Looking deeper into creativity

It’s been a great journey with the PLP ConnectU group from Australia so far.  We are developing a unit in order to explore “What is Creativity” with students. Kynan Robinson, who has been studying creativity for some time now,  shared some readings with us recently and I’ve finally had a chance to do some reading and thinking.

Some of the things that have jumped out at me from the readings he shared are:

To foster creativity, children should possess a specialised knowledge of the relevant area, think divergently as well as convergently, have the capacity to analyse and synthesise the problem, and be able to enact self-planning and evaluation strategies (Cropley & Urban 2000).

The following was from a study around problem-solving with technology construction:

It is important that students have sufficient background in the topic and also in the methods of construction. Preliminary classes that deal with an investigation of the topic and allow students to use a variety of construction techniques are crucial for full development of the task. Specific teaching may be required. After the introduction to the task, the students need an incubation period so that their ideas can be fully developed. (ALISTAIR WEBSTER ET AL., 2006)

Useful tips for teachers:  (from John Munro)

  • Teachers can use tasks and challenges that can be processed in multiple ways and that are open-ended, that foster a questioning attitude, that stimulate broad and open perceptions. Conditions that foster a high level of autonomy, self initiative, spontaneity and experimentation during learning and that reduce the pressure for formal achievement are useful.
  • Students need to be encouraged to think about the topic in more divergent oriented ways. Subject area knowledge needs to be taught in ways that allow more open-ended thinking. The teaching can include use questioning to explore topics and problem solving.
  • Creative thinking is much more likely when there is the opportunity for aspects of self directed and managed learning.
  • Encouraging an attitude towards learning to modify one’s thinking during learning and learning how to use the errors made during learning
  • Valuing intuitive, ‘non conformist’ and original interpretations of ideas is useful. Students need to see that their original ideas are accepted and valued, even if they assist only in leading to other ideas.

I think our group is on the right track in that we’ve discussed trying to include higher level thinking skills such as analysis and synthesis.  I’m wondering how can we provide the incubation time necessary and also ensure that students have  good deal of background knowledge about the topic?  I can see how Kynan and Kristen will be doing that with their gaming unit, but I’m wondering how we’ll do that we our very broad question, “What is creativity?” How can our learning activities focus on gathering some of that background knowledge? What background knowledge is necessary to have?