The Torrance Center for Creativity April 19, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education, Uncategorized.
Tags: paul torrance, TTCT
This week, I’m visiting the legendary Torrance Center at the University of Georgia. I’m honored to be delivering the 2013 annual Torrance Lecture, invited by center directory Bonnie Cramond. My topic was “Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.”
Paul Torrance was one of the first-wave creativity researchers, who helped to found the field back in the 1950s and 1960s. In the late 1950s, he developed the first version of his creativity test, which soon became known as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, or TTCT. This test continues to be the most widely used creativity test in the world–often used for admission to gifted and talented programs, for example. You can read more about this history in my 2012 book Explaining Creativity.
In the mid-1960s, Torrance argued that schools should teach creativity, and that curriculum for all subjects should be designed to foster creative learning outcomes. He even developed a series of curricular materials that teachers could use to help students be more creative. He was way ahead of his time–in the last ten years, education leaders around the world have been advocating for creative learning as a “21st century skill,” and I also believe that we need to do a better job of fostering creativity in our students.
He lived a long and productive life, most of it at the University of Georgia, passing on in 2003–and leaving part of his estate to UGA to fund the Torrance center’s ongoing research.
It was awesome to stand in front of the glass display case containing all of Dr. Torrance’s awards. And I wish I’d had more time to peruse his book collection, which lines the walls of the center’s conference room. It was a wonderful visit–to be surrounded by people dedicated to the study of creativity.
Teaching Creativity in the University April 2, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education, Uncategorized.
Tags: carnegie mellon, creative thinking, dan berrett, divergent thinking, stanford, studio model, university of kentucky
Colleges and universities around the United States are increasingly introducing creativity into their undergraduate curriculum. They’re responding to national calls for greater creativity and entrepreneurship, and hoping to help solve pressing social problems–climate change, income inequality, global water scarcity. These challenging problems can’t be solved only with technical knowledge, or with the standard textbook procedures. In most cases, they require innovative interdisciplinary teams. Influential national reports from the Business Roundtable and the Council on Competitiveness have argued that our schools need to “educate for innovation,” that we need to transform the way we teach students. Best-sellers by authors like Dan Pink and Tom Friedman, and a popular TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, have spread the message widely.
Colleges are now getting the message. Many of them are now requiring students to participate in creative activities, or to take courses in creative thinking, as writer Dan Berrett describes in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education.* Starting this Fall, Stanford will require all incoming students to take at least one course in “creative expression.” Students at Carnegie Mellon now have to satisfy a “creating” requirement, when they create a painting or a musical composition, or design and build a robot, or develop a creative experimental design. Both the University of Kansas and the City University of New York have recently adopted general education requirements that all students take a course in creative thinking. The University of Kentucky requires all 20,000 undergraduates to take a three-credit course in creativity.
The goal is to help students learn about how creativity works; about how to negotiate the twists and turns in the creative process; and to develop their own confidence in their ability to generate creative solutions. I completely support these curricular changes; after all, the 21st century is the creative age, and every career is going to require creative thinking (except for the repetitive jobs that are being automated anyway). Most graduates will change jobs multiple times; many of them will end up in careers that don’t even exist today. They need creativity, adaptability, and flexibility more than just about any other course we might require.
There are lots of challenges to getting this right. First, creativity research shows that you get the best results when you teach creativity within the context of a specific discipline (rather than teaching one “general creativity” course). This means that if you want creative physicists, then your physics department classes need to be changed; if you want creative computer scientists, then the computer science curriculum needs to be changed. If you just add a three-credit creativity course, but then students get the same old memorize-and-regurgitate curriculum in their STEM classes, the creativity course won’t be able to overcome the uncreative STEM teaching.
