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to deepen understanding of what it means to be creative and how to develop creativity in our students.” —DILHANI J. USWATTE

“Reeves and Reeves masterfully weave research

K–12 teachers and administrators will:

reflection at every turn. This book is an inspiring contribution that all educators (teachers, coaches, principals, and administrators) need to read!” —JACIE MASLYK

Assistant Superintendent Hopewell Area School District

“Reeves and Reeves wrench the ethereal quality out of the concept of creativity, making it something possible, something doable, and something constructive.” —DANA FRANTZ BENTLEY

Early Childhood Educator Buckingham Browne and Nichols School

Visit go.SolutionTree.com/21stcenturyskills to download the free reproducibles in this book.

REEVES & REEVES

• Engage in conversations about creativity • Consider the crucial elements of creativity • Challenge their preconceptions about creativity • Gain advice on what practices both educators and policymakers should avoid and emulate in applying creativity • Reflect creatively based on prompts at the end of each chapter

with practical examples, prompting meaningful

SUPPORTING VIRTUES THAT INSPIRE CREATIVITY

but a process that can be cultivated. K–12 educators must put this crucial element of academic and professional success at the very center of their curriculum. Authors Douglas Reeves and Brooks Reeves aim to start a conversation about what creativity truly is and address prevalent misperceptions that exist around the nature of creativity, outlining seven virtues that inspire creativity: (1) curiosity, (2) versatility, (3) synthesis, (4) discipline, (5) collaboration, (6) experimentation, and (7) tenacity.

MUSE

The Myth of the Muse contends that creativity is not spontaneous or inborn

OF THE

National Milken Award Educator and Elementary Principal

MYTH

administrators and faculty to use

THE

“This book is an ideal tool for

THE

MYTH OF THE

MUSE Supporting Virtues That

Inspire Creativity

SolutionTree.com

DOUGLAS REEVES & BROOKS REEVES


Copyright © 2017 by Solution Tree Press Materials appearing here are copyrighted. With one exception, all rights are reserved. Readers may reproduce only those pages marked “Reproducible.” Otherwise, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission of the publisher. 555 North Morton Street Bloomington, IN 47404 800.733.6786 (toll free) / 812.336.7700 FAX: 812.336.7790 email: info@SolutionTree.com SolutionTree.com Visit go.SolutionTree.com/21stcenturyskills to download the free reproducibles in this book. Printed in the United States of America 20 19 18 17 16

1 2 3 4 5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Reeves, Douglas B., 1953- author. | Reeves, Brooks, author. Title: The myth of the muse : supporting virtues that inspire creativity / Douglas Reeves and Brooks Reeves. Description: Bloomington, IN : Solution Tree Press, [2017] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016028123 | ISBN 9781935249481 (perfect bound) Subjects: LCSH: Creative thinking--Study and teaching. | Creative ability in children. Classification: LCC LB1590.5 .R45 2016 | DDC 370.15.7--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc. gov/2016028123                                              Solution Tree Jeffrey C. Jones, CEO Edmund M. Ackerman, President Solution Tree Press President: Douglas M. Rife Editorial Director: Tonya Maddox Cupp Managing Production Editor: Caroline Weiss Senior Production Editor: Tara Perkins Senior Editor: Amy Rubenstein Copy Chief: Sarah Payne-Mills Copy Editor: Evie Madsen Proofreader: Miranda Addonizio Text and Cover Designer: Laura Cox Editorial Assistant: Jessi Finn


TABLE OF CONTENTS ABOUT THE AUTHORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . XI INTRODUCTION: THE CREATIVITY IMPERATIVE . . . . . . 1 The Creativity Chasm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Research on Creativity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Virtues of Creativity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 About This Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Preconceptions of Creativity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

1

CREATIVITY MYTHS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 The Muse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 The Creative Type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Big C and Little c Creativity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Completely Original Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 The Artistic Personality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Elements of Creativity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Our Creative Responsibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1

2 CURIOSITY The Vice of Confidence

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

24

Mixed Social Cues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Curiosity in the Digital Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 Curiosity in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

35

Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

3 VERSATILITY Creative Freedom and Creative Reality

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Techniques for Increasing Versatility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Versatility in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 vii


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4 SYNTHESIS Creativity as Building Blocks

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

Synthesis and Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 1 Attribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

53

Synthesis in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57

5 DISCIPLINE Daily Disciplines of Creativity

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

Approaches for Maintaining Discipline . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Discipline in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66

6 COLLABORATION Evidence of the Power of Collaboration

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 . . . . . . . . . . . .

67

Collaboration in the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Structures for Collaborative Enterprise . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Practices for Successful Collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 1 Collaboration in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

76

Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

7 EXPERIMENTATION Experimentation in Science

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

Experimentation in the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 1 Experimentation in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

87

Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

8 TENACITY Tenacity for Students

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90

Tenacity for Educators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 1 Tenacity in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96

EPILOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97


Table of Contents

APPENDIX A: ASSESSING CREATIVE PROCESSES IN THE CLASSROOM . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 Reconciling Creativity and Academic Standards . . . . . . 100 Research on Creativity in the Classroom . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Evaluating Creative Processes in the Classroom . . . . . . . 106 Creativity Reflections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 10

