Drawing again today from the authoritative report from Craig Jerald, Defining a 21st century education. Jerald views creativity and innovation as among the most important 21st century “broader competencies;”
The new Skills Commission concluded that academic knowledge and skills, applied literacies, and critical thinking will not be sufficient for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy. “The crucial new factor, the one that alone can justify higher wages in this country than in other countries with similar levels of cognitive skills, is creativity and innovation.” Indeed, employers in the Conference Board survey ranked creativity third among skills they expect to increase in importance over the next half decade….Today, with so many similar products and services available to consumers, companies can only stay ahead by providing customized or uniquely designed versions.
Employers and superintendents also disagreed on the “comfort with ‘no right answer.’” Employers ranked it fifth in importance, but by such a small margin that it was virtually tied for third, while superintendents ranked it eleventh—dead last.
The review also found research on what kinds of environments support creativity: “It will happen only in circumstances in which the creator is allowed to fail many times in order to succeed only once. Those who are most successful respond very poorly to extrinsic motivation.”
Notice that creativity seems to call for the same kind of “pattern recognition” at the heart of critical thinking and problem solving. According to Robert Sternberg, insightful thinking involves several kinds of knowledge processing: telling relevant from irrelevant information; combining pieces of relevant knowledge in new ways; and connecting new information to old information in novel ways
“In fact, in our creativity research, my students, colleagues, and I have found so much evidence in favor of intrinsic motivation that we have articulated what we call the Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity,” says Harvard’s Teresa Amabile. “People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself—and not by external pressures.”
“When researchers and historians study the origins of the important innovations that change our world, they discover that they are never the isolated insight of a solitary individual; they always involve collaborative teams and complex organizations.”201 He urges educators to use activities that require disciplined but improvisational collaboration. Even an activity as commonplace as whole class discussion can provide such opportunities. “Decades of educational research have demonstrated that unstructured group discussion has the potential to teach students the sort of group creativity that the new economy demands,” says Sawyer.
Adams, K. (2005, September). The sources of innovation and creativity. Paper commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy.
Sternberg, R. (2006). The nature of creativity. Creativity Research Journal,
Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sawyer, R. K. (2006, April). Educating for innovation. Thinking Skills and Creativity