Second, different departments on campus are likely to have different perspectives on what counts as “creativity.” The professors in the art school and the music department often associate creativity with the arts; but creativity is important in all disciplines, even in science and math, and especially in engineering. (The Engineer of 2020 report, by the National Academy of Engineering, starts with the sentence “Engineering is a profoundly creative occupation.”) If you’re taking a piano class and memorizing a composition by Beethoven for the piano, is that really creative? And what about a computer science class where you design a user interface for a web site? That certainly seems creative… but, what if you’re designing a new database algorithm for a large international bank? Isn’t that creative too? (Even though the soulless depths of a bank’s back office seem to be about as far away from creativity as one can get…)
This is one reason that I’m now studying how professors teach in schools of art and design and architecture. These professors have been teaching for creativity for decades, while at the same time guiding their students towards learning important discipline-specific skills and procedures. Their teaching is domain specific, which is perfectly aligned with creativity research. My hope is that by documenting this “studio model,” I can draw out important lessons for how to reform teaching in science, math, and engineering.
I’m glad to see that so many universities are responding to the need for greater creativity!
*Dan Berrett. “The Creativity Cure.” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2013
How to Foster Entrepreneurship in China? March 26, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education.
Tags: entrepreneurship, Kauffman campus, li hongbin
add a comment
A recent study* found that U.S. graduates are much more likely than Chinese graduates to found a startup or join one. This survey of engineering students at three top Chinese universities and Stanford University found that 22 percent of Stanford grads planned to start or join a startup; 52 percent of top Chinese graduates plan to join the government. One 25-year-old graduate in international business explained it this way: “If you work for private-sector Chinese firms, your family will lose face. Those aren’t famous firms.” She went on to say that entrepreneurial jobs are too risky. In Wenzhou, a city whose recent success has been driven by entrepreneurship, “entrepreneurs were viewed suspiciously by many residents.” Li Hongbin, a Tsinghua University economist who worked on the study, says
The current education system does not produce people who are innovative. That makes it harder for the country to reach its long-term goal of building an innovative society.
The government in Beijing knows that entrepreneurship has driven the Chinese economy, and they now have policies in place–for example, to bring back Chinese professionals who attended university in other countries and stayed there. One policy offers a bonus of as much as $160,000 for those who return; and yet, since 2008, only 3,300 professionals have taken up the offer.
Some of China’s top universities are beginning to offer entrepreneurship education programs, of the sort that are now common in the U.S. thanks in part to the funding of the Kauffman Foundation, which has famously sponsored many “Kauffman campuses” where students can major in entrepreneurship and participant in business plan competitions, under the guidance of experienced local mentors. (My employer, Washington University, is a Kauffman campus.) Three of China’s most elite universities, Tsinghua and Peking Universities in Beijing, and Fudan University in Shanghai, have created incubator programs to help entrepreneurs develop commercial applications.
So what’s the solution for entrepreneurship in China? Schools and universities are an important part of the solution; many Chinese perceive their own schools and colleges to be focused on rote learning and not receptive to creativity and critical thinking. One international business student chose to attend an English language university, run by Britain’s Nottingham University, specifically to acquire the “critical thinking” that her uncle says is lacking in Chinese graduates.
But colleges can’t solve the problem alone. Cultural attitudes need to change to value entrepreneurs. Venture capital is an essential component, and a business climate of open and fair market competition. Many would-be entrepreneurs give up after they realize the bribes they’re expected to pay, and the unfair advantages given to large state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The path to greater Chinese innovation is complex, but education is one of the core components of greater creativity and entrepreneurship.
*Bob Davis, 2013. “Chinese college graduates play it safe and lose out.” WSJ, Page A1, A10.
Educating for Creative Minds February 18, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education.
Tags: charles fadel, creative teaching, james kaufman, learning and the brain, ronald beghetto, shelley carson, tina seelig
1 comment so far
I just returned from San Francisco, where I gave a keynote at the “Learning & the Brain” conference. In my talk, “Creative Teaching for the 21st Century,” I described the learning outcomes students need to become creative, and I identified the central features of learning environments that foster creative learning. The very receptive audience included over 1,500 dedicated educators–teachers, school leaders, education entrepreneurs.
