Why promote creativity?
Sawyer (Brosterman & Togashi, 1997; 2006) places us in a time of great change during which we have “shifted from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy.” The knowledge economy is grounded on “the production and distribution of knowledge and information, rather than the production and distribution of things” (Drucker, 1993, p. 182 cited in Sawyer 2006, p. 41).
This shift has substantial implications for education. In his TED Talks, Ken Robinson explains that today’s schools were designed to meet the economic needs of the industrial economy in the first half of the 20th century. If this industrial economy is a thing of the past, then how are the curriculums and structures of our current school system relevant? Are they obsolete? If the core of the knowledge society is creativity, then the key task for educators is to prepare learners to be capable of participating creatively in an innovation economy (OECD, 2000).
Our society is characterised by ambiguity and rapid change. Complex economic, environmental and social pressures such as climate change position us with unprecedented challenges, and thus we need people who are able to work together in new, creative, collaborative and cooperative ways. We need citizens who are able to come up with innovative solutions to the unexpected and unimagined situations that will continually arise in their lives.
Why promote creativity in preschool?
Canning (2013, p. 1) explains children are open to creative thinking and doing when they experiment with new ideas, thoughts, and theories, or are curious to find out new things and take risks.
Creativity is central to many founding beliefs about childhood and experiential learning, linking back to Froebel, the creator of the first Kindergartens, where children were not only involved in dancing, singing, nature studies and story telling, but were engaged with a series of twenty educational toys, including building blocks, parquetry tiles, origami papers, modelling clay, sewing kits, and other design projects. These objects became known as Froebel’s gifts and aspects of them can still be found in kindergartens today (Brosterman & Togashi, 1997).
In the traditional early-years setting, children can be observed continually designing, creating, experimenting and exploring. It may be with current versions of Froebel’s gifts, with paints, crayons, or loose parts (Nicholson, 1972). Resnick (2007, p. 1) explains this as a “spiralling process in which children imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, [and] reflect on their experiences- all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projections.” In reality the steps aren’t necessarily sequential, but they may be mixed together in all different ways. However, through this process children develop and refine their creativity thinking. It’s believed many 20th century artists and inventors credit their later success to Kindergarten (Brosterman & Togashi, 1997).
The importance of early learning as basis for later learning is acknowledged, traditionally in the terms for preparing children for school as seen in this latest report Early Bird Catches the Worm: The Causal Impact of Pre-school Participation and Teacher Qualifications on Year 3 National NAPLAN Cognitive Tests. The key findings were;
- Attendance at pre-school has a significant positive impact on later NAPLAN outcomes, particularly in the domains of Numeracy, Reading and Spelling.
- The direct causal effects of pre-school attendance are equivalent to 10 to 20 NAPLAN points or 15 to 20 weeks of schooling at the Year 3 level, three years after attending pre-school.
- Children who did not attend pre-school would have gained more from attending pre-school than those who actually attended.
- Children whose pre-school teacher had a diploma or degree in early childhood education or child care gained the most from attending pre-school – the level and specialisation of pre-school teacher qualifications are important.
- Children whose pre-school teacher had only a certificate level qualification in child care or early childhood teaching or had no relevant childcare qualification showed no significant benefit from attendance at pre-school (Development, 2013)
The significance of early learning, in the context of lifelong learning, is the focus that needs to be made, and to a small extent this is what Australia is trying to do with the universal access to 15 hours of early childhood education. In its broadest noted benefit, it recognises that quality early childhood education programs improve children’s learning, health and behaviour, with positive impacts extending into adult life (DEECE, 2012).
The directive for Australian education, as set out in the Melbourne Declaration on Education, states that improving educational outcomes for all young Australians is central to the nation’s social and economic prosperity and will position young people to live fulfilling, productive and responsible lives.
Goals identified to meet this outcome were:
Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence
All young Australians become:
– successful learners
– confident and creative individuals
– active and informed citizens (Barr et al., 2008, p. 8)
From these goals we can see the growing recognition by policy-makers that creativity is an important aim for education, that our future relies on Australians being able to problem-solve in new and creative ways, and to be able to engage with scientific concepts and principles, and highlighting the need for future learners to not only be skilled in numeracy and literacy, but also “creative and productive users of ICT” (Barr et al., 2008, p. 8).
Goal 2 of the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young children is supported by Belonging, Being and Becoming The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, where children’s learning is seen as “dynamic, complex and holistic.
Physical, social, emotional, personal, spiritual, creative, cognitive and linguistic aspects of learning are all intricately interwoven and interrelated” (Australian Government Department of Education, 2009, p. 9). Creativity is explicitly stated in a couple of the outcomes such as; in Wellbeing outcome 3, educators are encouraged to provide warm trusting relations and safe environments, so that children’s learning including creativity is supported; In Learning, outcome 4, educators are informed “Active involvement in learning builds children’s understandings of concepts and the creative thinking and inquiry processes that are necessary for lifelong learning” (p.33)
We are being directed that our learners need to be confident creative individuals, but can we teach creativity?
Australian Government Department of Education, E. a. W. R. (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved April 20, 2013
Barr, A., Gillard, J., Firth, V., Scrymgour, M., Welford, R., Lomax-Smith, J., . . . Ministerial Council on Education, E. T. a. Y. A. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.
Brosterman, N., & Togashi, K. (1997). Inventing kindergarten / Norman Brosterman ; with original photography by Kiyoshi Togashi: [New York, N.Y.] : H.N. Abrams, c1997.
Canning, N. (2013). ‘Where’s the bear? Over there!’ – creative thinking and imagination in den making. Early Child Development & Care, 183(8), 1042-1053. doi: 10.1080/03004430.2013.772989
DEECE. (2012). Universal Access to 15 hours of Early Childhood EducationFrequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 15 SEP 13, from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/childhood/providers/edcare/universalaccessfaq.pdf
DEECE. (2013). Early Bird Catches the Worm: The Causal Impact of Pre-school Participation and Teacher Qualifications on Year 3 NAPLAN Outcomes. Retrieved 10 SEP 13, 2013, from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/research/preschoolparticipationandqualissummarypaper2013.pdf
Nicholson, S. (1972). The Theory of Loose Parts, An important principle for design methodology. Studies in Design Education Craft and Technology, 9(2), 5-14.
OECD. (2000). Knowledge management in the learning society. Paris.
Resnick, M. (2007). All I really need to know (about creative thinking) I learned (by studying how children learn) in kindergarten. Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI Conference: Creativity & Cognition, 1.
Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Educating for innovation. THINKING SKILLS AND CREATIVITY, 1(1), 41-48.
- Preschooled children perform better: study (smh.com.au)
- Kindergarten Teachers’ Effects on Five Year-Olds’ Futures (larrycuban.wordpress.com)