APPENDIX B: GUIDELINES FOR LEADERS . . . . . . . . 111 Get Brainstorming Right . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Establish a Process of Mutually Exclusive Decision Alternatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 Foster a Work Ethic That Respects All Feedback . . . . . . . 113 Think Inside the Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 Learn From Failure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

ix


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Douglas Reeves, PhD, is the author of more than thirty books and many articles about leadership and organizational effectiveness. He was named the Brock International Laureate for his contributions to education and received the Contribution to the Field Award from the National Staff Development Council (now Learning Forward). Doug has addressed audiences in all fifty U.S. states and more than twenty-five countries, sharing his research and supporting effective leadership at the local, state, and national levels. He is founder of Finish the Dissertation, a free and noncommercial service for doctoral students, and the Zambian Leadership and Learning Institute. He is the founding editor and copublisher of The SNAFU Review, a collection of essays, poetry, and art by veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Douglas lives with his family in downtown Boston. To learn more about Douglas’s work, visit Creative Leadership Solutions (https://creativeleadership.net) or the Change Leaders blog (www.change leaders.com), or follow @DouglasReeves on Twitter. Brooks Reeves is a playwright, actor, and author. He authored New York Times-reviewed The City That Cried Wolf. His frequent leading roles in New England area theaters have been reviewed by the Boston Globe and many other New England publications. Brooks received the Best Supporting Actor award from the New Englander Theater Critics Association in 2015. He lives in Boston. To learn more about Brooks’s work, visit his blog at www.BrooksReeves .com, where his latest literary and artistic work appears. To book Douglas Reeves or Brooks Reeves for professional development, contact pd@SolutionTree.com. xi


INTRODUCTION

THE CREATIVITY IMPERATIVE

M

uch of history is divided into epochs based on the development of human innovation: the rise of agriculture, written language, philosophy, geometry, the printing press, the steam engine, the transistor, vaccines, and the Internet, just to name a few. These innovations and many others have fundamentally shifted not only our worldview but also our capacity to grow. Cultures are defined by their art, music, and literature. Things that are useful—and perhaps more important, that are meaningful, beautiful, and good—can be seen as an outgrowth of the creative process. Creativity is at the heart of the solutions to our most intractable challenges and is, therefore, essential for survival. Readers would doubtless do anything to spare their children, grandchildren, and complete strangers of future generations the pain of disease, hunger, violence, and oppression that are part of the daily lives of too many people today. Creative solutions in medicine, government, and technology have made modern life immeasurably better than that of our ancestors. But now the torch has passed, and we are not merely the beneficiaries of creativity but the authors of it. In particular, society now depends on creative solutions to address competing demands. For example, how do we cure devastating illnesses and feed the hungry while providing the resources to sustain a growing population? How do we address the global challenge of climate change while still encouraging economic growth and technological innovation? How do we fight global terrorism while respecting commitments to democratic ideals and privacy rights? If the lesson of the 20th century was as Alan Deutschman (2007) asserts, change or die, then the lesson of the 21st century is create or die—and die miserably. And yet, in few areas of human endeavor is there a wider gap between aspiration and reality than in creativity.

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The Creativity Chasm In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama touted the importance of creativity, saying, “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living” (The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 2011). A 2010 IBM study of more than fifteen hundred chief executive officers shows that creativity ranked number one on the list of qualities that these CEOs valued in their employees (IBM, 2010). John Hattie’s landmark synthesis of more than nine hundred meta-analyses (2012; Hattie & Yates, 2014) concludes that creativity is strongly linked to academic achievement, particularly when instruction in creativity takes place. The themes that surface again and again from these diverse realms of world politics, business, and education emphasize that innovation and creativity in science and politics, and collaboration among nations and individuals, will be essential for our civilization to conquer future challenges, from poverty to climate change. The value placed on creativity is well documented, but the reality is that the deck is stacked against the creative process. Creative business leaders are tolerated as long as they avoid the risks required in creative work. Artists, writers, and musicians struggle to earn a living in an increasingly globalized marketplace that values conformity over originality. Educators invested in building creative skills in students risk lowering test scores and jeopardize the jobs they have dedicated their lives to. Policymakers proposing innovative solutions to domestic and international problems are often discounted by a system mired by gridlock. For example, Adam Grant (2016) finds that in a variety of fields from the classroom to the boardroom, the behaviors essential for creativity—risk taking, testing boundaries, challenging rules—are least associated with short-term success and the approval of teachers and bosses. When schools and public officials who fund them (unintentionally) undermine creativity among students, teachers, and administrators, they not only diminish the beauty of the earth but also threaten our collective ability to preserve it. Schools rarely undermine creativity intentionally. After all, vision and mission statements extolling the virtues of creativity are ubiquitous. But when we compared the good intentions of schools as they aspired to enhance creativity with their actual behavior (Reeves, 2015), we found an enormous gap between rhetoric and reality. To better understand the gap between how much educational systems claim they value creativity and how much they actually do, as well as to better understand the science of creativity as whole, we must turn to the research.


Introduction

Research on Creativity What with the aforementioned climate change and global terrorism to contend with—along with myriad other challenges we face in the modern world—we assert that creativity is essential to the survival of civil society and the planet. If we are to successfully respond to this great responsibility we now face, then we must first understand what creativity truly is. It is not a matter of applying decoration and glitter to an otherwise mundane presentation. It is not a curricular afterthought, with time and resources allotted to students and teachers once their standardized tests have been completed. Creativity is also not merely a form of entertainment to be enjoyed by the wealthy or performed by artists who possess some inherent creative genius. In exploring what creativity is, we are committed to an evidence-based approach to a topic in which folklore often takes precedence over research. Pervasive myths have led to gross misconceptions in our society about what creativity is, where it comes from, and how it can occur. Our understanding of who creative people are—or can be—is often reduced to caricatures, clichés, or tropes. The reality is much less simplistic and opens up creativity to many more possibilities. While since the mid-1990s, we have seen many studies devoted to the subject of creativity, rarely have these studies been cited or explained to a general audience. Indeed, in surveying business or self-help literature, the same stories and anecdotes are dredged up time and time again with the same reliability of ghost stories told around a campfire. Staples of marketing and science literature have retold the stories of Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Bob Dylan for decades without citing the source or researching for accuracy. Rather than cherry-picked anecdotes and personal war stories, our approach is based on the preponderance of the evidence, including observations, interviews, quantitative analyses, qualitative observation, meta-analyses, and syntheses of meta-analyses. We should note that, as you read, you will see quoted material from students. Student quotations are composites of authentic conversations we had with students and are used with the permission of students and their parents. In appendix A (page 99), we will share our research on the ways creativity is assessed in schools. However, we offer this new research as only a pebble on the mountain of research on the subject. We have sought the insights of a wide variety of scholars who employ different methods. Some are connoisseurs of creativity, offering insights born of decades of thought and reflection, while others are systematic observers. Still others take a quantitative approach, examining the creative work products that

