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School Discipline and the Creative Personality

School Discipline and the Creative Personality

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Published by Paul Henrickson
The nature of the creative personality
The nature of the creative personality

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Published by: Paul Henrickson on Sep 18, 2007
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06/16/2009

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SCHOOL DISCIPLINE AND THE CREATIVE PERSONALITY

Paul Henrickson and E. Paul Torrance, Bureau of Educational Research, University of Minnesota © 1961 Even a casual mulling over of the literature concerning the creative personality makes one aware of the incompatibilities between the concept of “creative growth” and concepts of “school discipline”. Studies of creative personalities in nearly all the fields thus far investigated suggest the need for encouraging the kind of behavior generally regarded as disruptive of “good school discipline”. We should like to take this opportunity to relate some of the research findings to problems of discipline as experienced by the public school art teacher. Torrance (1960) recently compiled a checklist of the characteristics of the creative personality on the basis of a large number of personality studies of creative individuals. Of the 84 characteristics included, many of the less desirable characteristics are doubtless a function of the struggle through which the creative person must go in order to maintain the creativity. We do not know what would happen, if some of those obstacles were removed. An effort was made, however, to differentiate between the characteristics in this list, which seem essential to creativity and those, which develop as a result of the way the creative person, is treated. On the basis of our present understanding of the nature of creative thinking, Torrance judged the following to be essential: always baffled by something, attracted to mysteries, attempts difficult jobs (sometimes too difficult), constructive in criticism, courageous, energetic, full of curiosity, independence in judgment, independent in thinking, intuitive, persistent, becomes preoccupied with a problem, questioning, receptive to external stimuli, receptive to ideas of others, regresses occasionally, unwilling to accept anything on mere say-so, and willing to take risks. These characteristics may be more clearly understood if we try to conceptualize a non-creative personality type. Such a one might be described as seldom or never baffled by anything, ignores the unfamiliar, is not interested in testing his abilities against a problem or task, unimaginative in criticism, avoids risks, over dependent upon peer values, relies only on empirical evidence, not terribly concerned about problems or questions, indifferent to the ideas of others, or willing to accept the unquestioned opinions of others. Inasmuch as many of these characteristics are descriptive of extreme personality types they may or may not be present in an individual as a result of special environmental or social conditions, which alter their expression or their appearance. Interpretation of these characteristics may be modified by such considerations as quality, direction, special aptitudes and the like. A creative personality need not always be baffled by something if, for example, a solution to a problem has suggested itself to him and his energies are directed toward realizing a solution. But

as soon as it’s realized he’s baffled about something else. This energy itself would probably be channeled to the needs of the interest at hand and would thereby be limited in its application in other areas or directions. It is not at all inconceivable that a creative personality would cease to exhibit a receptivity to the ideas of others when he has tested them and found them to be false or when he is absorbed in working out a solution on his own. The creative personality may quite likely appear more rigid—when occupied creatively---than the above characteristics would suggest. Frequently he must persist in working out a solution even though all others have rejected it.

Coercion or Encouragement as Means to Control
We may also consider the possibilities that some of these characteristics notably courage, energy, curiosity, independence, persistence, preoccupation, regression, and more than anything else an unwillingness to accept anything on mere say-so are of the kind that make the usual classroom situation difficult to handle when group discipline is desirable. The methods commonly used to encourage and facilitate classroom discipline are not methods, which encourage the creative personality type. From a kind of arbitrary means of control there may build up pressures, which do not find their expression along acceptable lines but result in behavior which is aggressive and resentful and which may lead to outright delinquent behavior. On the other hand many measures employed to control a large class do encourage, or at least, favor the individual who possesses the qualities postulated above and which belong to the “pure” non-creative type. For the classroom teacher the dependent –prone student causes little difficulty. The extreme example of this type of student responds to the teacher’s direction with meticulous care, wants to comply with directive, continually checks the work in progress with the teacher and gives evidence of a strong need of support, reassurance, and supervision. Discipline may not be a problem in such a case but the drain on the teacher’s energies and other resources is a serious problem. One incident recently reported by an industrial arts teacher recounts an occurrence of cheating on the part of one of the students. The methods employed by the student were clever, unusual and ingenious. To have punished the student would not have solved this student’s problems for the cause which motivated him to choose this method of achieving success would have remained the same, but by emphasizing the positive characteristics (ingenuity and originality) evidenced in the student’s methods of cheating on problems which involved mere reproduction identified the student as gifted. The instructor then provided more difficult material, which demanded that this student think out solutions to problems. The result of this response on the part of the teacher was that the formerly unproductive and undisciplined student created solutions and solved problems related to this class, which could only be rewarded by a superior grade. There is little doubt that

