The Bias against Creativity

When I think back to my years of teaching, I can think of several students who stand out in my mind because of their creativity.  While at times there was appreciation for their ideas in the classroom, at other times (eg. during a focused discussion) their ideas were so far out of the norm that they were looked at strangely by their peers.  As a teacher of course I value creativity… but do I really?

When reading “The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire but Reject Creative Ideas,” by Mueller, Melwani & Goncalo, I was forced to confront my own bias of the subject.  This seems to be a contradiction: teachers KNOW that creativity is an important educational goal, but yet research shows that teachers dislike students who exhibit curiosity adn creative thinking.  Creativity is something that is novel and useful.  The useful part seems to be fairly easy to judge as a teacher (does it relate to the topic? does it somewhat answer the question?  is it somewhat focused?), but the novelty aspect is more difficult to discern.  Research shows that practical ideas are more valued, and if it is too ‘novel’, or outside-the-box, then it is more uncertain.  This uncertainty is what Ken Robinson spoke of on his video (see last post), which then leads to a diminished rate of creativity in your classroom.  As teachers we are not explicityly judging this, but I think if we are honest there is some judgement in all of us.  The results of this study show that regardless of the degree to which people are open-minded, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty, they may experience more negative associations with creativity, which results in lower evaluations of a creative idea.  This uncertainty also makes people less able to recognize creativity, when they perhaps need it most.

Reading this article gave me a bit of an uncomfortable feeling… which then reminded me of another article I read.  Falkenberg writes about teaching as a moral endeavor, for the betterment of others, and so the teachers decisions, actions, and behaviors are central to this.  The teacher must be then aware of their inner thoughts (in this case my inner thought is that I perhaps have a slight bias against creative students), and then this must manifest itself in outward actions (I stay conscious of this, and when a situation comes up that my bias may show I remember my end goal and work to be more open minded). By being more aware of how we react, we can begin pondering alternative better reactions to creative ideas that may have had us respond negatively in the past, so that our new reaction can be more positive and appropriate (remembering that we WANT our students to be creative, even if this sometimes means having the wrong idea).

If our goal of teaching is to encourage creative and critical thinking, then we as teachers need to be creative in our approaches, innovative in the ideas that we teach, and become a learner using these same ideas ourselves (Christou & Bullock).  But then this idea then leads us RIGHT back to the beginning… how can I, as the TEACHER, encourage creativity and innovation?  Or perhaps the better question here is… how can I become more creative and innovative?

Thoughts to ponder as I head into this long weekend.

 

Christou, T.M., & Bullock, S. M. (2012).  The case for philosophical mindedness. Paideusis, 20(1), 14-23.

Falkenberg, T. (2012).  Teaching as contemplative professional practice. Paideusis, 20(2), 25-35.

Mueller, J., Melwani, S., & Goncalo, J. (2012).  The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desier but Reject Creative Ideas.  Association for Psychological Science.  23(1), 13-17.

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