Monday, October 21, 2013

Limiting Creativity With the "Correct" Answer

My friend and classmate, Susan Shannon, shared this with me the other day. She was at a session presented by creativity guru Ken Robinson and he shared this video with the group. It is stunning, and I think the video speaks for I'm not going to say any more. If you are a teacher or if you have kids in school, please watch this.


  1. With early elementary school art, for sure, that is what I'd want. And not what my kids always got, unfortunately. But there is an extent to which this oversimplifies the issue, I think, especially as students develop at later ages. Picasso is an example--

    "Creativity can be learned.

    The rap on traditional education is that it kills children's' creativity. But Temple University psychology professor Robert W. Weisberg's research suggests just the opposite. Prof. Weisberg has studied creative geniuses including Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso—and has concluded that there is no such thing as a born genius. Most creative giants work ferociously hard and, through a series of incremental steps, achieve things that appear (to the outside world) like epiphanies and breakthroughs.

    Prof. Weisberg analyzed Picasso's 1937 masterpiece Guernica, for instance, which was painted after the Spanish city was bombed by the Germans. The painting is considered a fresh and original concept, but Prof. Weisberg found instead that it was closely related to several of Picasso's earlier works and drew upon his study of paintings by Goya and then-prevalent Communist Party imagery. The bottom line, Prof. Weisberg told me, is that creativity goes back in many ways to the basics. "You have to immerse yourself in a discipline before you create in that discipline. It is built on a foundation of learning the discipline, which is what your music teacher was requiring of you."

    I think this challenges the rather binary option presented in this video, no? This is taken from a recent WSJ article "Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results"


    1. That's a really interesting article, Paul, and I agree with the author (and you) on many points. I think you're right that there certainly is a requirement of "learning the discipline." I think of the way I taught science as an example: I wanted my students to take the content seriously, and really learn the concepts! But I don't think that excludes creative problem solving at the same time. I often gave my middle schoolers open-ended "multiple-correct-answers" kinds of challenges as a way of applying what they had learned.

      This video does perhaps frame it a little too much as an either-or proposition. Certainly there are times when there is one right answer. But I fear that the norm in much of education, and I think there's also room for fostering creative thinking.

      Thanks for challenging the simplistic nature of the either-or. I appreciate your feedback!

  2. Love it! Coming from a teacher who is now teaching a creative/critical thinking unit to 3rd-6th graders and thinking skills to 2nd grade, I love seeing the creativity it allows! I have a few exercises like the one used in the video and it is amazing what kids can create. I also have been giving them a normal object such as a paperclip, and having them come up for different uses for it. It can be hard for students at first, but if you can tap into their mind and show them a few different uses, the ideas start flowing out of them!

    Thanks for sharing the video!


    1. Thanks for the feedback, Tyler. Glad to hear that things are going well for you too!