The concept of creativity has many proponents and champions in higher education, and just as many definitions of creativity and ideas on how to let it flourish. It has been defined as a single thing and as a complex set of behaviors, as an inborn knack or a fostered, developed talent, as something embedded in disciplinary knowledge and as an entity distinct from other kinds of thinking. Artists, psychologists, educational designers, and corporate trainers differ in their approach to and ideas about creativity. Nonetheless, over the past few decades some consensus has emerged regarding creativity. Most educators and theorists define creativity as a tendency, stronger in some individuals than in others, that can be learned and practiced as a skill.
Many writers on creativity and creative thought agree about several of the elements of creativity: motivation and self-awareness, flexible and original thinking, the tendency to take risks and ask questions, and the ability to imagine not just an alternative solution to a problem but a workable, achievable result.
Educators also agree that, while some of the elements of creativity may be inborn, creativity can and should be taught. Erica McWilliam, Professor of Education at Queensland University of Technology, argued in a recent talk, "Is Creativity Teachable? Conceptualizing the Creativity/Pedagogy Relationship in Higher Education," that creativity is certainly learnable and applicable to all disciplines. It is especially important to foster creativity now, when we urgently need solutions to social, scientific and cultural problems. Deborah Wince-Smith of the Council on Competitiveness calls creativity and innovation imperative for economic growth.
Explore these pages to learn more about creativity, how creative thinking might be and is being taught at Iowa State and elsewhere, and you can teach creatively and teach for creativity, whatever your discipline.