Building Capacity for Life-Long Creativity

George Land’s Creativity Test

Most people understand the need for children to play and create. However, by adulthood, creativity can be seen as a lonely activity for artists. Few of us may realize how central the idea of creativity is to not just child-hood learning but also to life-long success. So what has happened to creativity along the way?

“In 1968, George Land conducted a research study to test the creativity of 1,600 children ranging in ages from three-to-five years old who were enrolled in a Head Start program. This was the same creativity test he devised for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The assessment worked so well he decided to try it on children.  He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age. The results were astounding.

Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98%
Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30%
Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12%
Same test given to 280,000 adults: 2%

“What we have concluded,” wrote Land, “is that non-creative behavior is learned.”
(Source: George Land and Beth Jarman, Breaking Point and Beyond. San Francisco: HarperBusiness, 1993)

Project RAISE

The SchoolWorks Lab’s Research: So how would we build the capacity to learn, teach and sustain creativity in schools? One way is part of our Rochester, NY research on arts integration.

“Project RAISE” is an Arts Integration model that integrates the arts into Common Core curricula of the treatment group: 11 K-6 elementary schools. The RAISE Model fits most closely to an “elaborated residency” (Ingram, 2003) that “builds capacity” of teachers and students to use arts integration strategies in English and Math. Besides experiencing the formal model of arts integration in core subjects, teachers and students in all schools had additional arts experiences that enriched content and connected students to cultural arts institutions.

Results: This rigorous experimental research design shows that Rochester’s RAISE Model succeeded in integrating arts strategies through elaborated residencies that built the capacity of regular teachers and students to increase student achievement in disadvantaged populations. The evidence of this model’s arts integration effectiveness can be seen qualitatively during the residencies, observations, interviews and teacher surveys and quantitatively in the Common Core New York State testing.

Effect Size: The average effect size in year 3, 2013, of the four year study, 2011-2014 was 41.4% more students receiving arts integration passed the ELA Test, and 38.0% more students passed the Mathematics Test. This exactly replicates the 0.40% average for meta-analyses of the effect of integrating curricula (Hattie, 2009, p. 298). This research found that it is possible to develop significant arts integration with disadvantaged urban populations through “mental stretching” (Gardiner, 2000, p. 72). The arts skills are not so much transferred as they are over-lapped—in a deliberate effort to improve performance. The active acquisition of arts skills overlaps the needed subject skills such as elaboration and oral production and the student’s brain handles this integration through mental stretching.

Business is Creating

“Businesses are looking for solutions and arts-based learning can help,” says Linda Naiman, Founder of Creativity at Work:

Artists and business leaders have many parallels. Both involve having a guiding vision, a potent point of view, formulating an ideal, navigating chaos and the unknown, and finally producing a new creation.

An artful leader must know how to lead people creatively. Since all great art pushes boundaries beyond established norms, it can teach us about leadership, empathy, ambiguity, change, courage, and creativity. It makes sense therefore to learn principles and practices from the world of arts and apply them to business.

As noted in a Schumpeter blog post on “The Art of Management,” (The Economist Feb 17, 2011)

Business has much to learn from the arts… Studying the arts can help business people communicate more eloquently…Studying the arts can also help companies learn how to manage bright people…Studying the art world might even hold out the biggest prize of all—helping business become more innovative. Companies are scouring the world for new ideas. In their quest for creativity, they surely have something to learn from the creative industries” (Creativity at Work Website).

Life-Long Learning is Creating

What George Land’s 1968 study points out is well known to educational researchers like Howard Gardner—that non-creative activities dominate our educational system and instead of building capacity to be creative, we are building less creative students. How could it be that only a small percentage of adults think creativity is part of their life? It is my opinion that the advancement of learning is a creative act that starts at birth and continues throughout our lives. As the mind grows, it receives a lot of information. It makes sense of this information overload through creative filing—discarding, storing, associating. The mind ask itself where to store it, what subject tags to place on it, how to remember it, what other things it is associated with and how to recall it effectively. Every thought about every piece of information is a moment that involves creativity. The importance of creativity to advancing learning and to the realization of a successful life cannot be over-stated. We need much more research and support for building the capacity to do this work and cultivating creativity in our students and citizens.