An issue that has always intrigued me is that of ‘creativity’. One of my favourite sources on this topic is Ken Robinson, in particular his book “Out of our minds: Learning to be Creative”. Over the next couple of posts I will be exploring this topic a little further, side-by-side with my current work on reflection as creative process.
What role does creativity plan in the courses that my department delivers and that I teach? More importantly, where do students think creativity fits in what they do? The concept of creativity is often seen as the domain of artists and people working in the creative industries. It is inevitable that students think they are ‘naturally’ creative without pausing to think about where that creativity lies, how it works and what defines it. Robinson makes an extremely persuasive case that creativity is a skill that can be taught, nurtured and developed. We live, he says, in a work that values “intellectual labour and services”. (location 164) The current market requires people “who are creative, innovative and flexible.” (location 164)
At the moment I’m working on a piece that develops connections between reflection and creativity. Reflection is embedded in the curriculums that I work with and one of the challenges that I feel teachers face when working with a practice based curriculum is presenting it to students as an ‘active’ process they can truly get involved in. I like to describe reflection as creativity’s alter ego – one cannot exist without the other. There is a danger that in asking students to write up the results of their reflective processes reflection becomes ‘dehumanised’. But it remains, above all else, a human process.
Creativity requires us to be confident in our areas of practice, whatever they may be. And reflection is an indispensable part of observing, developing, digesting and being in dialogue with our creative ’self’. I have always considered reflection to be the defining characteristic of the eternal student, encouraging and enhancing a questioning mind. In maintaining reflection as an integral process of our practice, we are also actively working on our practice. Robinson articulates this far more effectively than I can: “Creative thinking is a break with habitual patterns of thought. Creative insights often occur by making unusual connections, seeing analogies between ideas that have not previously been related. All of our existing ideas have creative possibilities.”
In reality our most of my students think and reflect, this is a constant part of their practice, but often they do not acknowledge it as a separate part of what they do. This is understandable and in many ways commendable. Nonetheless, I do believe that the isolation and separation of reflection has a valuable purpose. It encourages us to make new connections and to re-contextualise – some of our best ideas and our most creative moments occur in this uncertain space.