Is it Really Creativity?

I personally believe that we are a creative people. Our numerous wins in World Championship of Performing Arts and many other competitions in the arts, particularly in music and dance, show how much of an artist we are as a nation. Being an artist and being good at it is a sign of creativity.

Creativity should be encouraged as early as possible. From the time that the children begin to speak, they should be encouraged to be creative. Creativity should also be taught in the classroom where students will spend much of their adolescent life.

Creativity however is usually associated with the arts and sometimes overemphasized in the classroom. I distinctly remember my teacher when I was in elementary school who scoffed because of the plain label of the folder that I submitted. When she received the folder, she said “Wala man lang kadesign design to.” She took her colored pen and traced the border of the letters to make it more colorful. From then on, I spent a considerable time designing folder labels every time I submit a projects and portfolios in a folder.

That was a long time ago, but things have not changed, really. In around 90% of the mathematics classes that I have observed, at least one group of students will have a cartolina designed where their solutions are written. Out of curiosity, I once asked a student what was the design for. He answered that designs are given credits. I even observed a math class where a student in the entire duration of the group work (around 20 minutes) spent her time cutting art papers for the border design and not participating in the discussion about the problem. She was entirely in her own world of cutting and did not show any sign that she was listening to the discussion. But is designing such as in the examples above can be considered creativity? What is creativity really?

Sternberg (2006) argues that creativity involves thinking that is aimed at producing ideas or products that are relatively novel and that are, in some respect, compelling. As we can see from Sternberg’s definition, the idea or product must be relatively new. In the case of students, it should be new to them even though it might not be new to the teacher and older people. In an earlier publication, creative work requires three abilities according to Sternberg(1985). These are

1.) Synthetic ability – the ability to generate novel and interesting ideas
2.) Analytic ability – the ability to critically analyze and evaluate ideas
3.) Practical ability – ability to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical applications

As we can see, cutting the cartolina and making designs is not really a creative work. What is more dismal is that it has no purpose at all and it is not related to the lesson. Creativity in the mathematics classroom could be seen in the novelty of the students’ solutions to problems. If teachers give extra credit to designs, then students would be distracted and would spend their time designing cartolinas rather than learning mathematics. Creating these designs require time – time that they should be spending in learning mathematics or other subjects for that matter.
Designing maybe a sign that a student is interested in the arts, but the subjects being learned should not be sacrificed.

Art has its own place in the curriculum, we should spend time learning it, but we should not learn it in other subjects and call it “creativity.”

References

Kaufman, J. C., & Sternberg, R. J. (Eds.). (2006). The international handbook of creativity. Cambridge University Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triarchic theory of human intelligence. In Human assessment: Cognition and motivation (pp. 43-44). Springer Netherlands.

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