I really enjoyed spending time with my creativity research colleagues. I chatted with other creativity experts on the program, including:
- Ronald Beghetto, professor at University of Oregon and co-editor of Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom
- Shelley Carson, author of Your Creative Brain
- Charles Fadel, author of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times
- James Kaufman, professor at Cal State San Bernardino, and author of Creativity 101
- Tina Seelig, Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and author of inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity
There were several other colleagues in San Francisco that I wanted to meet, but I just couldn’t find them among the 1,500 people: Nancy Andreasen, Mark Beeman, John Seely Brown, Scott Barry Kaufman, John Kounios, Dean Keith Simonton, and many others. The conference organizers did a great job of bringing together the top people working on creativity and learning.
Thank you to all of the educators who came up to me after my talk, to tell me about their own efforts to redesign schools to foster greater creativity. You are pointing the way toward the future!
Learning Spaces and 21st Century Skills January 22, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education, Uncategorized.
Tags: architecture, creativity, jeanne narum, learning spaces collaboratory, srg, traditional classrooms
Take a look at this fascinating graphic (click on the link, it’s a pdf):
A Fabric of Learning in Spaces 2013
(developed by the architecture firm SRG and Jeanne Narum of the Learning Spaces Collaboratory)
At the left, you’ll see a list of 21st century skills, including Adaptability, Collaboration, and Innovation.
At the top, you’ll see a list of various types of physical spaces that are found on college campuses.
The content of the graphic shows to what extent each skill is fostered in each type of space. There is so much rich information here, but the first thing to notice is that “Traditional Classrooms” do the least to foster these skills. And “Tiered Classrooms” (like you find in a business school) aren’t much better.
So what do you think the college campus of the future should look like? What will we do with all of those lecture halls? After all, if this graphic is correct, then why wouldn’t we “flip” all classrooms and have all lectures videotaped and delivered over the Internet?
China’s Innovation Riddle January 17, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education, Enhancing creativity.
Tags: beijing geely, china, education revolution, innovation, keith bradsher, li shufu, sanya university
1 comment so far
For years, China has been known for cheap labor and cheap manufacturing costs–that’s why the United States has outsourced so many jobs there. But China’s leaders are trying to change this and to become a more innovative economy. One of their core strategies is to increase the number of college graduates, as Keith Bradsher writes in today’s New York Times:
The aim is to change the current system, in which a tiny, highly educated elite oversees vast armies of semi-trained factory workers and rural laborers. China wants to move up the development curve by fostering a much more broadly educated public.
China is investing $250 billion each year in its universities. In the last ten years, the number of colleges in China has doubled, to 2,409. That’s 1,200 new universities in ten years, which is 120 new universities every year! And Keith Bradsher reports that these are not just phantom campuses–all of the classroom seats are filled. (Their biggest problem is finding qualified instructors.) By 2020, China’s goal is to have 195 million graduates each year (compared to the 120 million predicted in the U.S. that year).
But simply having more graduates won’t automatically result in more innovation:
Much depends on whether China’s authoritarian political system can create an educational system that encourages the world-class creativity and innovation that modern economies require….
The overarching question for China’s colleges is whether they can cultivate innovation on a wide scale–vying with America’s best and brightest in multi-media hardware and software applications, or outdesigning and outengineering Germans in making muscular cars and automated factory equipment.
Bradsher calls this “the innovation riddle” and compares China’s current situation to Japan just after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, Japan focused on university education much like China is doing now. In many ways, it was a huge success; Japan has a large middle class and one of the world’s largest economies. “But partly because of a culture where fitting in is often more prized than standing out, Japan hit an economic plateau.” Economists predict that China’s cost advantage in labor and cheap capital will disappear within 10 to 15 years. The riddle is: How can China transform itself into an innovation economy in just ten years?
The Future of College January 15, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in Education.
