Motivating Creativity

Source: CreativTeach.Me website, date indeterminate

The person who is best known for identifying links between creativity and intrinsic motivation is Teresa Amabile.  … Amabile has done a number of studies with children and adults, suggesting that pursuing an activity for intrinsic reasons—rather than in search of a reward—is more supportive of creativity. … when we are talking about students in school, protecting and supporting intrinsic motivation is one important thing we can do to support creativity—and learning.

Ryan and Deci write about intrinsic motivation, but also about goal-directed types of extrinsic direction that reflect the “motivation to learn” described under Learning for Understanding and Motivation.

Sometimes learners are motivated not by interest or joy in the immediate task (say, practicing an exercise on descriptive language) but because they believe it to be a step toward a goal they value (writing a really scary Halloween story). Both this type of “stick to it to reach the goal” motivation and the playfulness of intrinsic motivation are essential for creativity in schools—and, I would argue, creativity anywhere.

… several factors are consistently described as supporting intrinsic motivation. Think about what it would mean to have a classroom in which these were key goals.

  • Interest. Not surprisingly, human beings are drawn to things they find interesting. Students who have the chance to tie classroom activities to their interests (or are introduced to new and interesting ideas) are more likely to be intrinsically motivated. 
  • Autonomy. To feel motivated, students need a sense of autonomy. Several studies found that teachers who supported students’ sense of autonomy and control (rather than being overly controlling themselves) increased students’ curiosity, intrinsic motivation, and desire for a challenge. 
  • Competence. … If they are to be motivated, they can not be made to feel foolish or incompetent. Providing appropriate level challenges, and then clear evidence of learning and improvement goes a long way to increasing motivation.

Finally, there is one more factor Ryan and Deci found essential for the goal-directed extrinsic motivation associated with learning.

  • Relatedness. Students need to feel part of a community. The more they feel respected and cared for by the teacher, the more likely they are to decide to share the values of the classroom culture—and value learning.
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