Imagine you have a brick, a string, a paperclip, and chewing gum. Come up with as many possible uses of them as you can.
Does doing problems like this make you more creative? While you can get better at tasks like this—tasks that are context light or context free—such tasks don't appear (from the research literature) to enhance creative capacity in disciplinary/domain-specific settings. Creativity seems to be discipline-specific. And this makes sense. Many people feel their creativity is welcomed in certain places (creative writing, art class) and unwelcome in others (math class?). But this also varies across people, mostly based on the experiences they have had. Some people feel very creative in mathematics yet feel rigid and constrained in prototypically creative spaces.
So one of the things we are exploring is how to reframe this problem. If giving people creativity tasks is not the answer, perhaps the problem is not with the tasks themselves, as much as the instructional design surrounding the tasks. Or perhaps we need a continuum of tasks, stepping people from tasks that invite their creativity to those that repel it. I suspect we need some practices as well, some scaffolds to fade.
So the questions I have are:
How might we design learning experiences so that learners get more reflective/metacognitive about the strategies they use to be (un)successfully creative, and the conditions that (dis)invite their creativity?
How can we foster a willingness to approach problems/situations as malleable/reframable?
What practices/tools could help in this endeavor?
I think the construct I want to develop is framing agency—that is, the ability to take ownership of problems/situations and shape them, flip them, find their tractable parts, their movable parts, and rework them into something better.
Framing agency is something I have and use daily. Having spent some time in situations where I wasn't comfortable being my weird, creative, nerdy, playful self, I am keenly aware how context-dependent agency is. Having suppressed that part of myself for the better part of 5 years, and then having come back to myself, I feel like I have good grounds for comparison. I am happier and do more interesting, more fulfilling work when I have it.