Tags: badges, coursera, edx, john hennessey, mooc, salman khan, walter mossberg
I just watched this fascinating 30-minute interview from June 2012, discussing potentially dramatic innovations in higher education. The on-stage interview was part of the Wall Street Journal’s “D: All Things Digital” series, and the host was the Journal’s legendary technology columnist, Walt Mossberg. The two guests were knowledgeable, brilliant, and well-spoken:
- Salman Khan, creator of the Khan Academy web site (with its instructional videos)
- John Hennessey, President of Stanford University
There’s a lot of serious change on the horizon. MIT and Harvard have teamed up to offer many of their courses online, for free, through EdX. Stanford has its own consortium of universities, also offering free courses online, called Coursera. These initiatives are called “Massively Open Online Courses” or MOOC for short. My employer, Washington University, just announced a partnership with ten top universities to offer online courses–but not for free, and only for students who meet admissions criteria.
Khan and Hennessey describe several potential futures. For example, maybe some students could get a college degree without ever setting foot on a campus. Maybe others would do a hybrid degree, with some courses on campus and others over the Internet. Khan proposed the most radical change: maybe employers will stop treating elite college degrees as a certification of your ability to do a job. Instead, your abilities would be certified by an entity that is unattached to any college, and anyone can take any test to demonstrate mastery of a specific ability or topic. It doesn’t matter how you learn it–on a campus, at home, in an informal study group with a few friends. If you pass, you would get a certificate that today’s digerati refer to as a “badge” (by analogy with boy scout merit badges). Khan talks about “separating out the teaching part of college from the certification part.”
Also see my post “Will the Internet Transform College?” from May 31, 2012.
What do you think the future will be?
Creativity Increases Dishonesty January 2, 2013Posted by keithsawyer in New research, Uncategorized.
Tags: dan ariely, dark side, dishonesty, francesca gino, unethical
A new study from Harvard and Duke Universities* suggests that more creative people are more dishonest. As the authors put it:
Across all of our studies, we consistently find that greater creativity promotes dishonesty by increasing individuals’ ability to justify their unethical actions (p. 447).
This really bothered me, because one of my life’s goals has been to help people become more creative. So I closely read the article. I conclude that it’s a well-done study and the results are worth taking seriously.
Let’s dive into the details of the six studies they conducted.
Pilot study. The authors circulated a questionnaire to 99 employees of an advertising agency. The questionnaire asked how likely they would be to engage in eight ethically questionable behaviors (e.g. “Take home office supplies from work” or “Inflate your business expense report”). Then the questionnaire asked which department they worked in, and to what extent their job required creativity. Top managers also rated the creativity required of each department. The correlation between creativity and self-reported likelihood to behave dishonestly was .20 and .24, which is statistically significant (although not a very high effect size).
Study 1. Because intelligence test scores and creativity test scores are correlated, the authors had to make sure that it isn’t just high intelligence that makes someone more likely to be dishonest. They enlisted 97 college undergraduates, and gave them three creativity assessments (Gough’s adjective checklist, Hocevar’s Creative Behavior Inventory, and Kirton’s cognitive style questionnaire).
Then, each person completed three tasks–a perception task, a problem-solving task, and a multiple-choice task. In each of these tasks, each correct answer resulted in a small payment to the participant. For all three tasks, the task was designed so that participants reported their own performance; participants believed that they could overstate their performance without detection (although the researchers had secretly designed a way to track these deceptions). So the monetary reward, combined with the (perceived) inability for anyone to detect cheating, tempted each person to lie to get a larger monetary reward.
The correlations between the creativity tests and the level of dishonesty were fairly high, ranging from .23 to .53.
There’s one suspicious finding in Study 1: the creativity measures and the intelligence measures they used were not correlated. And yet, we know from decades of research on creativity and intelligence that in fact, these are correlated (at something between .20 and .40). (See Explaining Creativity, pages 52-57).
Study 2. They found that if you stimulate a creative mindset, it increases the degree of dishonesty, compared to a control task where the creative mindset was not stimulated.
