Are You Creative?

March 25, 2013
How is creativity defined? “She takes two art courses. She must be creative.” “He draws all of the time.” “She dances.” Although those are common activities you can see creative people engaging in, they do not define a creative person. People often assume that they aren’t creative because they can’t draw, write, or do other things associated with creativity. But what most people don’t know is what creativity really is. Everyone has the potential to be creative, but according to past studies and observations, it is very possible that students today are not getting that opportunity to develop and express those bottled up skills. But why is this so important?

It has been noticed that creativity is necessary for success in certain problematic areas and situations. According to The Daily Beast Newsweek, the potential consequences of a decline in creativity are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. As young adults find problem solving increasingly difficult in everyday jobs, the question arises, what could be causing this task to become more and more challenging? It is important for people to be able to react and come up with solutions when something goes wrong in a particular occupation. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Scientists have been attempting to create a way to measure mankind’s creative ability as well as find ways to incorporate creativity into the everyday life.

The Torrance Test of Creativity has become a popular form of measurement for the skill. Used globally, the Torrance Test is a fairly new way that educational systems have been testing today’s generation on their creative ability.The test defines a creative person as someone who has several ideas, can be original, is elaborate and detailed in what they say, is abstract and imaginative, and is able to stay open to new ideas. The Torrance Test examines each of these crucial areas along with several others through figural and verbal tests. In the figural test, the test-taker is prompted with an image that they must write an original caption for. The caption should present aspects of emotional expressiveness such as thinking abstractly, connecting seemingly unrelated ideas, and especially presenting an original idea that the test graders have not seen before. With such specific criteria, you might wonder why so much effort has been put into creating this test.Creativity has been noticed as an important aspect by many, and this test is making sure humanity doesn’t lose the unique and irreplaceable skill. “Without being able to identify highly creative people, we don’t know what creativity really is,” said Dr. John Kauffman, vice president of marketing at the Scholastic Testing Services. As school systems encourage students to care more and more about the grade rather than the thought process that goes into learning any kind of new material, the next generation may be at a loss for expressing themselves creatively.

Are we getting less creative? According to Torrance Testing results, the creativity level has remained fairly stable. But what has been noticed are changes in certain areas. Testers have been seen to be less elaborate in their ideas, lack details, and have less abstract titles to their pictures. It has also been observed that creativity varies by grade level. Kids in third grade and below have very high creativity levels. Then, what researchers call “The 4th grade slump” occurs, where the creativity level plateaus. No one knows exactly why the creativity is stunted in 4th grade. It could very well be because that is the year in a kid’s life when school changes from coloring books to text books. Now that the kids have the basics of reading and writing down, it becomes time to start learning about historical events, mathematical equations, and reading strategies. There isn’t any time for students to draw, read, or write whatever they want anymore. Not only do the students have to buckle down on the learning material, but so do the teachers. They end up spending less time on designing arts and crafts or fun lessons for their students to do and focus on getting all of the material out to them in the short time period allotted in a school year. “Teachers have to be very creative on their own in order for students to be able to express themselves in the classroom,” said Dr. Kauffman. It is thought that as students get older and make their way through grade school, the letter grades and test scores become more and more emphasized, not allowing them any time to pursue what subjects and activities interest them.

Does my high school encourage creativity? According to Spanish teacher Barbara Clouser, our tight schedule may give some restrictions. “With our schedule, we don’t allow you to be open to creativity in a very deep way within each subject area,” said Clouser. She mentioned how since creativity varies from person to person and each class period is the same length, students don’t get as much of an opportunity to pursue their individual interests. “When you’re trying to get students to understand a new language in my case, it’s hard to encourage students to think about it in a creative way,” said Clouser. English teacher Lakyn Bianco believes that she encourages creativity in her classroom. She tries to get students to think about literature in a creative way by allowing them to express their individual ideas on the meaning and interpretation of class material. “I don’t believe I’m really teaching you when I’m just giving you information; I’m trying to help you develop your skills in critical thinking,” said Bianco.

This has become a controversial issue in the United States as a whole. In other countries, the importance of creativity has been recognized and made part of the educational curriculum. For example, in Saudi Arabia, if an individual wished to pursue a job in math or science, they would have to present not only knowledge of mathematics or sciences, but also show creative aspects. The U.S. does recognize the importance of creativity being nurtured throughout an individual’s educational career. In 1974 in Athens, Georgia, Dr. Paul Torrance, also the creator of the Torrance Test of Creativity, developed a program meant to enhance the problem solving skills of young adults. The program is now called the Future Problem Solving Program International and involves about 250,000 students and adults around the world. The program engages students in critical thinking and creative problem solving. It gives students a systematic approach that helps them develop the ability to improvise in problematic scenarios and be able to come up with several different ways to solve the problem as well as decide which way is the best solution. Programs like this one that encourage creative ability are all over the world helping to preserve mankind’s unique ability.

In a survey conducted purposefully on students taking a writing elective or participating in the school musical, the results show that 81% of them have a good idea of what career they want to pursue after their education. These kids chose to take a course or stay after school to be able to express themselves through either writing or acting. Only a small percentage of them actually want to be writers or actors, though. Coincidence? In the late 1950’s, students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade took the Torrance Test of Creativity. Fifty years later, researchers tracked down the same students who were identified as creative by the test. They surveyed them and found them to still be highly creative. They all had successful and productive careers. This proved that creativity, once developed and identified, lasts a long time. “Creativity is a lifestyle; it’s not just for school kids,” said Dr. Kauffman.

According to Dr. Torrance, there are several ways an individual can learn to avoid conformity and grow up creatively which include the following:
Don’t be afraid to fall in love with doing something; if you like to do it, do it
Enjoy your greatest strength
Don’t let others tell you exactly what to do
Make good use of your gift
Get a mentor to guide you in your interests
Don’t waste time trying to be well-rounded
Learn interdependence

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