Michael Anderson, Professor of Arts and Creativity Education, The University of Sydney, Australia and Co-Founder of 4C Transformative Learning.  

As I look over the posts in this Kadenze series on the ‘new normal’ post-COVID education, it seems that many are exploring (sometimes using different names) what might be called a ‘pedagogy of creativity’. There has been a long running and extensive discussion about the place of creativity in education (Hernández-Torrano & Ibrayeva, 2020) but perhaps we are now inching closer to what we might call a pedagogy of creativity. This is probably unsurprising because there is a history of a pedagogy of creativity hiding in plain sight.

 Things seem to be on the move.

Many educational pioneers provide the foundations for this educational priority. In 1929  John Dewey argued in the Quest for Certainty “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” and provided clear insights into how the imagination drives progress, and that such progress is not exclusively associated with the arts. Many have built on this powerful proposal. Louis Arnaud Reid, L.S.Vygotsky, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Edward de Bono, Dorothy Heathcote, Nancy C. Andreasen, Sir Ken Robinson and the book series edited by Ron Beghetto and Bharath Sriraman.

 What are the Features of a ‘Pedagogy of Creativity’?

To imagine a pedagogy of creativity we need first to imagine its features. Here are some from my research and practice to help define a pedagogy of creativity. They are:

–          Based in a range of evidence

–          Collaborative

–         Not focused on the body or the mind separately but engage both for the most part simultaneously

–          Not obsessed with teaching and testing only the ‘known’

–          Classroom and schools ready

–          Both disciplinary and interdisciplinary

–          Supportive of iterative development and lay the foundation for innovation.

Global support for developing a Pedagogy of Creativity

So propositions to inform a pedagogy of creativity have been with us for quite some time, but who is leading its form and application today?  What is happening globally to indicate what creativity might look like in teaching, learning and assessment? Is a global infrastructure emerging to ensure the complex and interrelated needs of students, schools, teachers, educational leaders, business and other systems, governments and societies are being met?

Certainly organizations are coalescing around this task; and although we could not yet say they are anything as grandiose as global infrastructure for a pedagogy of creativity, they are providing promising signs of something evolving; something collaborative, integrated, substantive and global. I would like to briefly identify some of the drivers of change that I can see internationally and then look to some models that I have had personal connection with to illustrate how these changes are occurring. Here is my summary of the initiatives of influence shaping a global network focussed on creativity in pedagogy, schooling and education.

 PISA Creative Thinking Assessment

In 2022 PISA introduced a Creative Thinking Assessment that measured students’ ability to think creatively and solve problems. The test is a series of open-ended tasks (Grey and Morris, 2022) that require students to use their imagination, to think divergently, and to use their problem-solving skills. Some of the tasks included in the test are:

·         Idea generation: Students are presented with a problem or challenge and are asked to come up with as many ideas as possible to solve it.

·         Pattern recognition: Students are given a series of images or shapes and are asked to identify the pattern that connects them.

·         Problem-solving: Students are presented with a complex problem and are asked to come up with a solution by considering multiple perspectives and using a systematic approach.

The performance of students in the PISA creative thinking test is evaluated on criteria such as the originality and flexibility of their ideas, the appropriateness of their solutions, and the quality of their reasoning and communication.

There is substantial debate about the usefulness of these kinds of tests and some researchers have critiqued the narrowness of the skills being tested (Grey and Morris, 2022). These concerns are well founded for all testing regimes but they apply especially in the exploration of capacity as broad and divergent as creativity. What the PISA test does signal, however, is the perceived significance of creativity in schooling (backed by the OECD), and the need for it to be embedded in classrooms internationally. This has created a demand for reliable and high-quality professional resources and The Global Institute for Creative Thinking (GIoCT) is beginning to tackle this challenge.

The Global Institute of Creative Thinking

The GIoCT is a London based institute that advocates for creativity and creative thinking in education. It runs international conferences, develops case studies, delivers professional learning and generates resources for teachers, school and system leaders around the world. While the institute is emerging, its conference in London and Paris in 2022, delivered in partnership with the OECD, provided clear directions for growth. The challenge, however, is to create resources that satisfy the growing hunger for classroom ready approaches to creative teaching, learning and assessment. In the last decade guidance for educators has emerged with British Creativity educator Bill Lucas’ Five Dimensional Model of Creativity (2019). Lucas has detailed these and other emerging models in a recent report, commissioned by the Global Institute of Creative Thinking (Lucas, 2022).  

 4C Transformative Learning

Building on the work of these pioneers and others, my colleague Miranda Jefferson and I have identified four capacities that teachers need to build in themselves and their students to explore creativity across the curriculum in their framework we have called the Creativity Cascade. This involves teachers and learners.

4C Transformative Learning uses a school-based transformation model to support educators through professional learning and leadership development in long term partnerships with more than 80 schools internationally. We work with schools directly to embed Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Reflection into school policies, practices and processes. Based in Sydney, Australia this group uses an ‘evolution not revolution’ approach to catalyse creative change in individual schools to generate deep and engaging learning for students, teachers and school leaders.

In addition, the resourcing landscape for creativity learning has flourished in the last few  years and one online course provider is Kadenze Inc. Kadenze is a US based, niche learning platform that offers courses in the creative arts, design, and creativity technologies through creativity and arts-led learning. Courses are produced with world leading universities, colleges and industry partners and focus on how creativity can be infused in learning. Kadenze is  currently finalizing The Joy of Learning the Kadenze Way, an online course introducing their Learning Design Framework to ensure that physical and virtual classrooms become places of adventure and alliance.

Working in an aligned but different technology space is C&T (for Computers & Theatre) that stands for new ways of fusing drama and digital technologies. Their signature online utility, called Prospero, enables anyone to mix and blend drama, kinaesthetic learning and digital technologies.

Of course some major foundations have been discussing creativity for many years (such as Lego) and interesting models are emerging that offer direct support for schools who would like to develop creative education in their curriculum.

 Building Momentum

There are many other organizations, especially from the arts, the arts and education and teaching artistry, who are contributing mightily to grow a pedagogy of creativity at regional  and national levels. This is extremely exciting and a great start, but next steps are crucial for creativity to become a reality in the life of every young person. 

To achieve a pedagogy of creativity, educators require more comprehensive and effective professional learning, resources and case studies to make creativity in learning a standard expectation for students everywhere. That step change will require a global infrastructure for creative education that builds the research and advocacy for Creativity in Education seen in the work of figures such as Sir Ken Robinson, to robust approaches that integrate and sometimes challenge established classroom practice. A pedagogy of creativity, with its embodied collaborative and imaginative practices, provides something unique and exciting to education. If we invest our time and effort into making this great start a sustainable educational reality, our students will be the beneficiaries of more dynamic, hopeful, and engaging learning. 

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By Michael Anderson, Professor of Arts and Creativity Education, The University of Sydney, Australia, Co-Founder of 4C Transformative Learning and Vice Chair of the GIoCT Advisory Committee

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Photo by Lucas Kapla on Unsplash