Study 3. Why are creative people more dishonest? The researchers hypothesized that creativity increases a person’s ability to justify their unethical actions to themselves. This study’s design is a bit complicated, but basically, they found that people who were stimulated with a creative mindset were just as dishonest regardless of how easy it is to justify their dishonesty, but the control group (not stimulated for creativity) only was dishonest when the task design made it easier to justify their dishonesty. This confirmed their hypothesis that creativity makes it easier to justify unethical actions.
Study 4. This used the same procedure as Study 3, but this time giving the three creativity assessments to everyone in advance (rather than stimulating a creative mindset in half of the participants). The findings were similar: People who scored higher on the creativity assessments were more likely to lie even when the task was designed to make it harder to justify their unethical behavior. This also confirmed the hypothesis that creativity increases one’s ability to justify unethical actions to themselves.
Study 5. This study essentially combined Studies 3 and 4, by assessing creativity and then trying to stimulate a more creative mindset. Here’s what happened: For those people who scored low on creativity, the creative mindset stimulation increased their degree of lying. For people who scored high in creativity, the creative mindset stimulation didn’t result in more lying. In other words, creative people are already equipped to justify their lying, but less creative people need a creative mindset stimulation to prepare them to justify their lying.
The authors conclude that
This article casts a shadow on the widespread view that creativity always leads to ‘good’.
I wonder, however, if these studies are evidence that creativity leads to “bad” behavior in the real world. After all, these were inconsequential laboratory tasks that had no potential to hurt anyone. The total reward you could get, even if you lied every single time, was never more than $20. So why not lie? And, as the researchers point out, they designed the tasks on purpose so that participants were tempted to cheat, and so that participants believed no one would ever be able to detect their cheating.
I worry that these findings can be over-interpreted. For example, on page 455, the authors hint that U.S. society’s recent increase in innovation was responsible not only for the Internet and the iPhone, but also for ” a series of accounting scandals and the collapse of several billion-dollar companies,” for “academic dishonesty” by students, and for “scientific cheating” by research scientists. Is societal dishonesty and unethical business behavior really an unavoidable side-effect of greater innovation? That seems to be too big of a leap.
But I think this conclusion is warranted:
Thanks to greater creativity, people have more and diverse reasons to justify their own unethical behavior.
What do you think about these findings? Do they have implications for real-world behavior? What about in your own life?
*Gino and Ariely. (2012). The dark side of creativity: Original thinkers can be more dishonest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 102, No. 3, 445-459.
Nature Nurtures Creativity After Four Days of Hiking December 13, 2012Posted by keithsawyer in New research.
Tags: atchley, mednick, outward bound, plos one, remote associates, strayer, vacation
I just read about a fascinating new study* that examined 56 people who went on an Outward Bound wilderness expedition. No electronic devices were allowed on the trips. Of the 56 people, 24 took a creativity test before they left for the trip. The other 32 took the test out in the wilderness, on the fourth day of the trip…after four days disconnected from the grid. These 32 people scored 50% higher on the creativity test than the 24 people who hadn’t yet started their trip! The intriguing implication is that those four days enhanced creativity.
The test they used was the Remote Associates Test (RAT). The way it works is that you’re given three words, and your task is to identify a fourth “target word” that is related to all three of those words. For example, an answer to SAME/TENNIS/HEAD would be MATCH (because a match is the same, tennis match, and match head). The test was designed back in the 1960s by Professor Sarnoff Mednick. Mednick designed each triplet so that all three words are related to the target word in a different way; so, to solve the task, your mind has to activate very different conceptual clusters. Hence the name “remote associates.” Mednick argued that people who were better at making these remote associations would be more likely to come up with surprising new ideas.
The test was not timed; you could take as long as you wanted. After four days in the wilderness, the average score was 6.08 triplets (out of ten) were solved. The people who hadn’t left yet scored an average of 4.14 out of ten. That’s a pretty big difference! Kudos to the researchers for getting such strong findings.
