Teaching creativity as a 21st century skill

In 2017 Deloitte held hosted a public lecture by James C. Kaufman, PhD; a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut as well as a creativity & education expert, in a public lecture where he discussed the challenges of teaching and assessing creativity.

We’re posting this now as there’s an interesting similarity between creativity and digital competence, digital competence being a theme explored in our new essay From coding to competence. Both creativity and digital competence are often construed as skills, the ability to do something well. This seems strange as ‘creativity’ isn’t something you do, it’s really a question of how you approach a piece of work, the attitudes and behaviours that you possess. Similarly, we saw in From coding to competence that realising that there is a ‘digital’ solution to your problem depends on having the attitudes and behaviours that enable you to explore the problem and bricolage a solution. If a worker doesn’t have these attitudes and behaviours we see learned helplessness, where they’re unable to engage with digital tools unless there’s a particular app that completely solves their problem. We’ve taken to calling this attitude-behaviour combination a predilection.

Given the similarities between creativity and digital competence, and the fact that creativity is also a core attribute for workers in the 21st century, we thought it worthwhile pulling together this summary of Dr Kaufman’s talk. In it he shows that realising creativity in practice requires us to address a broader range of factors than the narrow set of teachable capabilities and skills that is often focused on. These factors include the work or learning environment and the individual’s personality, cognitive strengths, and motivation. Even the way that we think of creativity – is it just for artists or geniuses? – matters a great deal. We need to develop a broader understanding of creativity if we’re to avoid the trap of treating creativity as yet another subject in an already crowded curricula.

Dr Kaufman’s lecture leverages his cutting-edge psychological research to debunk common misconceptions about creativity, describe how learning environments can support creativity, while providing insights into teaching and assessing creativity within the established curriculum. The lecture also covers:

  • What is creativity?
  • Seeing creativity as a development trajectory and advancing along this trajectory.
  • Creativity across domains (not just ‘art’), and the ‘cost’ of creativity.
  • Measuring creativity?
  • How can people become more creative?

You can watch the bite-sized version of his 90-minute lecture here.


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