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Creativity in Education - Research

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Derek Jones
9 May 2010

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Derek Jones
9:49pm 6 September 2010 (Edited 9:49pm 6 September 2010)

(3 Heilman, Kenneth M. 2003) raises some very interesting cognitive and neurological behaviours relating to creativity (not all proven in terms of cause and effect, though :) ) :


  • Divergent Thinking - the ability to change thinking strategies, particularly when a patterned behaviour or thinking method has not achieved the desired result. Thought to be a function of the frontal lobe.
  • Novelty Seeking - the desire and willingness to seek out and try new experiences (which, in extreme cases can lead to negative, dependent behaviors...)
  • Connectivity - for me, the most interesting mechanism as we start to understand how widespread the neural activity in the brain can really be. At a simple level it can be the use of multiple cognitive centres (such as the a writer using emotional experience and language processing at the same time). On a deeper level, the very wide area connectivity that can exist and how this can possibly be manipulated is fascinating.
  • Level of Arousal - the effect that catecholamines have on how effectively connectivity and creative associations can be made (to put it very crudely - calm = wide connection/association, stress=short connections/associations). I think there is a possible need for both states of mind during a design process here, but more on that later maybe...
So, once again, this further reinforces a lot of knowledge that already exists from observational studies of creativity, priming and in particular :
  1. That connecting and combining different cognitive behaviours (neurological functions) leads to the development of these connections. So when we stop using blocks to add 1 + 1 in primary school, we may gain another connection with a pencil, but we lose a whole load of other things (?)
  2. That priming in creativity, education and any objective based environment has a massive effect on the performance of individual minds. Try setting a countdown/consequence and asking students to create something then try it without these stimuli and see what happens...
  3. That wide area neural connections can continually develop throughout our lives (although the point about subcortical white matter is a bit depressing). Creativity can be taught, learned and developed - and whilst there is no suggestion here that creative geniuses can developed with a few "what can you make from a paper clip" excercises, it is important to remember that a 'new' idea can be "new with respect to human history or new with respect to the person's previous way of thinking" (Craft, Jeffrey, Liebling - will get full ref later).
  4. That 'creativity' as a catch all phrase has a reasonable place in consideration in any educational environment - not for itself as a subject, but as a general set of skills, behaviours and attitudes that can be usefully applied to many areas of curriculum and/or learning objectives.


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