Teachers say they like creative kids. Most say that devoting time to the promotion of creative thinking in the classroom is important. But there seems to be a disconnect between theory and practice is the finding of a study published in the Creativity Research Journal by professors of psychology Erik Westby and V.L. Dawson. From the report: "One of the most consistent findings in educational studies of creativity has been that teachers dislike personality traits associated with creativity."
It turns out that students who score the highest on tests of creativity are also the kids who have traits that teachers consider "obnoxious" including: not taking no for an answer, being a risk taker, independence, and impulsiveness. That these traits are not positively viewed should come as no surprise considering teacher goals of maintaining order and tending to multiple children.
"Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem?" asks science blogger Jonah Lehrer. "The point is that the classroom isn't designed for impulsive expression - that's called talking out of turn. Instead, it's all about obeying group dynamics and exerting focused attention. Those are important life skills, of course, but decades of psychological research suggest that such skills have little to do with creativity"
Teachers tend to prefer traits that are associated with the lowest levels of creativity. say Westby and Dawson. These include conformity, unquestioning acceptance of authority, and sincerity--all of which are well suited to traditional classrooms.
If creative students are actively disliked by their teachers, then school will be, for them, an unpleasant experience. Teachers who don't like traits associated with creativity will be unlikely to nurture students with this potential. "Since a supportive environment is essential for fostering creativity, teachers may unwittingly extinguish creative behaviours," say Westby and Dawson. As a result, the study concludes, schooling has a negative effect on creativity.
When creativity isn't fostered in schools its a net loss for society, the researchers suggest. "Creativity [is] essential for sustainable growth and economic development," say officials at Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a nonprofit that promotes policies that improve the economic well being of people around the world. Yet others suggest the value of creativity is limited. "Striving for creativity can actually reduce innovation," says Robin Hanson an associate professor of economics at George Mason University in an article for Bloomberg Businessweek.
EMAIL: [email protected]