• Dr. Philip Seal

CAN CREATIVITY BE TAUGHT?

It is now commonplace to see the word ‘creativity’ listed by employers as one of the most valuable qualities that job applicants can have, and technological developments will make this even more pronounced.

As AI systems become increasingly able to complete functional, relatively predictable tasks with high degrees of efficiency and reliability, how will human thinking continue to make its contribution?

One way to answer this question is to look to those areas of human life that are less easily defined and more genuinely unpredictable. A computer programme may be able to refine the efficiency of an existing machine or process, but can it generate divergent ideas that buck trends and shift paradigms?


Looked at in this way, the deeper value of human cognition lies in its ability to make links between diverse ideas, to think outside the box, to reflect on itself and its applications in an holistic way—all of which can be described as acts of creativity. Another way to put this is to say that human thinking does not function within a definable pre-set programme or respond to a finite data set. It is therefore vastly more self-reflective and adaptable than even the most advanced examples of machine learning.

Given that schools are currently engaging with a generation of young people who will push technological developments further than ever before, there is a strong imperative for teachers and other stakeholders to reflect on the importance of nurturing creativity. Yet within education, the debate about ‘teaching creativity’ has quickly become polarised and stagnant. Critics claim that creativity itself cannot be taught, and that it is too precious to be subjected to reductive processes such as progress-tracking and summative assessment. There is often a sense of caution in the air amongst educators when it comes to adding 'creativity' to the list of things they should consciously instill and refine within their students.

Reflecting on these questions, my strong contention is that certain forms of creativity can be taught, but that they need breaking down into smaller subsets. You can find out more about some of our findings in the blog entries here, including reflections on simple skills such as morphological analysis, and higher-level skills such as TRIZ.


The future-facing questions that we are asking as Warwick Independent Schools Foundation are: How can we embed the teaching of scaffolded creative thinking skills into every classroom throughout the school day? How can we meaningfully and non-reductively map the creativity flight-path of every student? And how can we encourage a wide variety of fellow educators to take up the mantel of teaching creativity to a generation of young pupil for whom it will be increasingly important?