Killing Students' Creativity. And Teachers?

This was chilling to read:

One of the most consistent findings in educational studies of creativity has been that teachers dislike personality traits associated with creativity.

This comes from from Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom?, a review paper on the research. As much as I wish I could say this doesn’t apply to me, I know that sometimes it does.  On my best days, my favorite students are those who subvert my assignments, challenge me and others, and do so with sass and attitude.  But on my worst days, I just want those students to shut up so I can move forward with what I have planned.  This realization is something that will stick with me for a long time.

The entirety of the paper is worth reading, as is the post on the Marginal Revolution blog that led me to it.  This line particularly resonated with me:

Torrance (1963) described creative people as not having the time to be courteous, as refusing to take no for an answer, and as being negativistic and critical of others.

I wonder to what extent the findings of this review apply not only to students, but to creative educators as well.  Are you a creative educator who has been accused of any of the above?  I would love to hear from others on this.

2 thoughts on “Killing Students' Creativity. And Teachers?

  1. I wasn’t able to see the full paper, but I’d say sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

    One thing I’ve found is that when I ask students to do something creative, such as design a fake movie poster that illustrates a historical era, or imagine you’re working for a dictator and present your plans for control, it’s often the “worse” students who do it better. The quieter, better-behaved, and usually better-scoring students likely got ahead by always playing by the rules and closely following specific teacher directions, and then get lost when I ask them to do something with no one right answer.

    But, of course, the rest of the time I prefer having the quieter, higher-scoring students! Shall I add, especially when we are going to be judged by their scores on standardized tests?

    Recently I had a student challenge me on my interpretation of a primary source. It was uncomfortable for me at times, but I heard her out, asked her to hear me out, ultimately told her to write out both interpretations in her answer, and gave her extra credit for it. I’m still not sure who was right, and I wish more students could do that. And I was heartbroken when that same student failed to turn in the rough draft of her final paper before the deadline.


  2. I don’t typically think of myself as a creative person, but I think that’s because I associate creativity with artistic ability and crafty-type projects. That said, I am pretty much continually reinventing the wheel in my classroom, trying new approaches, some of which work and some of which don’t. I’ve certainly rubbed some people the wrong way in strongly expressing my views or trying to push a new approach to the broader school community. I wonder, though, how much of this has to do with the supposedly “creative” person, and how much has to do with the person who’s more interested in preserving the status quo. I suspect that if you’re a certain type of person, and if someone suggests that you change what you’ve been doing for years, you’re likely to view that person with extreme suspicion and are thus more likely to pick up on their “negative” personality traits.


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