Fostering Academic Creativity in Gifted StudentsThis document has been retired from the active collection
of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
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The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E484
Authors: Paul E. Torrance and Kathy Goff
What Is Meant by Academic Creativity?
Academic creativity is a way of thinking about, learning, and producing information in school subjects such as science, mathematics, and history. Few experts agree on a precise definition, but when we say the word, everyone senses a similar feeling. When we are creative, we are aware of its special excitement.
Creative thinking and learning involve such abilities as evaluation (especially the ability to sense problems, inconsistencies, and missing elements); divergent production (e.g., fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration); and redefinition. Creative learning is a natural, healthy human process that occurs when people become curious and excited. In contrast, learning by authority requires students to use thinking skills such as recognition, memory, and logical reasoning--the abilities most frequently assessed by traditional tests of intelligence and scholastic aptitude. Children prefer to learn in creative ways rather than just memorizing information provided by a teacher or parents. They also learn better and sometimes faster.
Three questions illustrate the difference between learning information provided by an adult or textbook and creative learning:
Creative Behavior of Young Children
Young children are naturally curious. They wonder about people and the world. By the time they enter preschool, they already have a variety of learning skills acquired through questioning, inquiring, searching, manipulating, experimenting, and playing. They are content to watch from a distance at first; however, this does not satisfy their curiosity. Children need opportunities for a closer look; they need to touch; they need time for the creative encounter.
We place many restrictions on children's desire to explore the world. We discourage them by saying "Curiosity killed the cat." If we were honest, we would admit that curiosity makes a good cat and that cats are extremely skilled in testing the limits and determining what is safe and what is dangerous. Apparently children, as well as cats, have an irresistible tendency to explore objects, and this very tendency seems to be the basis for the curiosity and inventiveness of adults. Even in testing situations, children who do the most manipulating of objects produce the most ideas and the largest number of original ideas.
Creative Behavior of School-age Children
Until children reach school age, it is generally assumed that they are highly creative, with vivid imaginations, and that they learn by exploring, risking, manipulating, testing, and modifying ideas. Although teachers and administrators sometimes believe that it is more economical to learn by authority, research suggests that many things (although not all) can be learned more effectively and economically in creative ways rather than by authority (Torrance, 1977).
What Can Teachers Do?
Wise teachers can offer a curriculum with plenty of opportunities for creative behaviors. They can make assignments that call for original work, independent learning, self-initiated projects, and experimentation. Using curriculum materials that provide progressive warm-up experiences, procedures that permit one thing to lead to another, and activities that make creative thinking both legitimate and rewarding makes it easier for teachers to provide opportunities for creative learning.
The following are some things caring adults can do to foster and nurture creativity:
What Can Parents Do?
It is natural for young children to learn creatively by dancing, singing, storytelling, playing make-believe, and so forth. One of the first challenges to creativity may be formal schooling. By this time parents, as well as teachers, appreciate conforming behaviors such as being courteous and obedient, following rules, and being like others. While these are desirable traits to some extent, they may also destroy a child's creative potential.
The following are some positive ways parents can foster and nurture the growth of creativity:
Torrance, E. P. (1969). Creativity. Sioux Falls, ND: Adapt Press.
Torrance, E. P. (1977). Creativity in the classroom. Washington, DC: National Education Association.
Torrance, E. P., & Goff, K. (1989). A quiet revolution. Journal of Creative Behavior, 23(2), 136-145.
Resources for Parents and Teachers
There are numerous textbooks, workshops, instructional materials, videotapes, seminars, and other resources. for use in creative teaching. There are publishers, magazines, and journals that focus on creativity and creative thinking. Some of them include the following:
Creative Learning Press, PO Box 320, Mansfield Center, CT 96250
D.O.K. Publishers, PO Box 605, East Aurora, NY 14052
Foxtail Press, PO Box 2996, La Habra, CA 90632-2996
Good Apple, PO Box 299, Carthage, IL 62321-0299
Opportunities for Learning, 2041 Nordhoff Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311
Scholastic Testing Service, Inc., 480 Meyer Road, PO Box 1056, Bensenville, IL 60106-8056
Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 5 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
Trillium Press, PO Box 209, Monroe, NY 10950
Zephyr Press, PO Box 13448, Tucson, AZ 85732-3448
The Creative Child and Adult Quarterly, 8080 Springvalley Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45236
The Journal of Creative Behavior, 1050 Union Road, Buffalo, NY 14224 (Source: Torrance & Goff, 1989)
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This publication was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, under Contract No. RI88062007. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education.