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result under specifically described conditions. We also consider syntheses of the research. It is therefore not a single approach to the research that is definitive, but rather the preponderance of the evidence that will best serve the reader seeking the truth about creativity. Some of the research findings may seem obvious, though we’ve often been surprised at the counterintuitive nature of some results. Although scholars disagree on many issues, there is an emerging consensus on the science of creativity. This includes long-term historical studies extending back two centuries or more, and the latest in 21st century research on human cognition and brain function (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Grant, 2016; Johnson, 2010).

Virtues of Creativity Amid the platitudes and botched science, certain findings are consistent, coalescing around a handful of essential ideas. By defining and examining these themes, it is easier to conceptualize the underlying patterns of the creative process as a whole. These themes, or virtues as we have come to call them, are neither absolute nor all encompassing. Nevertheless, there is a substantial body of research that supports focus as a key to learning, leadership, and change. Just as an expert actor might think of a thousand or more ways to develop and portray a character, the vast majority of this artist’s work comes down to a very few considerations: voice, body, tone, feeling, and instruction from the director. We could add historical context and contemporary relevance. Ultimately, Brooks would argue, presence and engagement are the most important qualities in bringing a character to life. Our focus on seven virtues, therefore, is a means of accessibly communicating a complex and vast field. If you find additional virtues in your quest to understand creativity, we encourage you on such a journey. We have chosen to focus on the following seven virtues. 1. Curiosity: This is the hunger for knowledge. It is the passion that drives us to look around each corner and turn every page. Curiosity is fundamental, and while the simple act of asking a question and seeking the answer is not necessarily inherently creative, it is certainly a prerequisite to creative activity. It can also be a drive that is too easily quelled when the answer to almost any question is seemingly a Google search away. We will consider how you can be your own explorer in a world awash in easy information. Creativity challenges boundaries. Critical thinking challenges assumptions. Together, they are the twin attributes that propel new ideas.


Introduction

2. Versatility: Having a creative vision is not always a matter of sticking to your guns. Adapting one’s work to a changing set of circumstances can often lead to powerful breakthroughs. We explore how unlimited freedom can be counterproductive in innovation and how constraints both real and imaginary can push the mind to places it would never go on its own. 3. Synthesis: Instead of viewing creativity as the act of pulling original ideas out of the ether, we consider how creativity is actually the joining of disparate notions and sources together into something greater than the sum of its parts. We will explore the myth of the lone genius and review the anatomy of invention. We will also look at the controversial issue of intellectual property laws and ask the important question, Who owns ideas? 4. Discipline: Ideas, art, and invention are not the product of mystical inspiration. Instead, they are almost always the consequence of hard work. We will examine the consistent role of ritual and habit in the work of many of the greatest writers, artists, and thinkers. We will discuss tools you can use to break through blocks and rough patches as well as show you how to push through your inner critic and the voice of the desperate procrastinator. 5. Collaboration: Some of the most fruitful inventions and artistic endeavors have been the work of creative individuals working in tandem (Shenk, 2014). While some artists and thinkers have staunchly preferred to work in isolation, the realities of life often require working collaboratively with our fellow human beings. We will identify fundamental principles of successful collaboration while also examining how to avoid common pitfalls of human interaction. 6. Experimentation: Great ideas are rarely the result of eureka moments. Rather, the creative process is often one marked by trial and error. We argue that the nature of art and science are more similar than one might suspect. 7. Tenacity: Creating something new means upsetting the prevailing order of things. The role of a revolutionary is rarely easy. We look realistically at the consequences and rewards of struggling to promote new ideas within a system that resists creativity and experimentation, and is intolerant of error. We

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also examine how the grit and perseverance that are an essential prelude to creativity benefit students. You can find successful artists and innovators who directly violate each of our virtues at some point. There are famous artists who scorn collaboration and great innovators who seem to have stumbled into instant rewards. For example, Ludwig van Beethoven refused entreaties from well-meaning critics to “improve” the dissonant chords in his symphonies (Greenberg, 1996), and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was a fluke based not on collaboration, but on idiosyncratic and unplanned observation (Brown, 2004). These are exceptional cases, however, and do not undermine our essential principles. We must ensure these principles are encouraged in classrooms through individual lessons and the school culture. To do so, we provide some practical advice for educators and policymakers at every level.

