I sometimes find it hard to talk about creativity in a creative way. I once retooled my resume to emphasize the work I’d been doing related to creativity and a good friend, a professional in a creative field, said it was very informative and interesting in terms of content but possibly the least creative document he’d ever seen.
Partly the reason for the above issue is that I haven’t added document design to my skill set. But partly the reason is because I want to make the process of creativity as plain and straightforward as possible. I’m not the only one with this problem in the field of creativity studies. I’m currently working my through a big, fat, academic book on creativity (478 pages! And it’s small type!), which has this distinctly un-creative title: “The Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning.” And here’s a funny thing — it hadn’t really occurred to me how clunky that title is until a friend pointed it out on social media.
I’m currently on a chapter examining whether there is evidence for the transformative power of the arts (pretty sure there is). I recently finished a chapter on creativity and capitalism, which points out, intriguingly, I thought, that some of the language we now use to talk about creativity in business and entrepreneuership was originally language used to disrupt our attachment to business. But it’s the introduction that is resonating with me the most so far, such that I’ve posted several quotes from it on Instagram (making them bright green, so maybe I am learning about presenting things creatively?). The book talks about creative learning two ways — the idea of learning to be creative, and then also learning anything, but in more creative ways, which is what the following refers to:
“Creative learning is an experimental, destabilizing force; it questions the starting points and opens up the outcomes of curriculum. It makes the school permeable to other ways of thinking, knowing, being and doing. As such, it creates uncertainty and instability, and it thus takes a confident and knowledgeable teacher and staff to take up the idea to its full extent. It is this open-endedness, which does not frame creative learning only as a process or as a means to predetermined ends, that leads to change.”
Opening up curriculum, being less tied to what I think should happen — I feel, keenly, the “destabilizing force” in those ideas, even though I tend to like open-endedness and I am “confident and knowledgeable” as a teacher. I am absolutely empathetic to anyone just not feeling up to the task of making creativity a priority in the classroom (either learning creativity itself or just mixing up the way we teach).
Nonetheless, the payoff to being more “permeable to other ways of thinking, knowing being and doing” is __. I want to fill in the blank with immeasurable, but there are upcoming chapters on assessment, so it probably is measurable. [Please imagine a visual representation here of something very big.]
Marnie Dresser is a poet, creativity researcher and English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Richland. She lives in Spring Green with her husband and son and contributes to this space on a rotating basis ideas about creativity and education.