There’s a lot we don’t know yet (as the researchers point out).
- We don’t know if the higher scores are due to spending time in nature, or are due to simply getting away from work and electronic devices, and taking time off. Psychologists have known for years that vacation enhances creativity, that idle time is a necessary part of the creative process, and that people who work all the time are not going to be at their peak creative potential.
- Because the test wasn’t timed, it could be that the people who hadn’t left yet were impatient and were rushing to get everything ready, while the people who took the test out in the wilderness had a lot more time on their hands. Maybe the effects are simply due to the in-hike group spending more time on the test.
- The RAT correlates very highly with measures of verbal intelligence, suggesting that it may be more of a verbal skills test than a creativity test per se. (The researchers controlled for age, because older people have higher verbal abilities.)
- The RAT requires a person to identify the one correct answer, whereas in many cases, creativity is associated with being able to come up with a broad variety of different answers–what’s known as divergent thinking.
- In a large percentage of historical cases, creative insights result from associations of closely related material, not from extremely remote associations. So remote association is clearly not the same thing as creativity, although it seems to be related.
You can learn more about the research behind these points on pages 44 to 46 of Explaining Creativity.
*Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
The Myth of Artistic Inspiration December 9, 2012Posted by keithsawyer in New research.
Tags: coleridge, getty, jackson pollock, kubla kahn, mozart, mural
Jackson Pollock, the American abstract expressionist painter, seems to represent the pinnacle of pure creative inspiration. In the Hollywood movie based on his life, we see Pollock painting in bursts of inspiration, almost like an improvisational dancer.
The movie portrays Pollock as severely neurotic and alcoholic. Pollock is the perfect image of the Romantic creative figure–uncontrolled inspiration, welling up from the unconscious mind, causing both neurosis and genius.
But art experts know that this is mostly a myth. Just the opposite: Pollock carefully planned his works and revised them repeatedly. And it’s not as if this is a secret; as long ago as 1961, the influential art critic Clement Greenberg (perhaps Pollock’s biggest fan) wrote:
Pollock learned to control flung and dripped paint almost as well as he could a brush; if accidents played any part, they were happy accidents, selected accidents, as with any painter.
In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, we see a large image of Pollock’s famous masterpiece “Mural,” at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, with a group of experts analyzing “nearly microscopic bits of paint from the canvas to probe its secrets”. Right away, they discovered that some of the paint had dried before new layers were applied. They conclude that it’s “unlikely that the entire work was painted in one manic all-nighter,” confirming what Clement Greenberg already knew long ago.
You’ve probably heard lots of stories about famous creators who supposedly created an entire work in a fit of inspiration, generating something so perfect that they never modified it. Mozart is said to have composed in bursts of inspiration (you can see it in the movie Amadeus); the Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge has the same reputation. And guess what? These stories are just as false as the myths about Jackson Pollock.
- Music historians have known since the 1960s that “Mozart’s creative process was controlled by a consistently practical approach to the business aspects of music” and that “his manuscripts show evidence of careful editing, revision, and hard work” (Explaining Creativity page 339).
- Coleridge experts have known since the 1920s that he fabricated his own stories about writing poems in a fit of inspiration. The famous poem “Kubla Khan,” for example–which Coleridge claims to have written in a drug-induced haze–went through many revisions that still exist. Among his Romantic-era colleagues, Coleridge was so famous for making up false stories about inspiration, they would often tease him about it (Explaining Creativity page 322).
No great work ever emerges fully formed from the mind. People become known as “exceptional creators” not because of the power of their inspiration, but because of the intensity and dedication of their work process; because of their ability to stay focused through multiple revisions; and because of their ability to negotiate a zigzag path from the first glimmer of an idea to the final full-fledged work.
*Greenberg, 1961/1996, “The Jackson Pollock market soars,” The New York Times Magazine, April 16, 1961 issue; reprinted 1996, April 14, p. 116.
Also see Explaining Creativity, 2012, p. 305.