About This Book This is not a recipe book for the next great thing, nor do we claim to divulge secrets that the great geniuses of the world have been keeping from mere mortals. Our intent is to start a conversation about what creativity is, the forms it can take, and our understanding of its function. We believe that understanding and learning the utility of our seven virtues is important to anyone who cares about fostering creativity within themselves or throughout their organization. As such, we envision this text being used as a book study title for collaborative teams, whole schools, or entire districts that individual educators, administrators, and other stakeholders read and then discuss during in-service, collaborative team meetings, professional development time, or any other collaborative setting a school or district uses for stakeholders to communicate about and work toward common goals. Leaders may choose to ask participants to read the book in its entirety before discussion or discuss predetermined chapters over the course of multiple meetings, as is practical with regard to their group’s meeting time and schedule. We have provided reflection questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate those discussions. Additionally, we have included a number of specific examples in mathematics, art, music, theater, social studies, language arts, and other disciplines. However, in doing so, we risk two errors. First, if we make the examples too simplistic, we will alienate our readers who are subject-matter experts. Second, if we make the examples too complex, we will alienate our readers who are unfamiliar with that particular discipline. So, we have deliberately chosen to make the second error, hoping that readers who don’t find a particular example to their liking will quickly skim ahead and find an example that engages both their intellect and their academic preferences.


Introduction

While this book is conducive to group study and discussion, individual readers will also benefit greatly from engaging with the content and reflection questions on their own. Readers who are interested in creativity may not be those most likely to take a linear approach to this or any book. Some readers will start with the “References and Resources” section to identify the intellectual underpinnings of the authors’ arguments; others will skim the chapter titles for those that most resonate; others just want to get to the point. To help you navigate, we provide a brief summary of the book’s structure. Chapter 1 explores the common misconceptions about creativity and the illusions our culture seems to embrace regarding creativity. We argue the ways in which many of these concepts are, in fact, more myth than reality. Chapters 2 through 8 each focus on one of the seven virtues of creativity. We illustrate how each is important to creativity and provide insights for inspiring and cultivating creative habits. Once you and your team have reflected on each of the facets that contribute to creativity and considered the suggested classroom applications, you’ll no doubt be wondering how such practices can be assessed. We recognize the term creativity assessment may seem like an oxymoron. How can such a subjective concept be objectively evaluated? In appendix A, we provide evidence from our own research as well as a metarubric practitioners can use to support creativity assessment, evaluate their existing assessments, and identify areas in which those assessments can be adjusted to better support creativity in classrooms. Appendix B offers a few helpful tips for leaders as they guide teams in their work toward creative virtues.

Preconceptions of Creativity Please take a few moments to consider your own preconceptions about creativity by identifying whether you agree or disagree with the statements in figure I.1 (page 8). Whether you already consider yourself a creative type or the last time you flexed those muscles was in creating an art project out of macaroni at summer camp, we know this is true: every reader approaches the subject of creativity with certain assumptions. We hope that your candid responses to these statements will help you identify and confront many of those assumptions. However certain you may be of your agreement or disagreement with these statements, we believe you’ll be surprised by how the growing body of evidence about creativity will challenge your preconceptions.

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AGREE Some people are born with innate creative talents. It is in their genes. Combining other people’s ideas into a new combination is just as creative as coming up with something on your own. In order to be creative, children need to have unfettered freedom to express themselves. Creative ability peaks early in life. Creative work is fundamentally easier and more enjoyable than other types of work, like number crunching or manual labor. Working with others allows greater opportunities to be creative than working alone. Brainstorming is the best way of coming up with new ideas in a group. When doing creative work, it is important to take your time and get it right on the first try rather than risk wasting resources or making mistakes. Creativity cannot occur without inspiration. There are no major differences between people who think with the left side of their brains and those who think with the right side of their brains. Originality is a defining aspect of creativity. It is possible to force yourself into a creative mindset through habit and action. When working on a new idea, it is important to ignore criticism and forge ahead. When working on a project, it is important to spend time exploring possible solutions instead of buckling down and getting the work done. Creative inspiration is like lightning: it can strike at any time and there’s no way of predicting its behavior. Too many guidelines or rules throttle creative progress and ability. Creativity is an important aspect of the sciences as well as the arts. Educators fail students when they do not allow them to express themselves unconditionally. Teachers should not establish expectations on the creative work of students. Compromise is an important trait of the creative personality. Execution of an idea is just as important as coming up with the original insight.

Figure I.1: Creativity assumptions. Visit go.SolutionTree.com/21stcenturyskills for a free reproducible version of this figure.

DISAGREE


Introduction

CREATIVITY REFLECTIONS

1. With a partner or in a small group, discuss your responses to the statements in figure I.1. Note the statements for which there is no consensus, and discuss your reasoning behind your responses. 2. Start a personal creativity journal. Take notes in whatever format is useful for you—handwritten journal or typed notes—but keep in mind evidence suggests that the most effective notes are the ones taken by hand (McGloin, 2015). You might also consider using a mind map (Buzan & Buzan, 2002) in which you begin with a central idea and then use images, arrows, and words to express how each branch (or associated topic) of the mind map relates to the central idea and to other branches. 3. What parts of your personal and professional life would benefit from a higher level of creative thought and expression? 4. What important challenge that you face right now in your classroom or school have you been unable to address? Please don’t stop and search for a solution right now, but write the challenge in your creativity journal and let it percolate as you continue to read this book. It is important that you approach the chapters in this book with a specific challenge in mind that is in serious need of a creative solution.

9


CHAPTER 1

Š 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

CREATIVITY MYTHS

W

e begin with our own working definition of creativity: the process of experimentation, evaluation, and follow-through that leads to a significant discovery, insight, or contribution. This definition is in stark contrast to many prevailing definitions of creativity that focus only on the final product of creative work and the original genius of the creator. Many of these popular conceptions are based on myths that, we will argue, are simply illusions. Our definition of creativity, however, implies that the failures of these artists and inventors are every bit as creative as their successes. Indeed, the iconic works that we celebrate as great art would not receive the acclaim they are accorded today without thousands of unknown failures. In this chapter, we will first explore the myths of creativity and then examine our alternate conception of creativity and its foundational elements.

The Muse For at least three millennia, the prevailing explanation for creativity was divine inspiration or muses—a linguistic heritage that gives us the modern museum. We get this term from Greek mythology, in which there are nine sister goddesses (muses) of music, poetry, arts, and sciences. One of the sisters, Calliope, was the wisest of the muses. She is often depicted holding a tablet in her hand and has been credited by poets from Homer to Dante with inspiration for their work. African, Asian, Nordic, Celtic, Mayan, Persian, and Native American civilizations shared the same tendency to attribute creative insights to divine inspiration. But while contemporary writers may no longer give tribute to Calliope and her eight sisters, the myth of the muse casts a long shadow that to this day colors the way many people view artistic work. We may not attribute creative inspiration to the gods, but it remains tempting to think of creativity in quasi-mystical 11


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THE MYTH OF THE MUSE

The Creative Type They have been known by many names: bards, bohemians, tortured artists, absent-minded professors. We all recognize the caricature: head in the clouds or nose in a book, unconcerned with conventional appearance or customs, the “creative type” is simultaneously ridiculed for his or her eccentricity and lauded for his or her genius. They are tropes in fiction, from Sherlock Holmes to Victor Frankenstein, and some people continue to attempt to live out the stereotype of eccentric genius, from the hipster communes of Brooklyn, New York, to the one black sheep at every family reunion. They are defined not only by their capacity to be creative but also in their opposition to the norm. It is a distinction played out over and over again: there are those who can create, and then there are the rest of us. The U.S. Department of Labor even distinguishes between creative and noncreative professions (Burkus, 2014). But we hope to show you that this distinction is an artificial one. The notion that some people are simply born creative, that the miracle of invention can somehow be attributed to genes, was long ago undermined in a research study of fraternal and identical twins (Reznikoff, Domino, Bridges, & Honeyman, 1973). After testing more than a hundred pairs of twins, researchers found “little consistent or compelling evidence . . . to support the notion of a genetic component in creativity” (p. 375). Additionally, David Burkus (2014) notes that while it may take supremely confident personalities to engage in the risk taking required for creativity, the skills of creative problem solving can be learned. He asserts, “Even codependent, risk-averse narcissists can be taught how to generate ideas more easily and combine possible outputs to leverage synergy” (p. 7).

Big C and Little c Creativity Researchers have often drawn distinctions between Big C creativity— the sort of insights that lead to Nobel Prizes or talents that seem to be inborn—and little c creativity—the sort of insights that are merely functional in nature or that are developed through study. Recent research, however, challenges this dichotomy. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart didn’t

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

terms. In his 1835 essay for The New-England Magazine, Victor Hugo wrote, “It seems that poetic inspiration has in it something too sublime for the common nature of man” (p. 204). Even nearly two centuries later, many Westerners still cling to the belief that creativity is a mysterious force bestowed on a special segment of the population at birth. This myth implies that neither environment, will, nor consequence has the power to nurture creativity.


Creativity Myths

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write the majestic Coronation Mass in C Major without playing some C major scales and arpeggios; and Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and James Watson didn’t conduct groundbreaking research on DNA without first learning the essentials of math and chemistry. The grandiosity of Big C creativity has necessary antecedents—the structure, hard work, and many mistakes that are the stuff of little c creativity.

Architect and engineer I. M. Pei created iconic buildings ranging from the Louvre Pyramid to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but few people remember the names of the engineers (and carpenters, surveyors, plumbers, electricians, and scores more craftspeople) who brought Pei’s vision to life. Novel visions require novel approaches to implementation. Pei’s visions depend on the similarly visionary work of those who helped the buildings leap from the architect’s plans to three-dimensional structures. Some of Picasso’s most recognizable work, such as the untitled giant horse sculpture in Chicago, required the collaboration of others who could transform the master’s conception into reality. For example, the engineers and craftspeople at American Bridge Company, which had never previously done this sort of artistic work, applied their knowledge from one domain, bridge building, to a completely new domain, the cutting, welding, transportation, and installation of Picasso’s new work (Srivastava, 2014). Scholar Mark A. Runco (2014) argues there is no evidence for this dichotomy and, more important, that the emphasis on Big C creativity undermines the essential work of little c—that is, the foundation for application and dissemination of the Big C ideas. He argues: Little c creativity is meaningful in and of itself. This is in part because it is not really extricable from Big C creativity. Little c creativity may develop into Big C creativity. Big C creativity involves things that lead to social recognition, but the creativity results from

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

Creativity involves a complex interaction among creators, products, and audiences. Creators can appear to be larger-than-life figures, sometimes elevated to their status based on the evaluations of their contemporaries but, more likely, viewed as creative superstars only through the rearview mirror of history. Nobel Prizes, for example, are most often awarded for work that took place decades prior (Cima, 2015). The young researcher laboring away through the tedium of trial and error that is the essence of creativity doesn’t seem particularly intimidating. “I could do that,” their colleagues remark. When the same researcher is delivering the Nobel Lecture in formal attire before Swedish royalty, colleagues stand in awed reverence, muttering, “I could never do that.” Making rock stars out of Big C creators threatens society’s creative enterprise. While the recognition may be nice, the impact is the opposite of that intended.


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THE MYTH OF THE MUSE

the same process that is involved in little c creativity. (p. 132)

We reject this dichotomy not only because it is inaccurate but also because it is pernicious, undermining the contributions we all must make to create a future that is brighter, safer, and more enjoyable than yesterday.

One of the worst epithets that can be directed to one’s competitors in the creative realm is that their work is merely derivative. As Blaise Pascal (1910) said, “The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men” (p. 10). Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1899) added, “A poor original is better than a good imitation” (p. 290). These ideas are the basis of much of the academic distinctions between innovation and creativity, with the latter representing original ideas and the former derivative. But Nina Paley (2010) has argued that everything is derivative. By the logic of the distinction between original and derivative work, the invention of the wheel was creative, but every other form of land transportation since then, from the horse-drawn wagon to a Formula One race car, is derivative; the aircraft that flew for twelve seconds at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, under the direction of the Wright brothers was creative, but the Space Shuttle was derivative; choral tones identified by Pythagoras three millennia ago and harmonies played on didgeridoos on the Australian continent more than a thousand years ago were creative, while the works of Ludwig van Beethoven were derivative. Poppycock! By denigrating the creative efforts of today and dismissing them as derivative, critics go down the reductionist rat hole that anything since the Big Bang was derivative and not worthy of being called creative. Innovation and creativity are often distinguished from one another, with creativity representing the landmark insights and innovation representing merely the application of creative insights to contemporary challenges. Whether it is the expansion of the color palette and the use of perspective in visual arts; variations in meter and rhyme in poetry; dropping the barrier for the audience in theater; the representation of statistical data in multiple dimensions; or the conception of time and space as relative, these remarkably creative endeavors are, when pedants argue about the term, merely innovative. We find this distinction and its implied hierarchy to be useless. There is innovation in every creative enterprise. If we accept the premise that creativity is vital for the future of our families and of the planet, then recognizing the creative spirit in all of us is cause for deep reflection on our responsibility to apply our creative gifts to the challenges before us. We believe that creativity is within the grasp of

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

Completely Original Work


Creativity Myths

The Artistic Personality The popular Myers-Briggs personality test claims the ability to sort people into sixteen distinct personality types and is used throughout the business, government, education, and nonprofit communities to profile potential candidates and employees. Despite widespread adoption, this theory of personality has never been tested and proved scientifically (Burnett, 2013), and the scientific literature on the test challenges the essential elements of any test—reliability (consistency of results) and validity (testing what we think we are testing; Eveleth, 2013). Worse still is the commonly cited left- and right-brain dynamic. This is the staple of many so-called “brain research” seminars that are, unfortunately, about neither the brain nor research. But the story of the left-right brain dichotomy is so pervasive that it holds a place in the pantheon of folk wisdom. People who are “right brained” are supposedly impulsive, emotional, and also more creative, and those who are “left brained” are more rational, logical, and realistic. Or is it the other way around? The story has been retold so many times with breathless enthusiasm that it is difficult to keep track. It doesn’t matter, because the theory does not stand up to scrutiny. There are several problems with this model, not least of which is that it has been thoroughly debunked (Iezzi, 2015). While it is true that some control of speech is localized in the right hemisphere, the brain is a much more complicated machine than the hemispheric theory suggests. The left and right portions of our brains don’t operate in isolation, but instead work together to form our thoughts and ideas. For instance, when examined in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) device, our right brain lights up when noticing the general shape of an object, whereas the left portion of our brain is focused on assessing the details of the object. Between the two, we automatically recognize the difference between an orange and our neighbor Frank.

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

all of us—every student, colleague, neighbor, and friend. This universalist approach is not meant to make people feel good, but to challenge them. Every time we defer to the Big C version of creativity, we let ourselves off the hook by employing a false logic that says if you didn’t write the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, or U.S. Constitution, you can’t improve democracy in creative ways; if you didn’t demonstrate for women’s suffrage, you can’t make a creative contribution to women’s rights; if you didn’t write a symphony or invent the twelve-tone scale, you can’t sing your child a creative lullaby. We are all responsible for and capable of innovating to extend and improve on ideas to create solutions.

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THE MYTH OF THE MUSE

Another example of analysis linking brain function with personality is the five-factor model of personality (Digman, 1990), which measures five attributes: (1) openness to experience, (2) conscientiousness, (3) extraversion, (4) agreeableness, and (5) neuroticism. When creative capacity has been tested against these five factors, only openness to experience showed any correlation to creativity (Sawyer, 2012). The results of these tests show that the ability to be creative is not limited to any set of predefined personality types or characteristics. Even age should not be considered a limiting factor for the development of creativity, despite the common assertion that young children are creative but adolescents and adults have lost their creative impulses due to poor schooling. While it is true that the human brain does lose some plasticity once we pass the age of twenty-five, the benefits of the experience and expertise we earn as we grow older often counteract these effects. A cross-cultural study from the University of Arkansas considered 420 literary creators culled from history of Western, Near Eastern, and Asian literatures, and while they found that poets started writing at an earlier age than prose writers, the researchers found no correlations between imaginative and informative output as the population aged (Simonton, 1975). For every Galileo and Jack Kerouac, who produced some of their most startling work at an early age, there are examples like William Shakespeare, who produced what are widely acknowledged as some of his greatest works late in his career; Claude Monet, who picked up his craft late in life and whose distinctive style was influenced by his diminishing eyesight; and Elliott Carter, who produced great 21st century music in his nineties and conducted world premieres after his one-hundredth birthday. This reality stands in stark contrast to the legion of YouTube creativity gurus, led by Sir Ken Robinson (2006), whose popular YouTube video and accompanying books argue that while children are innately creative, the spark is dimmed or extinguished by our woeful education systems. Similarly, Ugur Sak and June Maker (2006) claim that mathematical creativity decreases as students progress in schooling. But the evidence we

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As with many myths, the idea contains a kernel of truth. The left side of our cerebral cortex controls the right side of our body and vice versa. But that is where science stops and mythology begins. Those people who favor one side over the other, as in left-handedness versus right-handedness, are also distinguished by certain aptitudes, according to the theory. But hand preference is not an indication of favoring one side of the brain versus the other (Kosslyn & Miller, 2013). Indeed there have been some very interesting evolutionary theories that seek to explain the phenomenon of hand preference, but none of them show any correlation with hemisphere preference (Faurie & Raymond, 2005).


Creativity Myths

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will present in the remainder of this book shows that people can engage in the process of creativity at any age.

Elements of Creativity

Experimentation The centrality of process to creativity is as important in the sciences as in the arts. Experimentation is the initiating element in this process. Consider Archimedes’s contribution to physics. He is said to have discovered the nature of mass as he noticed the displacement of water as he bathed in ancient Greece. The tale goes that, having successfully reckoned that the volume of an object could be determined by its displacement of water, he leapt from the bathtub and ran naked through the town shouting “Eureka!” or “I have found it!” This tale, enshrined in the eureka moment of discovery by scientists and artists through the ages, suffers from a fundamental flaw. Speculation about the private lives of figures in ancient history is fraught with peril, but of one thing we can be fairly certain: this wasn’t Archimedes’s first bath. It certainly was not the first time that he had attempted to estimate the volume of objects—in this case, the king’s crown. He arrived at this realization after many failed hypotheses and experiments. The eureka myth gives the illusion that creativity is about the moment of discovery, rather than the long process that preceded it.

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

As we noted previously, in contrast to these various myths, we understand creativity to be the process of experimentation, evaluation, and followthrough that leads to a significant discovery, insight, or contribution. The evidence is clear that creativity is a process, and a single product—the breakthrough scientific paper, the magnificent sculpture, the soul-inspiring bars of music—is not the result of a single moment of inspiration, but of processes that included many considered and discarded ideas (Grant, 2016; Johnson, 2010). Outlining this process provides the foundation for understanding not only what creativity is, but how it can be nurtured. It also provides insight into how creativity is, however unintentionally, undermined in classrooms, boardrooms, halls of government, and councils of industry. In particular, creativity is undermined when educational, business, and governmental organizations punish errors. While leaders often talk a good game about how they value mistakes and learn from them, the prevailing evaluation mechanisms for students and for adults is based upon the average—that is, the sum of every observation divided by the number of observations. In this system, we do not value mistakes and failure, but systematically punish them. Every mistake of January is remembered and calculated into the final evaluation in December.


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Emphasizing experimentation means that Thomas Edison’s 9,999 failures were as important as the success that followed. We do not see the experimental canvases that Leonardo da Vinci rejected and destroyed. We do not get to wonder at the casts that Auguste Rodin smashed. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist and embody important experimental work that influenced the creations we know today. The second element of our definition is evaluation. Scientific insights are achieved through a process of review, criticism, evaluation, and ultimately, validation. Creative insights, likewise, are not universally accepted but emerge over time after a process of public evaluation, deliberation, and debate. For an extreme example, the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in Paris inspired such spirited debate and evaluation as to its creative value that it included shoe throwing and fist fights (Pasler, 1986). Vigorous debate, dissent, and discussion are essential parts of the creative process. The melee of the Paris premiere of The Rite of Spring may not be a model of civil discourse, but it does illustrate the fact that conclusions regarding creative contributions are the result of a process of evaluation. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the global summit on climate change occurred in the same city in 2015. Amidst the creative solutions in future meetings in Paris and around the globe will be debate, dissent, evaluation, and perhaps even some shoe throwing. In the century to come, society will be best served not by remembering the proclamations of world leaders, but the contentious process that just might lead to creative solutions that will give generations to come a better chance at survival. The critics of creative breakthroughs are often cast as villains or buffoons, but we must not be afraid to be critical when we evaluate new ideas. What if the shoe throwers of Paris led Stravinsky to more expressive compositions? What if Einstein’s critics, when the general theory of relativity was posited, were essential to the special theory of relativity? What if Johann Sebastian Bach’s early critics led him to be a better composer? Reflect on feedback you have received over the past year, particularly on creative endeavors, but also on any attempt at excellence. Which feedback led to your own breakthrough performances—the superficial and laudatory or the critical and evaluative?

Follow-Through The third element of our definition of the creativity process is followthrough. Creators not only think great thoughts, they act. James Madison did not just think about democracy; he wrote the Constitution. Maya

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Evaluation


Creativity Myths

Creativity is not merely the idea itself, but the process that leads to the idea—the continual cycle of evaluation that makes the idea better and the follow-through that gives the idea endurance over time. Consider the common practice of brainstorming. It is a good bet that every reader has at some time been encouraged to generate creative new ideas through brainstorming focused around this primary rule: no judgment or evaluation—just get as many ideas, no matter how improbable they might be—on the wall. This was a splendid idea in 1946 for advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborn. Unburdened by evidence, Osborn (1963) dominated the creative consulting industry with his books and seminars about brainstorming. Although there were signs of trouble with studies starting in 1960 that establish this type of brainstorming as ineffective (Gobble, 2014; Mongeau, 1993; Orme, 2014), the enthusiasm of Osborn’s disciples remained undiminished. Well into the 21st century, high-priced consultants with Ivy League pedigrees continue to suggest that strategic planning and other group processes begin with brainstorming. But the truth is that this kind of brainstorming is not only ineffective, it is counterproductive. This process buries important ideas and wastes time and energy on ideas that are popular, perhaps even funny, but are soon forgotten and never implemented. But tell educators, business leaders, or nonprofit executives that traditional brainstorming is an ineffective waste of time and resources, and you might be greeted with hostility or bewilderment. Although follow-through is an essential element of creativity, activities such as brainstorming offer a comfortable but futile alternative to follow-through. As amateur musicians, we would much prefer to think about the music rather than practice it. As writers we prefer languorous discussions of ideas to the more difficult challenges of putting those ideas into prose that readers will find useful. Creativity without follow-through is Picasso without the canvas, Mozart without the orchestra, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Nelson Mandela without societal and governmental structures with which to implement their ideas. In sum, creativity is not just about thinking or being, but about doing.

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

Angelou not only reflected on her childhood experiences, she put pen to paper, gave voice to the voiceless, and famously announced to the world that she knew why the caged bird sings. The implications for teaching and learning creativity are clear. Follow-through demands a level of discipline, organization, and focus that in popular mythology are the antithesis of the creative genius who is undisciplined, disorganized, and scatterbrained. That stereotype may be part of traditional definitions of creativity, but it does not accord with ours.

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THE MYTH OF THE MUSE

Our Creative Responsibility

Even advocates of creativity undermine their case when they refer to creativity as a “noncognitive” skill (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). This wholly inaccurate understanding of creativity sends the message that creativity is a frill—something that competes with and is at the other end of the cognition continuum from “real” thinking and learning. One reason that creativity myths are so prevalent may be that they remove the responsibility of being creative from individuals, teachers, and organizations and lay the onus on nature. People may feel that if creativity is the exclusive domain of the loner scientist or the eccentric aesthete, then they have no duty or ability to try to be creative themselves—believing that they either possess a certain creative quality from birth or they do not. What we must understand is that creativity is not a trait. It is a set of behaviors that can be developed through practice. Creativity is, to some degree, a way of life. But it is also a responsibility. Creativity is not just the way that the great geniuses of the past have enriched and given meaning to our culture, it is an obligation we all have to enrich and give meaning to our own lives and community. We hope that by exploring and explaining each of the seven main traits and modes of thought that support creativity in the following chapters, we can help in some small measure guide you, your students, and your colleagues to a more fulfilling and creative life.

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

Nearly every professional development session for teachers and school administrators includes an oration about the importance of creativity as a 21st century skill, but these educators routinely return home to face the reality of a system that undermines the creative efforts of students and themselves. Despite the rhetoric favoring creativity, the message teachers hear is, “We’ll get to creativity—just as soon as we raise our test scores.”


Creativity Myths

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CREATIVITY REFLECTIONS

2. Identify specific sources of creative inspiration that you find most helpful. These might be nature, music, silence, visual images, or a thousand other sources. Just select two or three, and resolve to make time and space for those sources of creative inspiration this week. 3. Think of someone you regard as an exceptionally creative person—either a personal acquaintance, someone you have observed from afar, or an historical (or even fictional) person. What are ways that you and your creative exemplar are similar? How are you different? 4. What are the resources within you—your experiences, deeply held beliefs, exceptional moments of learning and insight—that you can use to open the doors to creativity? 5. You have probably witnessed situations in your professional career when experts disagreed. How did you and your colleagues deal with divergent and strongly held views? What do your most promising experiences in sorting out alternative expert views suggest for how you can analyze divergent views to promote student creativity?

© 2017 by Solution Tree Press. All rights reserved.

1. Identify at least one thing you thought about creativity that changed after you read this chapter, and discuss with a partner or small group. If you have not changed your thinking, consider at least one or two ways in which your thinking has been challenged or reinforced. You might want to consult your responses to figure I.1 (page 8).


to deepen understanding of what it means to be creative and how to develop creativity in our students.” —DILHANI J. USWATTE

“Reeves and Reeves masterfully weave research

K–12 teachers and administrators will:

reflection at every turn. This book is an inspiring contribution that all educators (teachers, coaches, principals, and administrators) need to read!” —JACIE MASLYK

Assistant Superintendent Hopewell Area School District

“Reeves and Reeves wrench the ethereal quality out of the concept of creativity, making it something possible, something doable, and something constructive.” —DANA FRANTZ BENTLEY

Early Childhood Educator Buckingham Browne and Nichols School

Visit go.SolutionTree.com/21stcenturyskills to download the free reproducibles in this book.

REEVES & REEVES

• Engage in conversations about creativity • Consider the crucial elements of creativity • Challenge their preconceptions about creativity • Gain advice on what practices both educators and policymakers should avoid and emulate in applying creativity • Reflect creatively based on prompts at the end of each chapter

with practical examples, prompting meaningful

SUPPORTING VIRTUES THAT INSPIRE CREATIVITY

but a process that can be cultivated. K–12 educators must put this crucial element of academic and professional success at the very center of their curriculum. Authors Douglas Reeves and Brooks Reeves aim to start a conversation about what creativity truly is and address prevalent misperceptions that exist around the nature of creativity, outlining seven virtues that inspire creativity: (1) curiosity, (2) versatility, (3) synthesis, (4) discipline, (5) collaboration, (6) experimentation, and (7) tenacity.

MUSE

The Myth of the Muse contends that creativity is not spontaneous or inborn

OF THE

National Milken Award Educator and Elementary Principal

MYTH

administrators and faculty to use

THE

“This book is an ideal tool for

THE

MYTH OF THE

MUSE Supporting Virtues That

Inspire Creativity

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DOUGLAS REEVES & BROOKS REEVES

The Myth of the Muse  

Supporting Virtues That Inspire Creativity

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