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Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention

reviewed by Jolyn Blank - March 27, 2017

coverTitle: Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention
Author(s): Robert Kelly
Publisher: Brush Education, Edmonton
ISBN: 1550596683, Pages: 223, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

Ideas about creativity and innovation have been embraced as pillars of twenty-first-century learning. Robert Kelly points out that despite this enthusiasm, educational structures remain entrenched in a dated consumption model. Students are viewed as consumers of content and their work is characterized by predetermined outcomes to be met. He argues that this standardized educational culture is risk averse and provides no incentive for creative thinking. In Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention, the author takes on this tension by offering creativity-intense practice as an alternative to consumption-intense practice. Readers concerned with cultivating educational environments conducive to creative development at all educational levels will find this text a valuable resource.


In the first chapter, Kelly describes the creative process as giving form to ideas, often through ongoing reflection and experimentation. It produces something deemed useful in a particular context. He outlines a developmental framework where the level of creative complexity moves from being unique to an individual’s own history to having significance within a wider domain. The goal of creativity-intense education is to provide conditions to support learner engagement in increasingly sophisticated creative practices with growing social value. Kelly explains:


Creative development is seen as the growth from the natural human disposition of intuitive/adaptive creativity to the development of capacities to engage in increasingly more complex, sustained creative practice characterized by original research and production that has greater sociocultural relevance and importance. Sustained original research and production is characterized by imaginative vision that leads to recurrent iterations of idea generation and prototyping over time. (p. 9)


Each chapter in Creative Development closes with sections offered by various authors who provide compelling illustrations of ideas about fostering creative development in practice. For example, Chapter One concludes with John J. Cimino Jr.’s personal reflection on creative development that illustrates the ways multiple disciplines are situated to deepen his understanding of perception.


In Chapter Two, Kelly argues that collaboration is essential to cultivating creativity. He offers guiding principles for the creation of a culture of collaboration. The principle of infinite potentials holds that any single idea has the possibility of growing into an infinite number of new ideas. The author asserts that collaborative environments have greater potential for idea generation because of amplification and the cross-pollination of ideas. The principle of interrelatedness highlights the capacity for empathy or sensitivity to real world problems. It also explains how this aptitude impacts people and prompts them to seek solutions. Kelly’s principle of perpetual change emphasizes placing value on transformative thinking with change through research, production, and action. Pauline Broderick, Elizabeth Coffman, and Beryl Peters follow this discussion with strategies they use to build trust and idea acceptance to foster collaborative cultures.


Kelly emphasizes design thinking as a gateway to creative development because of its concrete and contextual nature. He outlines his design process in Chapter Three. The author begins by finding problems relevant to learners and by considering the parameters, constraints, audience, and resources available. The next steps to follow are generating many ideas, prototyping them, and refining these ideas. This involves exploring the widest range of possibilities (e.g., divergent thinking) before deciding the one with the highest potential to prototype (e.g., convergent thinking). Prototyping gives form to an idea. This makes it possible to share it to receive feedback and refine the idea. Kelly also describes ways to introduce design thinking. Akanksha Agarwal further illustrates this concept with examples of students’ engagement in design for change initiatives across the globe. Additionally, Deeter Schurig portrays powerful approaches to designing transformative educational spaces for creativity in this chapter.


In Chapter Four, Kelly argues that fostering the creative development of learners requires new ways of viewing teachers’ roles. The aim of educators’ work is to increase student ownership of the design process. The author conceptualizes a three-stage progression teachers can use to scaffold student-initiated sustained creative practices. As facilitators, teachers also help students engage in applied exploration of real world issues. As collaborators, teachers help students inquire and experiment. Moving toward the goal of student ownership, teachers further act as mentors to include engaging with students in the prototyping process for refinement. The examples from the field provided in this chapter are particularly useful in explicating Kelly’s ideas about teachers as designers. As in previous chapters, the discussion is followed by a variety of perspectives from practitioners. For example, Carla-Jayne Samuelson provides a vivid example of transferring creative ownership to students in the context of a fourth- through sixth-grade theater project. This is followed by Carl Leggo’s discussion of fostering creative writing in college classrooms. Another viewpoint is drawn from Kelly’s conversation with Conrad Wolfram about the problem solving sequence necessary in Computer-Based Math.


Kelly considers appropriate assessment strategies for enabling creative development in the fifth chapter. He describes an approach that supports learners’ progression toward taking ownership of their growth. The author outlines a feedback spiral approach where students articulate goals, plan, prototype, assess the prototype, gather evidence, modify the prototype based on new knowledge, and revisit goals. This spiral cycles through multiple iterations. Kelly argues that authentic dialogue is key by describing co-reflective assessment processes to illustrate his point. He cautions readers to avoid utilizing summative assessments. Instead, the author recommends assessing in a way that frames teachers as developmental facilitators, mentors, and collaborators. As in previous chapters, he delivers concrete examples that make these ideas come alive.


In the final chapter, Kelly argues that fundamental changes are necessary for teacher education. He recommends shifting from traditional courses about creativity and design to first-hand creative engagement. The author expounds on this idea by providing descriptions of graduate programs where educators engage in applied creative problem solving in areas of personal interest outside of traditional pedagogy. The idea is that educators are better poised to foster design thinking if they have experienced the design process authentically in their own lives. Following Kelly’s discussion, Charles Schneider describes his experiences as a principal working to develop a culture of creative development at his school by facilitating teachers’ personal design projects. Similarly, Gerald Fijal describes the efforts of high school teachers who remove the link between time and credit to explore alternative conceptions of the use of time. In addition, Jean Hendrickson provides another example in practice by sharing lessons learned from the A+ school movement concerning scaling out creative organizations. A further example is shared through a conversation with Andy Smallman who describes his experiences inventing and creating a new school. Finally, in the epilogue, Dennis Cheek encourages ongoing critical examinations of creativity and explorations of ways to cultivate it.


The role of creativity in education has frequently been advocated due to its ability to enhance learning in content areas. This approach often leads to the replication of existing practices. This results in the removal of the unique potential of creativity to expand and transform. Kelly takes a far different position in Creative Development. Instead, he focuses on cultivating dispositions through comprehensive creative development. Beyond capitalizing on a trend or fitting a new way of doing things within existing structures, this book is about transforming educational thought and practice. The author does not offer a middle ground or pathways for practitioners to negotiate contexts where contradictory discourses and aims are at play or where resistance is perceived. Instead, Kelly shows us what creativity-intense education looks like and inspires readers to embrace an educational culture of creativity. He applies his perspective on creative development to inform and instigate profound educational change.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 27, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21884, Date Accessed: 10/24/2021 6:29:31 AM

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About the Author
  • Jolyn Blank
    University of South Florida
    E-mail Author
    JOLYN BLANK is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Teaching & Learning at the University of South Florida. Her research investigates the ways arts and inquiry, integrated processes of investigating and representing meaning using multiple sign systems, are enacted within the diverse social and ideological complexities of contemporary early schooling. Recent work has focused upon the design process as enacted by teachers and children in preschool classrooms.
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