prolonged; enforced repression of the creative desire may lead to actual personality breakdown. It is quite possible that many discipline problems will disappear, when teachers learn to reward creative thinking appropriately. Certainly we know of many dramatic cases in which this has been true. For example, the most creative class of fourth graders we have thus far encountered in our research on creative thinking were also the most orderly and well-disciplined. The class was the largest in the school –40. Thus far, it has been the only forth grade class to show superiority over the forth grade classes in the same school on tests of creative thinking. The principal of the school nominated the teacher of the class as the most creative teacher in the school and as the one who stimulated her students to do the most creative thinking. In the taking of tests of creative thinking and in participating in an experiment they were spontaneous and lively, yet controlled. The teacher would say one word and there would be complete silence. That word was “Freeze!” Yet there was no sign that their imaginations had been frozen. Torrance has suggested the following six principles as guides to rewarding creative thinking in the classroom: 1) Treat questions with respect. Remember that the most important reward to the curious, inquiring child is to find the answer to his question. 2) Treat imaginative, unusual ideas with respect. 3) Show pupils that their ideas have value. 4) Give opportunities for practice or experimentation without evaluation. 5) Encourage and evaluate self-initiated learning. 6) Tie in evaluations with causes and consequences.

Dependence Proneness and Creativity
Some creative students prefer to be left alone; they initiate very few contacts with the teacher; and their need for adult approval is more easily submerged in their task orientation. In a structured school environment this, too, may cause disciplinary problems. Research by Flanders (1959) suggests that dependent-prone or compliant students are more sensitive to the behavior of the teacher and that they may; learn more subject matter or at least be aware of the teacher’s attitude toward subject matter than others. This would occur when their need for supervision is satisfied. This suggests that our schools do, in fact, encourage the creative type but tend to favor the moderately dependent and non-creative type. There is a possibility that scores on dependent-proneness tests will be related to measures of creativity. Dependent-prone students may be expected to try to make responses that they think the teacher wants. This, as can be quickly realized, facilitates class control. A consistent small correlation between I.Q. and dependence-proneness (Flanders 1959) supports other findings about highly intelligent but low creative” students (Getzels and Jackson, 1958; Torrance, 1959). It seems possible that students who score low on dependence-proneness will have a

stronger tendency toward creativity and, at the same time, be les restricted by teacher influence. This may pose problems of group control. Such findings continue to underline the problem of discipline and the related, but definitely more important, or view of the function of the teacher.

Characteristic of Creativity and the Art Teacher
If we attempt to describe the ideal art teacher we must first arrive at an acceptable definition of the art we teach and a definition of the role of the teacher. It is, by this time, a truism to state that art is unlike any other “subject” taught in the public schools. Nevertheless, this must be stated and accepted—if only temporarily—if the following relationships are to be understood. The history of art teaches us that modes of expression, subject matter of interest and media employed change. An unbiased understanding of historical facts precludes the teacher of art – even the elementary school teacher – from organizing the subject matter of art exclusively around any one of the many artistic traditions to which we are heir. This does not mean that the teacher should be devoid of personal preference, but it does mean that there can be little objective support brought to sustain the position to teach as absolute values, the values of the 17th century or Renaissance epochs. Such a decision is in fundamental error when it fails to take into account the purposes to which the art of the various epochs was put, why such art developed or how this art was viewed by the people of the time. What this does mean is that art has served different purposes at different historical epochs and the only defensible position any art teacher in the public schools can take is to accept the fact that art is a personal-cultural expression of the people who create it. In this situation the function of the teacher as defined by evidence from art history is in line with the concept of the teacher as a leader, a person who “brings out”, aids in the child’s self-discovery and development. There are few teachers of art—or any other subject – who would categorically deny that they teach human beings as opposed to subject matter. The degree of emphasis an individual may choose on the extreme ends of the subject –student dichotomy is not our concern at this time. It is sufficient for our present purposes if we recognize that there is a student to learn and to think.

Implementation of Findings of Creativity Studies
In light of the findings discussed in the first part of this paper the above discussion suggests certain problems of implementation. A review of the characteristics of the creative personality type and a review of those qualities in art as revealed through studies in the history of art suggests to us some startling similarities. The creative personality type is characterized by energy, independence, intuition, persistence and the like. A study of the history of art reveals characteristics of is which are similar; change, pre-occupation, experimentation and also a fascination for the mysterious. To the extent that these observed similarities are accurate we can say that artistic expression is an archetype of creative expression! If this is true, the art teacher, as

