aspects; and (7) historical forces, events, and trends (Feldman, 1999, pp. 171–172). When schools do succeed in nurturing children’s creativity and artistic expression, at least seven conditions exist:
- Positive emotional climate. School personnel strive to reduce stress and anxiety in children and in themselves. Adults recognize the importance of positive affect—feeling good about being in school, treating one another with respect, and building self-esteem among children and colleagues (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987).
- Process valued as well as product. This means that children are encouraged to play with ideas and explore solutions rather than being pushed into premature conclusions. Creativity and productivity may actually be inversely related. When children are pressured to dash something off to meet someone else’s schedule, they are not afforded the “luxury” of seeking many alternatives and refining the most promising ones. Rather, they are taught to value the quantity of work produced over the quality of the finished product (Amabile, 1989).
- Flexible schedules. Time limits are removed from activities in which children are deeply involved. Children are free to become absorbed in what they are doing. In a school committed to creative expression, children follow their interests and enjoy what they are doing along with their peers, teachers, and other school personnel. This condition of being able to pursue an idea is the “labor of love” aspect of creative processes (Amabile, 1986).
- Support for creative thought and artistic expression. A free, open atmosphere is established where self-expression is encouraged and valued. Teachers support children’s creativity by providing a wide variety of interesting materials and keeping activities open-ended; they give help when needed, but they do not interfere with children’s creative processes.
- Mechanisms for peer support. Children are encouraged to share ideas, not only with the teacher but also with one another. One of the ways that children begin to regard themselves as creative is in their reflected selves—in others’ responses to them and their ideas. Therefore, it is important for children to give and receive supportive feedback, not only from adults but also from peers.
- Minimized competition and external rewards. Creativity is fostered when teachers enjoy experiences along with children rather than singling out particular products for praise or rewards. When children are informed that there will be a contest, that some will win a tangible reward and others will lose, three things happen. First, they become more cautious and tend to “play it safe”; second, they feel pressured to please someone else and lose their intrinsic motivation; and third, they tend to rush to get the reward. All of these things result in less spontaneous, less complex, and less varied products; in other words, less creative responses.
- Adults who value children’s creative thought and artistic expression. Teachers often fear a loss of control and disapprove of children’s departures from what is predictable and routine. Children’s creative expression is supported in programs where teachers are inclined to notice and accept evidence of children’s active imaginations at work.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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