Creative Schooling

A recent report from the North Carolina Cultural Resources highlights the importance of the creative industry to the state’s economy. The big picture findings:

  • Overall, North Carolina’s creative economy is 5.86 percent of the state’s total production.
  • The Creative Industry accounts for more than $10 billion dollars in employee compensation annually.
  • Nearly 5 percent of the state’s total wages and benefits comes from the Creative Industry.

Still wondering about how to conceptualize the Creative Industry. The report provides rich details about the types of jobs and workers that constitute this growing segment of the economy. The creative workforce profiles are worth checking out; including some great bluegrass playing.

Here is the line that made me sit up in my seat (I’m prone to have bad posture).

Librarians, archivists, educators, service professionals, and administrators facilitate the development of the creative economy.

How often do you read a report like this and find no mention of educators or librarians? Teachers of creativity have helped to build a vibrant and growing part of the economy in North Carolina. What words from the National Art Educators Standards jump out at you?

Wordle: National Art Education Association - Standards for Visual Arts Educators

Wordle of National Art Education Standards

Is visual learning, teaching, and creative expression a central part of the school experience in your institution? Classes that include words like “visual”, “artistic”, “aesthetic” and “demonstrate” are often labeled as enrichment, specials, and electives. The Creative Industry report shows that these classes are essential. Fostering creativity on a school wide basis should be a strategic goal of any learning institution. Notice the presence of those 21st Century Learning words we’re all concerned about – “understanding”, “community”, “assessment”, “social development”, and “knowledgeable”. Educators need to understand what it takes to be creative and how to scale these conditions school-wide.

Creativity explained - Amabile
Teresa Amabile can provide some guidance. She is the head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and has done extensive research about innovation and creativity in the workplace (I’m not advocating for the school as business model. That is another post).

A few years ago Fast Company asked Amabile to address 6 myths about creativity. Here are her findings and the related challenges that I see for educators. I get right to the point here and don’t spend time on the myths she debunks. Consult the article for her take on that angle.

1.) Most people are “laboring in environments that impede intrinsic motivation”. This is bad news because creativity isn’t confined to creative types. Anyone can be creative if given the right set of things “experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells.” and intrinsic motivation.

Challenge – Does your school enable creativity by providing this set of things to all students? In particular, is intrinsic motivation to learn built into the curriculum?

2.) It is not about money with creative folks – it’s experience, purpose, engagement, progress, recognition, and appreciation that are prized above all else. “If the challenge is far beyond their skill level, they tend to get frustrated; if it’s far below their skill level, they tend to get bored. Leaders need to strike the right balance.”

Challenge: long standing issue of tailoring teaching and learning to each child.

3.) “People were the least creative when they were fighting the clock.” Schools are framed by schedules.

Challenge: Does your school provide students with opportunities to deeply explore projects with few distractions? Are students offered extended periods (beyond 45-60 minutes) to tinker with problems and questions?

4.) “People are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they’re more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. There’s a kind of virtuous cycle.”

Challenge: Student happiness swings widely depending on the latest test result, classroom interaction, and project demands. How do educators create the “virtuous cycle” in which students can develop creativity as a result of engaging and interesting circumstances?

5.) COLLABORATION is key to creativity.

Challenge: How to make real collaborative enterprises in schools? Getting past the “group work” of old to collaborations around mutually interesting topics.

6.) More the merrier. Amabile found that organizations in a downsizing mode experienced declines in all areas of creativity.

Challenge: Protecting teachers of creativity. Expanding the scope of potential collaborators beyond the traditional school building.

Many businesses have had trouble responding to the needs of creativity. Schools fight ingrained habits, schedules, and responsibilities. How is your school addressing these challenges? Does technology help? Have new teaching models been helpful?

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