defined above, has no choice but to take the current findings in the area of creativity very seriously. And the art teacher’s support of continued interest and research in this field could be of value to themselves in securing those teaching conditions, which promise the optimum development of the creative personality type. In short the psychologist’s interest in the creativity type is an unexpected and may be a welcome source of support for the public school art program. As indicated above, the characteristics of the creative person are not of the kind, which make the problem of class discipline easier. It is the non-creative, dependent-probe student who makes the teaching of a large number of students easier by not introducing material or questions, which tend to disrupt a systematic class plan. It has been found that most teachers prefer the high I. Q. to the highly creative (Getzels & Jackson, 1958; Torrance, 1959). Idealistically, what right has a teacher —with all the wonder this occupation implies—to restict by artificial and coercive means a goodly portion of our studentswho show evidence of being productive and capable achievement equal to those who have been identified as intellectually gifted (Torrance, 1959). The teacher, however, who responds favorably to a “creative inquiry” by the intelligent, curious, persistent, an energetic pupil runs the risk of loosing class order. The teacher who responds unfavorably to such behavior generally employs a mechanism of control, which results in the discouragement of the creative person. Such discouragement may be reflected in other characteristics of the creative type, which have been noted by researchers. Some of those may be revealing to the sensitive teacher and may suggest areas where additional thought may be productive. A few of these are: outwardly bashful, discontented, introversive, reserved and visionary. Others, perhaps, indicative of another kind of response to an unfavorable teacher reaction would include: altruism, nonconforming, radical, self-confident, tenacious and not popular. If we accept as valid the results of tests of creative thinking in the early school years, it is certainly true that highly creative children create many behavior problems in most classrooms. Their classmates nominate them with high frequency as the ones who have the most ideas for being naughty and the silliest ideas (Torrance, 1959a). From small group experiments designed to study peer pressures on highly creative children, it

is quite clear that many highly creative children bring many of their woes upon themselves. It seems obvious that a major problem of the teacher is to help the highly creative child become less obnoxious without sacrificing his creativity. The following paraphrasing of Stein’s (1956) suggestions concerning the social role of the creative industrial researcher has been offered as one approach: “Help the creative child maintain his assertiveness without being hostile or domineering. He should be aware of his superiors, peers, and subordinates as persons. He may work alone but he must not be withdrawn or uncommunicative. He must “know his place” without being timid, submissive, or acquiescent and “must speak his mind” without being domineering as he tries to gain a point, he can be subtle but not cunning or manipulative. In all relationships he must be sincere, honest, purposeful and diplomatic. In the intellectual area, he must learn to be broad without spreading himself too thin, deep without being “bookish” or “too scientific” and “sharp” without being over critical. The above characteristics do ask a lot of a child---it also asks more of the teacher. Not only does it suggest that he teacher possess, to some degree, these same qualities but it implies that she must possess them to a greater or at least a more flexible extent than the students. The frequent breaches of acceptable conduct, which will undoubtedly occur before a student learns to maintain his assertiveness without being hostile, before he can be subtle or sharp without being overcritical will, undoubtedly, be legion. During this interim period how will the teacher be able to cope with the intricacies of leadership in the realm of student development? In a less than ideal school situation—which may be said to characterize our present system – there are positive first steps, which can be taken by the teacher on behalf of the creative student. Torrance (1959) suggests that the teacher learn to value creative thinking and to create an environment, which places value on creative activity so that the highly creative student does not have to exist as a deviate in the shadow of his more socially successful peers. He further suggests that the teacher develop tolerance of new ideas and to lead students to test systematically each new idea. Because the creative child often manifests behaviors, which tend to alienate him from his peers and teachers, it is suggested that skills be taught to help the creative person to avoid peer

sanctions. Major counseling problems presented by the highly creative student are likely to center around his isolation an estrangement from his peers and teachers as a result of his divergent values and attitudes.

Creativity and Philosophy of Art Education
Because the teacher’s job is so complex these questions deserve thoughtful consideration. We may ask ourselves this question: What reserve of energy is there in the person of the teacher, which has not already been tapped? What opportunity is there for the teacher to make use of the spare time in the quiet contemplation of the personalities and the special needs of her children? In many systems where the art teacher may meet hundreds of different pupils in the course of a week, what technique can be devised which can be employed so that these hundreds can get their share of thoughtful attention they deserve? At this time we do not wish to try to answer those important and complex questions. Merely to raise them at this time seems to be enough. The subject matter of art at all levels pf public education has been frequently attacked and perhaps no more bitterly than by people in the profession of art instruction. Some (Edward Warder Rannells of the University of Kentucky) have stated that art is not something that can be taken for granted in art education and there is evidence that as art educators we do just that. Art that is not art as an artist knows it is explored. Art at the secondary school level should be taught as a creative adventure; it should be art that sensitizes and awakens the individual to the value that is in it, and in the student. A very pertinent question is: unless the teacher is an artist is an artist-teacher how can he embody art in himself? On the other end of the continuum of attitudes is the one that would hold that the training of professional artists is not the function of then public school. This attitude questions as to whether it is desirable to have an “artist-teacher” who “loves his art more than the students” and is unfamiliar with the “needs and developmental characteristics” of his students to conduct art classes in public schools and colleges. Many art teachers and administrators maintain that the professionally interested artist is ineffectual in the classroom and actually harm students because he is “more interested in art than in child development. We believe it to be also that enthusiasm for

