1 Creative Personal Expression - expressing aspects of self – personality, emotions and ideas in novel ways
2 Creative Task Achievement - using creativity to achieve a particular task or external demand
3 Creative Boundary Pushing - extending typical and expected knowledge in order to pursue new understandings and outcomes.
This way of viewing creativity has triggered new insights for me. While acknowledging the wisdom in ‘you can’t make blanket claims about education’… I am going to argue that Carly’s threefold categorisation of creativity offers a crude first order mapping of learner practices and creative responses within our education system.
I blame my need for pictures to explain ideas on my being a geologist but perhaps I was attracted to geology in the first place because narrative pictures are an important feature of communication in the discipline. So I created a picture from Carly's categorisations.
If it was be possible to map particular contexts, practices and outcomes accurately we might anticipate that most situations in education where creativity is manifest, would plot within the conceptual space near the base of the triangle with creative self-expression tending to characterise early years and primary level of the education system and the arts and perhaps humanities disciplines at secondary and tertiary level.
At secondary and tertiary levels of our education systems creative effort is more likely to be focused on problem solving in disciplinary contexts perhaps with some opportunity for creative self-expression. Creative effort in research-based post-graduate education and perhaps research-based project work at undergraduate level is directed towards task accomplishment and extending the boundaries of knowledge fields. Again, both of these contexts may well be accompanied by some opportunities for creative self-expression.
In doing some background research for this post I discovered an interesting TEDx talk by Tim Leunig “Why real creativity is based on knowledge”(3). It offers a different and I believe a more considered and accurate representation of creativity in schools to that offered by Ken Robinson. This passage in an RSA blog post (4) captures the proposition.
“What is striking about the two talks is how different are the definitions of creativity on which they are based. To Robinson, creativity is about imagination, self-expression and divergent thinking. In contrast, Leunig’s examples of creativity show how, through the use of logic and the application of scientific principles, existing knowledge can be marshalled to create innovative new solutions to longstanding problems. To Robinson, creativity is natural – something you’re born with. Whereas for Leunig, it is highly dependent on the prior acquisition of biologically secondary knowledge – something you need to be taught. For Robinson, creativity is an alternative to literacy, and is often displayed by those who struggle academically; people who display what Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner would describes as an alternative or non-cognitive form of intelligence. For Leunig, creativity is a cognitive competence that gains form and substance within particular knowledge domains – domains to which the illiterate cannot gain access.”
Looking at the systems level of education (not the experiences of individual learners), it is my belief that, although we might criticise our systems of education for placing too much emphasis on focusing creative effort on externally motivated tasks and assessment exercises at the expense of creative self-expression, this is not surprising given that this type of creativity serves the knowledge economy rather than health and wellbeing of individuals. I now see more clearly that the creative effort within our educational systems is biased towards preparing people for disciplined ways of working in the Pro-c(5) domain of creativity. This is why, I argued with Carly Lassig in a recent Creative Academic Magazine article(6), we need to recognise an ed-c domain for creativity.
The words of Tim Ingold, who was commenting on a paper I had asked him to review, ring in my ears. "First, it seems to me that the paper touches on a key area in which the actual practice of science (here, geological mapping) flies in the face of ‘official’ scientific protocols, and comes much closer to the work of art (and indeed of anthropology). For in it, imagination and experience are creatively fused rather than held apart, as official science requires; moreover that fusion is deeply embedded in the personal sensibility of practitioners, in their hands and minds, in their perceptual acuity and ways of working. Geologists literally become one with their rocks! And that is quite contrary to the principle of scientific objectivity which requires that scientists remain personally immune to what they study, an immunity conferred by ‘methodology’. I have written about this in my Anthropology and/as Education book (specifically, pp. 70-1)."
I take these words to mean that somehow we have, through our education systems, to bring together the science of problem solving in which creativity plays a part, and the art of creative self-expression. People as they interact with their problems and the things they care about in their particular environments are the agents for blending these different dimensions of creativity together to create new meanings, new things and solutions. It is this blending of creative thought and effort that makes people and not machines. This should be the goal of the ed-c domain of creativity to lay the foundations for creativity in domains where experience, knowledge and expertise are grown not through books and lectures but through a world of enactment in a world in formation.
1 Lassig, C. J. (2012) Perceiving and pursuing novelty : a grounded theory of adolescent creativity. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology. Available at: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/50661/
2 Ken Robinson Do Schools Kill Creativity TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY&t=28s
3Tim Leunig “Why real creativity is based on knowledge https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=93&v=vajIsWwHEMc&feature=emb_logo
4Julian Astle Do Skills Really “Kill Creativity”? RSA Blog Post 25th April 2018
5 Kaufman, J and Beghetto R (2009) Beyond Big and Little: The Four C Model of Creativity Review of General Psychology Vol. 13, No. 1, 1–12 1
6 Jackson N.J. & Lassig, C. (2020) Exploring and Extending the 4C Model of Creativity: Recognising the value of an ed-c contextual- cultural domain Creative Academic Magazine #15 Available at: