Sir Ken Robinson – Can Creativity Be Taught?


hello Ken Robinson I always described myself as an educator because I am I’ve worked in education systems all my life I have worked with school systems I’ve taught in universities and helped in the training of professional development of teachers in different parts of the world as well and these days I write and get asked to talk quite a lot and run workshops I’ve written a lot about creativity and people often say that you can’t teach creativity and you can’t assess it I remember once working with a political group in the UK and the then sector State for Education said to me of course the trouble about creativity is that you can’t define it and I said no I think the trouble is that you can’t define it and and I don’t mean this frivolously people often make these claims because they haven’t really spent much time thinking about creativity they think they know what it is and that they feel entitles them to pronounce on what you can and can’t do with it in schools so let me just a couple words about there’s creativity as I see it is the process of having original ideas that have value there are three bits of that it’s a process it’s not an event it’s rarely the case it’s not never the case but it’s really the case that if you’re working on a creative project that you get the exact final version at your first attempt that’s true whether you’re working on a mathematical theorem or a scientific hypothesis or an experiment or designing a bridge or a house or composing a piece of music it’s normally a process of trial and error and we know quite a lot about that process and how it works some of the phases it typically goes through some of the blocks to it and how you can unblock them secondly it’s about original thinking it doesn’t have to be original to the whole world but it certainly has to be original to you it may be original to your peer group it may sometimes break the way people have thought about something since the beginning of time but it’s not a requirement of creativity that it has to be new to the planet and thirdly it’s about value and people often contest this and say well whose value is that’s exactly the point all creative processes involve evaluation making judgments about whether it feels right you can see it you know if you’re writing a poem or if you’re doing a design or planning your speech it’s is that right you’re crossing an ad doesn’t feel right it’s not really what I mean I’m not sure that’s quite the way to go so you’re making judgments all the time so creativity isn’t some freewheeling process and start to finish there’s often a early stage to it were you’re brainstorming hypothesizing but then it’s work it’s crafting and it’s trying again and trying to get it right so that’s how I define it now the thing is that creativity that you can be creative anything people often say they’re not creative what they mean very often in my experience is they’re not very arty they can’t they can’t play an instrument or or they don’t paint or they don’t do theatre or dance or all those things in the arts can be very very creative but you can be created anything can be a creative mathematician a creative chemists to create a physicist a creative cook chef you name it anything that involves human intelligence as a scene a possible creative achievement the other myth is that you can’t teach it now that the two things that hinge on this one of them is that when people say you can’t teach creativity I find that they’re often basing that view on a very narrow idea of what teaching is if it’s if by that they mean you can’t teach creativity like you can teach somebody the sequence of traffic light changes or you can’t teach people creatively like how to drive a car well there’s some truth in that it’s not a complete truth that you you don’t teach people to be creative through direct instruction like do what I do and you’ll be more creative now there are aspects of learning in any field that you need to master skills and disciplines and techniques but teachings much more than direct instruction teaching is a process of enabling it’s a process of giving people opportunities as a process of encouragement it’s a process of inspiration and of mentoring and I’ve been involved in projects all around the world in academies and other places where it’s demonstrably true that gifted teachers help people to discover their creative talents to nurture them and to potent and to become more creative as a result to understand that you can teach creativity we need a more expansive and enriched conception of what teaching is and how it actually works and when we will say you can’t assess it it’s not true either I think it’s because people again often operate on a narrow conception of creativity that it’s just some freewheeling process that any idea will do the clue to understanding that you can assess creative it is to go back to the definition that it’s about original ideas that have value and in any particular field you have to identify the criteria for originality for example you have to identify what you mean by value and I remember years ago I was working on the university committee and somebody said well how would you ever judge a novel how would you judge how creative it is and I said well you’ve asked some novelists about that how would you judge a mathematical paper will you ask people who know about that discipline in the field to make judgments about whether it does count as original if you’re looking at young children’s drawing you would apply different criteria than if you were assessing the success of the roof of the Sistine Chapel I remember years ago at the TED conference telling the story of the little girl who hardly ever paid attention in class and in this particular class she did the teacher was running a drawing lesson and said the little girl was over in the corner and she nomally didn’t pay attention but she was completely absorbed and the teacher went over to and said what are you drawing and the girl said I’m drawing a picture of God and the teacher said but nobody knows what God looks like and the girl said they will in a minute you see what I love about that story is the confidence the girl has in their own drawing well you wouldn’t apply the same criteria to a five year olds drawing as you would to a seasoned animator or cartoonist or an architect so you can assess creativity providing you’re clear on the criteria Jannetty and the value and as soon as we get clear on those issues that can be taught they can be assessed we’re then in a position to integrate it properly into the entire curriculum not as some afterthought but as a way of transforming the power of teaching and of learning you

23 thoughts on “Sir Ken Robinson – Can Creativity Be Taught?”

  1. But will the bureaucrats, unions and "big business", who are so entrench ed in the current system of tests and pigeonholing of future workers, accept the need for creativity that will inevitably lead to creative free thinkers?

