The New Basics: Teaching Creativity & Innovation

A recent Newsweek article entitled “The Creativity Crisis” (July 10, 2010) reported that while IQ scores increase at the same rate each generation, CQ (creativity quotient) scores have been falling since 1990. While I don’t put much stock in any type of standardized test, declining CQ scores should be a wake-up call for parents of school-age children and education policy makers.

First, if creativity is to be taught we need to better understand what it is. The article cites a fairly standard definition: “…the production of something original and useful…. There is never one right answer….to be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”

The CQ test was developed in the 1950s by Professor Paul Torrance, founder of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia. As the Newsweek story notes, “What’s shocking is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those kids’ creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers…. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.”

Why are CQ scores falling? Some blame cuts in school arts programs, children watching television or playing video games. That is a huge cop out. The truth is that traditional schools (and I include here the many independent schools obsessed with their students’ SAT and AP scores) teach to a battery of standardized tests that emphasize mastery of content and conventional problem solving above all else. In my opinion, the greater concern is not students failing tests but testing failing students.

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on how “schools kill creativity” is a powerful indictment of our education system; traditional schools don’t just suppress creativity, they punish it. In an era when it has never been more important for us to harness the power of synthesis, collaboration, integration and innovation, it should be abundantly clear that creativity is not only the province of the arts.

At Beaver, we have always valued creativity and innovation. Our faculty understands that these skills can and must be fostered in every classroom. Reflect on this notion when you read about our exciting NuVu Studio program and about how we use Web 2.0 tools to empower students to think and act globally. In each instance, you will see how we help students develop both convergent and divergent approaches to problem solving. We recognize that creativity is not something that a handful of people are born with. Rather, we understand that all of the higher-order thinking skills related to creativity can and must be inculcated in every student in every discipline.

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