the subject is going to inhibit effective teaching. It is doubtful that these critics have had the opportunity to observe the subject matter and personality achievements of students in high schools and colleges when they have been exposed to a teacher who knows both his field and the child. They probably have not observed the disintegration of motivation and accomplishment that ensures in classes conducted by instructors who know more than they understand. There have been studies (Torrance, 1959b) which have indicated that teachers’ unvoiced attitudes influence the behavior of the student. These unfavorable attitudes are sensed by the student and alter his responses in spite of conscious effort on the part of the teacher to present an attitude that is favorable toward the subject matter. It can only be guessed what effect a teacher who is not sympathetic to the creative process may have on the creative student. In conclusion, we would like to question the current idea which suggests hat it is not the function of the public school teacher to encourage students toward a professional career in the arts. There is the hidden idea that it is wrong or, at least, undesirable to encourage students who have the interest, desire and potential to pursue this field. College administrators who are concerned about placing their students in teaching positions have been known to instruct their art staffs to “play down” the art department because the state offers few openings in art. Few, however, question the desirability of encouraging apt students in the sciences to pursue their interests. If we adopt a less biased view –a view which could be said to be more educationally objective—we would recognize that , aside from out own personal, professional and creative abilities, the real job of the teacher is to lead the student to a realization of his own abilities and a development of his interests which may likely include the arts. Such a view implies that what the student needs for his own development should be provided him as regularly, consistently and effectively as possible. This concern is especially meaningful when it is noted that highly creative adolescents tend to choose the more unconventional and rare occupations (Getsels and Jackson, 1960).

Conclusion
Although we have centered this discussion on creativeness in art, the important principle that we should consider –if we truly wish to encourage creative thinking—embrace creativity

generally. The conditions under which creative solutions in mathematics, art, science, poetry, or music have occurred are remarkably similar (Torrance, 1959; Patrick 1955: Rossman 1931). Samuel Taylor Coleridge recounts how he dreamed of a creative solution, which he later, while fully conscious, conceptualized. Poetry, Wordworth tell us, takes the origin room emotion recollected in tranquility. Jean Cocteau indicates that he believes that inspiration is the result of a profound indolence and maintains that it would be inexact to accuse an artist of pride when he declares that his work requires “somnambulism”. He too recounts that: “after I slept poorly. I woke with a start and witnessed, as from a seat in a theatre, three acts which brought to life an epoch and characters about which I had no documentary information and which I regarded moreover as forbidden.” These statements are insistent in their emphasis on the role of the unconscious or preconscious in the development of a creative product. It does not seem inconsistent that scientifically conducted researches into the nature of creativity have arrived at a list of personality traits many of which would seem to be concomitant with the above accounts of the creative experience. It is quite obvious that the creative person is not likely to be dependent upon the direction of the teacher and that the manner in which he maintains his independence of thought and judgment may not contribute to a well-disciplined classroom. We have raised the question of control in the light of the alternatives and have suggested that encouragement may be a more effective measure of control than punishment and that it certainly would be educationally more defensible. The art teacher, perhaps more than any other, has evidence to be found within the discipline of art to support the recent research findings in the area of creativity and might profit from these findings by working for those conditions which encourage creative growth. Implementing the findings of researches into the creative personality may likely involve serious re-evaluation of many current practices, a restatement of our goals and objectives at all levels of public education, including teacher-training institutions.

References

Flanders,N.A., J.P. Anderson and E.J. Amidon. Measuring dependence proneness in the classroom. (Research memorandum BER-60-6.) Minneapolis: Bureau of Educational search, University of Minnesota, 1960. Getzels,J.W. and P.W. Jackson. The meaning of “giftedness”—An examination of an expanding concept. Phi Delta Kappan, 1958, 40,75-77. Getzels,J.W. and P.W. Jackson. He highly intelligent and the highly creative adolescent: A summary of some research findings. In C.W. Taylor (ed) The third (1959) University of Utah research conference on the identification of creative scientific talent. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1959. Patrick, Catherine. What is creative thinking? New York: Philosophical Library, 1955 Rossman,J. The psychology of the inventor. Washington, D.C.: Inventor Publishing Company., 1931. Stein, M.I. A transactional approach to creativity. N C.W. Taylor (Ed.) The first (1955) University of Utah research conference on the identification of creative scientific talent. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1956. Torrance, E.P. Current research on the nature of creative talent. J. teacher education., 1960, 12, 97-102. Torrance, E.P. The measurement and development of the creative thinking abilities. In Year book of education. London: Evans Brothers, Ltd., 1961.

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