We are a collective of academic-practitioners based in the Drama Department at the University of Huddersfield, and engaged in research and practice in the field of Creativity training. We have a strong track record in delivering workshops and summer schools in Enhancing Creativity for professional writers and performers. Since 2006, we have been funded to develop Creative Capacity throughout the University, working with academics, support staff and students across the University’s seven Schools.
There are many definitions of ‘Creativity’, ranging from those that align it with personal and artistic expression to those that identify creativity by its problem-solving and innovative applications. Some definitions require creativity to be evidenced by a novel product; others, to be validated by a field of experts. We define ‘creativity’ as a ‘product of thinking’, and utilise approaches to creativity that are equally applicable to problem-solving or to artistic endeavour. Indeed, one of our unique strengths lies in our ability to work flexibly across discipline boundaries and to create highly transferable learning experiences.
There are many approaches to the enhancement of personal creativity; the majority of these focus on changing the techniques and protocols that an individual uses to improve their output with regard to creativity. These approaches can be effective for bringing about some changes, but leave the person employing the techniques largely unchanged. This means that the range and degree of improvement is often limited by the basic belief structure in the individual.
Our approach seeks to induce or elicit fundamental change in the individual, with a view to maximising impact on the degree, range and nature of that individual’s creative output. In other words, our approach seeks to find a personal rather than a procedural solution.
A Principle-based Curriculum
Our work makes use of three main tools. First and foremost is a principle-based curriculum for creativity. Our starting point for the creation of this curriculum was to identify and define the principles that were at work in our already successful practices as artists and academics. We could see effective outcomes in our work; it was clear that there were principles at work. The task then became to articulate these principles in order to make management of them more immediate and effective. This yielded such powerful ideas as:
After we had identified these principles we then mapped them against current research on the psychology of creativity, and found a significant intersection of ideas. This encouraged us to further refinements and articulations so that we now have a principle-based curriculum for the teaching of creativity that can be applied in a flexible and personalised manner.
A Pedagogy for Changing Patterns and Beliefs
Secondly, we have developed a pedagogy for implementing this curriculum. This teaching approach is based on several factors; first of all, that the student’s cognitive patterns and habits of thought and learning often dictate the boundaries within which that learning can take place; secondly, that these thoughts and patterns can be changed by the employment of particular elements of the curriculum; thirdly and most importantly, the application of these processes in this teaching approach are for the purpose of helping to bring about fundamental change in the individual rather than impose techniques upon the old patterns. This requires in practice that the creativity facilitator must evaluate each student or group and select from the whole list the most appropriate tools and tasks. Because of the fluidity of the process and the rapidity with which students can change along these pathways, the facilitator is also charged with constant assessment, re-evaluation and re-tailoring of the process to the student or group’s emerging needs. This also invites the participant to become a co-creator in the process through the tools of self-reflection and initiation of further self-directed experimentation. In addition to individual issues, certain large categories have emerged, such as perfectionism, impatience, and the fear of taking risks, for which broad remedial pedagogical strategies can and have been developed for application either to groups or with refinement to individuals as well.
The Impact/Power of Interaction
In our experience the implementation of this pedagogy is best done through modelling and interactive means. Very often, the participants’ changes begin as the result of simply seeing this approach at work in our presentation. Because we adhere to the principles of the curriculum in everything we do, even passive participants can share in a new and innovative approach to relating to tasks. The mere presence of an alternative path is often enough to invite them to walk that path themselves. When more direct and formal teaching is desired/required it is almost always presented in an interactive format. The focus is less on the covering of the curriculum and more on bringing the facilitators into directed service for the participants on their individual journeys. The combination of these principles being exhibited and lived through the classroom experience has proven to be both powerful and explosive in terms of bringing the participants’ creativity to a higher standard.