ERIC Identifier: ED321489
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Torrance, E. Paul - Goff, Kathy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children
Fostering Academic Creativity in Gifted Students. ERIC
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
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
Three questions illustrate the difference between learning information
provided by an adult or textbook and creative learning:
1. In what year did Columbus discover America? (The answer, 1492, requires
recognizing and memorizing information.)
2. How are Columbus and an astronaut similar and different? (The answer
requires more than memorization and understanding; it requires students
to think about what they know.)
3. Suppose Columbus had landed in California. How would our lives and
history have been different? (The answer requires many creative thinking
skills including imagining, experimenting, discovering, elaborating, testing
solutions, and communicating discoveries.)
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
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
*We can teach children to appreciate and be pleased with their own creative
*We can be respectful of the unusual questions children ask.
*We can be respectful of children's unusual ideas and solutions, for
children will see many relationships that their parents and teachers miss.
*We can show children that their ideas have value by listening to their
ideas and considering them. We can encourage children to test their ideas
by using them and communicating them to others. We must give them credit
for their ideas.
*We can provide opportunities and give credit for self-initiated learning.
Overly detailed supervision, too much reliance on prescribed curricula,
failure to appraise learning resulting from a child's own initiative, and
attempts to cover too much material with no opportunity for reflection
interfere seriously with such efforts.
*We can provide chances for children to learn, think, and discover without
threats of immediate evaluation. Constant evaluation, especially during
practice and initial learning, makes children afraid to use creative ways
to learn. We must accept their honest errors as part of the creative process.
*We can establish creative relationships with children--encouraging
creativity in the classroom while providing adequate guidance for the students.
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:
*Encourage curiosity, exploration, experimentation, fantasy, questioning,
testing, and the development of creative talents.
*Provide opportunities for creative expression, creative problem-solving,
and constructive response to change and stress.
*Prepare children for new experiences, and help develop creative ways
of coping with them.
*Find ways of changing destructive behavior into constructive, productive
behavior rather than relying on punitive methods of control.
*Find creative ways of resolving conflicts between individual family
members' needs and the needs of the other family members.
*Make sure that every member of the family receives individual attention
and respect and is given opportunities to make significant, creative contributions
to the welfare of the family as a whole.
*Use what the school provides imaginatively, and supplement the school's
*Give the family purpose, commitment, and courage. (Torrance, 1969,
HOW ADULTS "KILL" CREATIVITY:
*Insisting that children do things the "right way." Teaching a child
to think that there is just one right way to do things kills the urge to
try new ways.
*Pressuring children to be realistic, to stop imagining. When we label
a child's flights of fantasy as "silly," we bring the child down to earth
with a thud, causing the inventive urge to curl up and die.
*Making comparisons with other children. This is a subtle pressure on
a child to conform; yet the essence of creativity is freedom to conform
or not to conform.
*Discouraging children's curiosity. One of the surest indicators of
creativity is curiosity; yet we often brush questions aside because we
are too busy for "silly" questions. Children's questions deserve respect.
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, P.O. Box 320, Mansfield Center, CT 96250
D.O.K. Publishers, P.O. Box 605, East Aurora, NY 14052
Foxtail Press, P.O. Box 2996, La Habra, CA 90632-2996
Good Apple, P. O. Box 299, Carthage, IL 62321-0299
Opportunities for Learning, 2041 Nordhoff Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311
Scholastic Testing Service, Inc., 480 Meyer Road, P. O. Box 1056, Bensenville,
Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 5 Union Square West, New York, NY
Trillium Press. P. O. Box 209, Monroe, NY 10950
Zephyr Press, P. O. Box 13448, Tucson, AZ 85732-3448
THE CREATIVE CHILD AND ADULT QUARTERLY, 8080 Springvalley Drive, Cincinnati,
THE JOURNAL OF CREATIVE BEHAVIOR, 1050 Union Road, Buffalo, NY 14224
(Source: Torrance & Goff, 1989)