Serial Creators

Source: The Creativity Post, May 2013

Every single day, all across the globe, extraordinarily creative and talented students sit in our classrooms bored out of their minds. 

In a recent survey conducted by Mary-Catherine McClain and Steven I. Pfeiffer, while 90% of the state definitions of giftedness in the United States include “intelligence” as an area or category of giftedness, only 54% include creativity. Even worse, only 9 states actually require displays of creativity for inclusion into gifted education programs.

… ground-breaking creative achievement is typically the result of many years of passionate engagement in a particular domain, with the creator attempting to come up with a novel solution to a perplexing problem. This crucial aspect of creativity– sustained focus in a particular area of interest– is not fully captured by a quick and dirty test of general creative potential. So what’s the alternative?

… perhaps the most promising alternative is the profiling approach, which takes into account the wealth of research that already exists on the characteristics of eminent creators. What would happen if instead of leading with standardized test scores we led with the characteristics that real-world eminent creators actually exhibit?

Barbara Kerr and her colleagues at the University of Kansas set out to find out (read the full article here). Scouring the vast literature on the characteristics of eminent creators that generalize across domains, they developed a profile of the core characteristics of creativity:

Creatively gifted students may be spontaneous, expressive, intuitive, and perceptive, with evidence of intellectual sophistication and childlike playfulness. They are very likely to be curious, open to new experiences, and innovative in many areas of their lives. They may express originality in thoughts, and are probably unafraid of what others might think of their ideas. Most likely, these students have a wide range of interests and abilities, and may be comfortable with ambiguity and disorder. Likely to be unconventional, creatively gifted students are imaginative, and may challenge the status quo. By late adolescence, truly creative individuals usually have significant creative accomplishments that have earned them recognition by experts in their domain.

… creative people tend to specialize early, zoning out when uninterested but focusing like a laser beam when engaged. This characteristic makes them less easily identifiable for traditional gifted programs.

The creative students scored low in a need for order, cognitive structure, and harm avoidance. In contrast, they scored extremely high in play, openness to experience, and endurance. This is consistent with prior research, which shows that openness to experience is one of the most robust predictors of creative achievement. The seeming contradiction of  extreme playfulness and endurance is also consistent with the many seeming contradictions found among creative people.

“the ultimate outcome of the CLEOS experience for students is to discover career options that respect and honor their creativity and interests, and to design a path in which they can accomplish their dream.”

The students also engaged in a discussion of their flow experiences with counselors. In particular, the students were asked:What makes you feel passionate and lose track of time while at the same time being challenged to the maximum of your abilities? The counselors aimed to convince the students that something that is a source of passion should not be abandoned.


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