The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, June 07, 2004

Further to previous posts about Gifted and Talented children, this article is interesting - it describes how the English system of identification of G&T kids now depends on three factors: subject skill, commitment, and finally creativity.
The crux of the argument seems to lie in how do we define creativity?

Creativity is often equated with the production of something - be it an artefact, system or concept. The discovery of a scientific or mechanical principle is as creative as its application and 'creation of the level that changes the theory of a subject is relatively rare' (Mac Donald, 1971). It is also highly unlikely in a primary school. Artistic endeavour may also produce a new idea or personal style, which is the hall mark of a particular individual. This can be apparent if the child is given the opportunity to display it. The proposition that without intelligence it is not possible to fully realise creative ability (George, 1971) has led to pupils of average intelligence but who had verbal fluency being considered highly creative. Those pupils who only have access to a restricted linguistic code, through culture or class, are disadvantaged. The confusion of 'culture' with art galleries and concert halls or the equation of creativity with 'art' adds to the confusion.

Creative thinking is concerned with personal decision making and should not be restricted to art (Green, 1917). It is also intimately connected with critical filtering; it is a misconception to assume that creativity does not employ analytical thinking skills (McAlpine, 1988). Any ability can be classified not only in terms of the process of thought presumably invovled, but also according to the material that is being thought through about the nature of the material that emerges. Creativity could be interpreted as a process on a continuum in addition to its more usual 'artistic' sense (Guilford, 1971). In everyday life and for the majority of problems there are no unique solutions so divergent thinking is usually called for. The importance of memory is emphasised as a good memory increases the ability to utilise insight (Shaughnessy, 1990).

Divergent thinking, as epitomised by a battery of tests of 'divergent' thinking, has been investigated within a group of students already selected as highly intelligent (Getzels, 1962). They were teh children of academics and therefore from an advantageous background. Although the study was much criticised on procedural grounds, it became clear that high intelligence was not synonymous with high creativity. Similarly, the use of divergent tests did not really measure creativity, but divergent thinking.

Creativity is also concerned with the formation of value judgements and concepts. The child creates his own constructs through internalisation of the tensions generated by interaction between himself and his environment (Wolverson, 1971). The factors that condition the individual's response to his environment are intensified by habit and by the tangible achievements. The inhibition of curiosity can occur more quickly in a gifted child. They are liable to realise that the dominant adult does not welcome their questioning. If socialisation does not reward curiosity then it will degenerate.

The socialisation by parents can also restrict the development of creativity. Initially, the child perceives a new stimulus and can respond with curiosity, the intelligent child adapting their response to the outcome of their investigation. A negative reaction to the child's curiosity is liable to dampen the creativity of the gifted child.


The creative impulse is difficult to extinguish. It is more likely to result in anti-social behaviour (Lewis, 1991). The destructive behaviour of the highly creative child who shows behaviour problems in the early years of school can be transformed by creative activities that motivate (Torrance, 1962). The expression of creativity brings its own tensions. The sense of disharmony and incompleteness aroused by the creative process can be very stressful."

'Refining the Focus on Talent: Talented Children on the Able Child Register', Judith Lazell, NACE paper, Autumn 2002. [My emphases]

Let me reiterate that key sentence: If socialisation does not reward curiosity then it will degenerate.

Now you must excuse me, it's the first day back of the final term, and my sense of disharmony and incompleteness is raging.