Creativity as measured by The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) has been decreasing for almost two decades. When students feel constricted and are not allowed to use their creativity many lose interest in their studies and some drop out.
Our schools are placing great importance on evaluating students based on standardized test scores. Many of these tests have one “right” answer and students spend hours being drilled and prepped to know the correct answers. And yet, creative students look for multiple answers and solutions to problems. This is what employers are seeking in their employees. The best jobs require divergent and creative thinking for high achievement. Employers want creative problem solvers.
Some standardized testing has value, but we have gone overboard in our schools and teachers are feeling pressured to spend most of their time teaching to the test.
Our schools should be helping students to discover their unique gifts and abilities, to find their voice and to become critical and creative thinkers. And yet, students and teachers are increasingly being evaluated based on standardized test scores. These scores are being used to measure and determine student and teacher success. They are also being used to determine whether schools get a passing or failing grade.
Students need to be taught both convergent and divergent thinking skills. Convergent thinking is the ability to recall facts and information and logically apply it to problem solving and goal achievement. Divergent thinking is the ability to use one’s imagination for seeing multiple solutions to problems and goal achievement.
Students also need to learn how to ask and answer higher level thinking questions using Boom’s Taxonomy or other appropriate models. They need to learn how to apply, analyze and evaluate information. They need to become creative thinkers.
If students are going to become critical and creative thinkers this will require a comprehensive educational curriculum in which students are taught how to apply their knowledge and skills to practical work and life problems. This type of education cannot be measured only by standardized test scores.
Students also need to be taught study skills, effective learning strategies, self-knowledge and self-management skills such as goal setting and time management. These non-cognitive skills are not meant to replace a solid educational curriculum, but should be used to compliment it. These skills are also cross disciplinary skills because they can be applied to a variety of courses. Students do need courses in history, literature, civics, mathematics, science and the arts.
There are a wealth of good teachers in our schools. Teachers need to be allowed to teach and not to be forced to spend most of their time doing basic skill drills to prepare students for standardized tests.
Is it possible for teachers to do some test preps and to still find some time to engage students in higher level critical and creative thinking? I believe it is possible by including some hands-on interactive and cooperative learning activities. These activities provide opportunities to have students answer and discuss higher level thinking questions and to teach them non-cognitive skills. This will encourage creative thinking.
I once asked a highly creative innovator if there was anything about his childhood that accounted for his creativity. He replied, “My parents did not constantly monitor, critique and evaluate me. They allowed me to explore, to try out new ideas and to make mistakes without feeling like a failure. So I did not become self-critical or very self-conscious. I was not afraid to take the road less traveled.” This man made great contributions to his career field and to society, but many of his ideas were different from what was considered popular or “right” at the time.
Many of the greatest contributions to our society came from creative thinkers. And now we have large numbers of children losing their capacity for creative thought and ideas. More research is needed to determine the relationship between the extensive amount of standardized testing and children becoming less creative. Great importance is being given to teaching cognitive skills, especially reading and math, with less emphasis on teaching non-cognitive skills and higher level thinking. On Bloom’s six levels of thinking, the experts now believe that creative thinking is at the top. In other words, creativity is an even higher form of thinking than the ability to analyze and evaluate information.
The decline of creativity in children is alarming and our schools need to play a significant role in reversing this trend.
Without innovative and creative thinkers we cannot stay competitive on a global scale. Educators, in spite of the pressures, must find ways to help our students to develop their ability to think at higher levels. If we don’t do this the creativity of our students will continue to diminish, they will not be able to compete in the 21st century job market and the U.S. will become less competitive in the world.
Copyright 2012. Raymond Gerson
Permission is granted to use this article for non-profit purposes as long as credit is given to the author.
For more information about the author and his training you can go to: www.collegereadinesstraining.com.
Raymond Gerson is an adjunct professor of college readiness/success and career readiness/success courses for Austin Community College. He is the author of two textbooks: Achieve College Success: Learn How in 20 Hours or Less and Achieve Career Success: Discover and Get the Job You Want. These books are being used in high schools and colleges to teach students how to succeed in school, career and life. Professor Gerson also trains educators how to teach these strategies to their students.
For more information about his trainings you can go to: www.collegereadinesstraining.com