  2. Creativity &Talents. Matt Damon & his Mother Nancy Carlsson-Paige: Good Will Hunting in context Interpersonal Neurobiology.

    https://vimeo.com/116835988

  3. I think it's kind of a paradoxical situation.. As we evolve more creative people and societies, likewise will we probably see the teaching of creativity evolving. Unfortunately, at present, we do not have particularly creative societies, in my opinion.. We see a bit of it in the sciences and technology. But aside from that we're a bit stagnated, in my opinion. But I don't fault parents, or schools, too much on that. Sadly, I think there are special interest groups that function to keep things from moving forward. In fact, I think one could almost go so far as to make an accusation of regress, instead of progress. For those of you that might've read "Teaching As a Subversive Activity" by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, back in the 1970's, they mentioned an interview with Paul Goodman, as to whether he could recommend one really important skill for future learners. He answered "cr*p detecting." I think it's a very good answer. The more sophisticated things become, similarly the more slyly stuff can be dealt to the masses that's ineffectual for the masses, yet quite lucrative or some such, for special interests.

  4. Last night I was looking through some trivia, and came across this quote from Tesla: "It doesn't bother me that they stole my idea! What bothers me is that they had no ideas of their own!"

  5. As an Art Educator I am continuously baffled about the pre-conceived notions of creativity – usually quite narrow minded as Sir Ken points out. Its up to us to make sure Creativity IS taught and more importantly that when its taught that the value is constantly and consistently made clear. Its the only way to make change.

  6. my experience is that creativity is in short supply and can't be taught, that the vision of an artist or inventor is rare. of course, many "identify" as "creatives," because it costs nothing (but credibility, which over-reachers usually lack, unless they're donald trump) to come on as a hotshot.

    despite the above naysaying, i encourage all people to use imagination and critical thinking as much as they can. but unrealistic pretensions hold us back.

  7. I wonder, is it equally creative to come up with something of value by accident, which I believe may have been the explanation of the child's creativity in his story, or is it more creative to break free from learned ideas about the way things "are" and still have the ability to create something new and of value?

  8. not only can creativity be taught, but it needs to be taught. we need kids who get better–not worse–at creating things, building things, and solving problems as they go through school.

  9. Facinating point of view from professor Robinson. Creativity craves incouragement. Formal education constricts because it demands acquiesence to, committe led ,curriculum objectives. If talent is governed by committees it only nullifies individuality. Respect to the doctor, but, personal experience leads me to wholesale disagreement. In the same way a broke artist sells a painting to make ends meat but knows that the purchaser is unlikely to be as obsessively, passionate about the subject. Artist's often are obstinate to the point of paranoia because they are surrounded by indifference. Worse still is that formal education perpetuates this philistism.

  10. Is it that people who say "creativity can't be taught" have a narrow definition of teaching, or is it that Sir Ken has too broad a definition of teaching? I think both.

    He's not really talking about 'teaching' creativity, he's talking about fostering it or creating the appropriate environment that would allow for creativity. People think of teaching as showing or instructing someone how to do something and they're not wrong. That is really the definition of teaching. But you can't really show someone how to BE creative, rather… since everyone is or can be creative (some more than others, naturally), you just have to provide them with the right resources, encourage them to follow their interests and use their core strengths, and give them autonomy.

    Then again, it seems this is what he means when he says that creativity can be taught, but it's an important distinction to make and clears up confusion.

    Creativity, at least the defining points, happens at random moments, it's not very predictable. That's why organizations often fail to teach creativity to their employees, because they're trying to teach them the PROCESS of creativity, but actually, creativity is anti-process — it's not something you can follow step by step or force in a set timeline. It's the free flowing of one's own ideas and making connections, both of which happen as they work on something. Different people will approach it differently (should be obvious). An organic INNER process cannot be taught, by the actual definition of teaching. It can be encouraged though, that's the one thing we're really missing nowadays.

    Still, I think he makes good points. And it seems he's also thinking of teaching as mentoring rather than strictly 'teaching.' He's talking about what it should or at least could be, as opposed to the common type of teaching.

    So reframing the question: can we cultivate creativity by changing the way we teach and educate? Yes.

    First step…. stop barking orders at students and trying to get them all to conform to one path and curriculum like in the current prevailing education system.

  11. My ideas on improving teaching and learning revolve around the concept of creativity and it appears to me that not only is it possible to teach creativity it is essential that we include it in teaching and learning. Sir Ken is supported in his definition of creativity by Arthur J Cropley in his book "Creativity in education and learning a guide for teachers and educators". A book that is well worth a read if you want to explore creativity, alternatively you can read my article "Why creativity?"

    As with much in life though, those who do not understand something find it hard to define or value it. If only more people involved in setting the education agenda understood the value of creativity. As for my own work you can explore my ideas at Advocating Creativity in Education (ace-d).

    Link to my article on Why Creativity? http://wp.me/p2LphS-ua

  12. The most profound original creative idea is so multidimentional in its nature that is holds a factual inspiration for every field of existance to enhance the untapped creative potential still unexplored within the whole of humanity. Any thing can be taught..it just depends on the skills of the teacher to be able to intrique the students enough to want to listen.

  13. Creativity is a power which enables people to modify existing thing to a new thing to a new thing or an ability to create a new structure never existed which is alienware(something that is alternative alter + native where alter refers to the idea which is purely diverged thinking not a single part of it is associated with existing subject) that ability I define as creativity

  14. This man should be cloned and his clones sent around the world to speak and involve who's supposed to have the power to change the Education System in each country.

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