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“Not me, no, I’m not creative!” – recognise this? Don’t despair, creativity is teach(er)able – Part 1 August 7, 2011

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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from Dr Catherine Camden-Pratt

Creativity is the stuff of life, it’s what makes us come fully alive, it’s where our passions get engaged (Robinson 2010) and where we play (Nachmanovitch 1990). Dissanayake (1988) locates creativity in being human. 21st century organisations, local and global contexts and challenges require creativity (Wright, Camden-Pratt & Hill, S (Eds) 2011). So, how come so many of us believe we are not creative?

Each year I teach around 600 students who intend becoming teachers. The majority of them enter the undergraduate unit Learning and Creativity firmly believing they are not creative. I am always amazed, but not surprised. So often I hear students – and colleagues – hotly argue against their own creativity, “I’m not creative… I’ve never made anything remotely artistic in my life…. or at least not since primary school, and then it’s not like it was a work of art or something!” After this they may sigh, their faces and bodies drooping. Then, some, pausing for a moment, light up, their bodies becoming vibrant, their voices excited as they say, “But I like cooking!” or “I love taking photos when I travel!” or “I make great cards for my friends” or “I love playing with my children – that’s where I get to be creative.” Interestingly my colleagues rarely say, “But I’m pretty darn effective in building a community of learners in my classroom”, and students rarely answer, “I chew up the readings when I’m writing my essays for uni and love building my own ideas into the questions we’re given to answer.” What would you say if I asked you to tell me about your creativity – would you describe yourself as creative?

So, what is this thing called ‘creative’ that we most often decide we aren’t, and that the things we do are not? How come we so quickly dismiss our creativity, decide it doesn’t measure up? As teachers, how can we identify our own creativity, access, value and nurture it and enable students to develop theirs? How can we teach creatively? How can we teach creativity? How do we enable multiple stories, responses and approaches which sit at the heart of creative teaching-learning?

Through various historical moves over many centuries and into the late 20th century, creativity shifted from a small ‘c’ to a big ‘C’ and became the domain of artists, of musicians, of dramatists, of creative writers, poets and of ‘great’ scientists and mathematicians. Whose interests do these narrow ideas serve? Who and what gets silenced by creativity being the domain of a selected, gifted few? What impact does a thriving creativity have on a community? How might it unsettle hierarchies? What does it take to be open to creativity in ourselves and others? How come ‘we’ are often scared of it and of what ‘we’ think it may unleash?  How can we build our creative muscles?  In the 21st century in which originality – once the defining feature of creativity – is contested and the internet provides fertile sites for individual and communal expression, what significant shifts have there been in the politics of creativity? What does all this mean for teacher and students engaged together in learning?

Over a semester, students and teachers ask these questions together, unpacking creativity, identifying and building their creativity using a variety of processes inside a co-created creative learning community. Through this they learn how to teach creativity and teach creatively ( Camden Pratt 2011, 2009, 2010, Haywood et al 2005, Neville 2005, Robinson 2011, Yardley 2011). Invariably students transform their ideas about themselves and their creativity, and what is possible for them as 21st century teachers. How would you respond to these same questions? And what play-full edges have you stretched this last week? How have you watered your creativity lately? What do you have in mind to enrich your soul life this next week?


Camden- Pratt, C. (2011). Becoming with/in social ecology: writing as practice in creative learning. In Social Ecology: Applying Ecological Understanding to our Lives and our Planet. David Wright, Catherine E Camden Pratt and Stuart B Hill. (Eds). Gloucestershire, UK: Hawthorn Press. (pp. 202-213)   Camden-Pratt, C. (2009). Relationality and the art of becoming. In Pedagogical Encounters, Bronwyn Davies and Susanne Gannon, New York: Peter Lang. (pp 53-68)  Camden Pratt, C. (2008). Social ecology and creative pedagogy: using creative arts and critical thinking in co-creating and sustaining ecological learning webs in university pedagogies. In Transnational Curriculum Inquiry 5 (1) 2008 http://nitinat.library.ubc.ca/ojs/index.php/tci accessed 18/07/2011.  Dissanayake, E. (1992). Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why. Canada: The Free Press.  Heywood, P. (2005). Changing Minds: A Glimpse at the Experience of Transformative Learning in Heywood, P., McCann, T., Neville, B., & Wills, P. (eds) Towards Re-Enchantment Education, Imagination and the Getting of Wisdom. Flaxton: Post Pressed. (pp. 39-48). Nachmanovitch, S. (1990). Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. New York: Penguin. Neville, B (2005). Educating Psyche; emotion, imagination and the unconscious in learning. Greensborough, VIC: Flat Chat Press.  Robinson, K with Aronica, L (2010). The element: how finding your passion changes everything. London: Penguin Books. Robinson, K (2011) Out of our minds: learning to be creative Oxford: Capstone. Wright, D., Camden-Pratt, C. E. & Hill, S. B. (Eds). (2011). Social Ecology: Applying Ecological Understanding to our Lives and our Planet. Gloucestershire, UK: Hawthorn Press.  Yardley, A. (2011). Creativity country: A journey through embodied space. In Social Ecology: Applying Ecological Understanding to our Lives and our Planet. David Wright, Catherine E Camden Pratt and Stuart B Hill. (Eds). Gloucestershire, UK: Hawthorn Press. (pp 81-91).

Catherine Camden-Pratt is a Lecturer in social ecology and education in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is keenly interested in the concept of creativity, and offers the unit Learning and Creativity, a very popular unit with undergraduate students who take our Education Studies Major.


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