Creativity in Language Education


Hyun-Ju Kim, Dankook University, S. Korea

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For decades, creativity has been consistently discussed and argued as vital by those in education as well as in business. During the past couple of years, there have been a lot of books and reports discussing creativity (e.g., Pink, 2006; Robinson, 2011; Robinson & Aronica, 2013) and many of them discuss effective environments which nurture innovation and creativity and the lives of creative people (Wagner, 2012). Creativity researchers have focused on the construct of creativity and ways to measure it. In the process, the status of creativity in language education has become an increasingly important concept.  
Creativity in Various Perspectives

Given that the term “creativity” is multifaceted and complex (Rhodes, 1961; Treffinger, 1996), it is important to consider creativity from different perspectives and approaches. Of course, no individual possesses all the characteristics or traits of creativity, nor can anyone display them all the time (Treffinger, Young, Selby, & Shepardson, 2002).
Young (1985, p. 85) defines creativity as “the skill of bringing about something new and valuable” into existence. He argues that when creative people innovate toward newness, they often find a series of alternative solutions and can quickly make decisions about what to include and what to eliminate. Siegler and Richards (1982) also indicated that people’s expertise in a given domain influences the efficacy of problem solving. These propositions suggest that creativity results not only from domain-specific knowledge, but also creative undertaking or application of existing knowledge within a domain.
Mumford, Mobley, Reiter-Palmon, and Doares (1991) discuss how creativity occurs and is operated by people. In the creative process, they argue, information is operated on to generate new knowledge. That is, the information is stored in categories (e.g. procedural and declarative), which are systematically related to each other in associative networks. Mumford and his colleagues proposed a model of the creative process, focusing on relationships among core processes: (a) problem construction; (b) information encoding; (c) category search; (d) specification of best-fitting categories; (e) combination and reorganization of best-fitting categories; (f) idea evaluation; (g) implementation; and (h) monitoring. Their process-based creativity model implies that problem-solving is not simply the result of efforts to understand creative problem solving, but rather the application of various processes to categorical knowledge.
Amabile (2012) states that creativity is associated with the context in which one is working or going to school. She has proposed that creativity is not a universal concept but rather a culturally specific one and distinguished “extraordinary creativity” from “everyday creativity.” Craft effectively argues that any ordinary person can be creative (Craft, 2002). Robinson (2009) also believes that it is a common myth that only special people are creative. He says everyone has the capacities for creativity, but such capacities should be learned and developed. In other words, creativity is not a static personal trait, but rather a fundamental feature of every human being. He also notes that people can be more creative in some areas and less creative in others. When someone is not creative in something, for example, in language learning, it often means that he or she does not know how creativity works in practice in that specific context.
Creativity Education in Practice

As creativity and innovation becoming better understood, government officials and educators are creating goals, writing strategic plans, and drafting policies to document and foster a creativity revolution “in almost every country in the world” (Bamford, 2006). As studies of the impact of creativity education have documented ways to foster it in numerous educational programs and initiatives, many countries are beginning to reconsider the importance of creativity education and prioritize it (Ewing, 2010).
One key aspect of developing a more creative populace is a curriculum designed to support creative task and experimentation. The creative instructional approaches and pedagogical practices selected are now seen as key aspects of many curriculum-revamping efforts in schools. In effect, the curriculum should be developed to reflect creative thinking at all levels and within all sectors of education. Learner experiences and outcomes when such creative pedagogical approaches are employed should be examined to discover important relationships among curriculum, pedagogy, and creativity.
Importantly, two separate yet intertwined notions should be understood clearly: creative teaching and teaching for creativity. The former is about using creative approaches to make learning more effective and engaging, whereas the latter is about teaching practices which develop students’ creative thinking and performances. Researchers in the field of creativity argue that facilitating learner creativity can happen by promoting learners’ self-motivation, confidence, curiosity, resilience, flexibility, risk taking, and collaborative work (Das, Dewhurst, & Gray, 2011). In contrast to traditional lecture-based forms of instruction, learner generation of ideas and originality can be achieved when teachers creatively approach the content and learners are actively engaged in the learning activities. Therefore, developing and supporting a curriculum focused on students’ creative abilities should be undertaken only after creating the conditions in which schools allow teachers greater flexibility in devising effective and appropriate creativity programs and activities. Putting such practices in place requires examples of best practices as well as signs that they will impact student performance.
Creativity in Future Education

Another viewpoint on how creativity is impacted by one’s surroundings is offered by Lubart and Guignard (2004). They see creativity as something that can be nurtured or augmented by the technologies that one uses. In fact, Lubart and Guignard argue that people generally think in more creative ways while using advanced technology like a laptop, smartphone, or an iPad. From this perspective, then, those who have access to such technology resources have additional opportunities to display as well as strengthen their creative talents. Such an idea moves the concept of creativity from a unique internal process or talent that is highly limited to one wherein anyone has a chance to be creative.
Similarly, Craft (2002) states that technology can be used to motivate learners to think innovatively and consider additional possibilities or alternative solutions. Technology allows one to offload ideas in one’s head to a virtual space that one can come back to when needed. In each virtual revisit, one can expand upon or interconnect such ideas and inspirations. With such virtual napkins available at a click, one need not be wedded to a single or initial solution since many can be considered from a list in a collaborative document, wiki, or discussion forum. Several recent research studies found that students’ use of technology has a positive effect on writing, collaboration, and creativity (Roschelle, Pea, Hoadley, Gordin, & Means, 2000). It is stated that using digital tools encourages students to freely express their ideas in their writings with easy access to multiple sources and a wider audience. In addition, teachers feel at ease to teach writing and help students to be more creative with technology as well as more independent in their work.
In terms of the future of education, Craft (2002) believes that learners will be empowered by a digital revolution and argues that the Internet plays a significant role in enabling innovation to take root. Considering the current youth generation often called the digital generation, the impact of the Internet on society as well as on individuals will continue to expand so that people can accomplish their work in a variety of innovative and creative ways.

Creativity is an essential concept in all educational sectors of the twenty-first century. However, it is extremely difficult to define and complicated to measure. As a result, there are quite diverse definitions and testing approaches for the construct of creativity. It is even more difficult to understand and evaluate when it is considered as a social construct. It is important to note that the main source of creativity that makes people engage in creative activities is intrinsic motivation, whether it’s from the internalized process of extrinsic motivation or it’s just from the supportive environments within a specific social context. People who have been considered creative are all intrinsically motivated and engage in interesting, challenging, and enjoyable activities as they perceive them. However, many of the tasks that some people consider creative are not always interesting or enjoyable to others.
The theories and ideas related to creativity often focus on the various components or the characteristics of creativity including the creative process, person, and product. An emphasis on one aspect of creativity over another, of course, can have a definite impact on the teaching approaches. It is vital to find ways to foster creative passions in language learners. Therefore, instead of creativity being the subject or theme in the classroom, it should be the outcome of a collaborative effort among educational researchers, curriculum developers, teachers, school administrators, and other participants in education. Through such collaborations, a type of balance among school curricula, teaching methods, and assessment practices might be forged. If successful, a culture of innovators may emerge.

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ITBE Link - Spring 2015 - Volume 43 Number 1