Sunday, September 25, 2011

How Are We Disposed to Be Creative?

Annotation by Kathleen Blough

Rowson, Jonathan. (2008). How Are We Disposed to Be Creative? Craft, Anna, & Gardner, Howard, & Claxton, Guy (Eds.), Creativity, Wisdom, and Trusteeship, (pp. 84-95. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.


This summary pertains to a chapter entitled, “How Are We Disposed to Be Creative?” by Jonathan Rowson, in the book, Creativity, Wisdom, and Trusteeship; editors Anna Craft, Howard Gardner, and Guy Claxton. The book was created because the three editors believed that a blend of creativity, wisdom, and trusteeship in education would be necessary for the survival of the world.

The chapter response on “How Are We Disposed to Be Creative?” by Jonathan Rowson states that educators “need a perspective on creativity that allows them to understand and promote it in a more integrated way” (p. 85). According to Rowson, Rowson, motivation may be the gap between creative capacity and creative acts. Understanding motivation is important and that one should not take motivation for granted. Sometimes our motivation to think and act in certain ways is based upon our personal constraints, what we have been conditioned to think or believe. Extrinsically we may be motivated by rewards of an action, but we have to be aware of and push toward intrinsic motivation. Motivation involves self-interest and a propensity to think and act. Understanding and promoting motivation is key to look at when thinking about teaching creative thinking skills.

Rowson also suggested “our dispositions are formed over time by the way our motivations feed into our actions and, in turn, receive feedback from those actions”(p. 88). The question is how are we to foster a creative disposition. In order to manifest a creative disposition, the teacher needs to incorporate learning experiences that are meaningful. “Meaning cannot be dispensed. We have to learn how to establish the conditions and opportunities that will enable children, with their natural curiosity and appetite for meaning, to seize upon the appropriate clues and make sense of things for themselves”(p. 88) This means that students need time to think for themselves about things that matter to them which helps us foster motivation which lead to creative acts.

Another view of creativity was that a creative act comes out of a person’s interaction with an object or situation. People tend to look at things in terms of what they are exactly, limiting a person’s creative potential. For example, one would think that a cup is for drinking. However, allowing for creative freedom, allows someone to fight functional fixedness (p. 89). A cup could be seen as something to drink out of (functional fixedness), or could be viewed as a bug collector, a shovel to scoop, or a basket for a game. Repeatedly reinforcing the idea that there are multiple uses for things is key to creative acts, and looking at multiple perspectives builds creative independence.

In conclusion, this critique gives us some insight and makes us think about how motivation, dispositions, and perspectives may be valuable to understanding how educators can better help students to think creatively or to build a sense of wisdom.


Understanding whether one is disposed to being creative helps set a foundation for the understanding of creativity in itself. Creativity is an ambiguous and broad concept for me, and reading this particular chapter in the book, helped me view the concept of creativity through another person’s perspective. However, with that said, it is important to note, that this is one person’s critique about creativity and wisdom. This response leads me to search out other people’s perspectives, and how I might go about testing those ideas. I want to find out if there is specific evidence to support this person’s views on motivation. I wonder about the correlation between motivation and creativity. This particular excerpt cannot be read without the background support of the other chapters in the book as well.


This chapter made me think about my own teaching practices and strategies. I clearly connected to the idea that motivation may be an essential component when it comes to embedding creative thinking skills into my lessons. I will have to think about making sure lessons are meaningful and connect to the student personally. When creating lessons, teachers need to keep the student in mind, what interests them, and build in the opportunities for students to make connections. Giving the students time to think and reflect should be embedded in the models of teaching as well. Viewing ideas from multiple perspectives is crucial in developing creative acts. When I read through this chapter, I thought of adding an element to one of my lessons. I have students look at research through the eyes of a specific disciplinarian. For example, when students do research on Ancient China, students get to choose a disciplinarian to help focus their research (sociologist, political scientist, environmentalist, economist), and they view the research from their chosen disciplinarian’s point of view (sociologist’s perspective, looking for information that is relevant to a sociologist or an environmentalist or so forth). I feel this focuses the student’s research and helps them pinpoint important details from that disciplinarian’s viewpoint. Sociologists who are studying Ancient China might be looking at religion and how people related to one another. After researching, students come together and share points of view about the topic to formulate a big idea about the civilization. I think after reading this chapter, I might want to include at the end of the unit a means for student’s to give their personal insight or thoughts about the study. Instead of wrapping up research in the form of just a big idea, I might ask students to think of the implications of what they learned, what were their thoughts about how they viewed the research from the disciplinarians point of view, or have students state their own opinions about what happened in the past. This may allow for students to connect and engage in creative freedom, knowing what they have to say is important.


Stacey Caillier said...

Wow! This is such a thorough summary of the article's main points - and perspectives on creativity. I love the question you and the author pose about how we can foster a creative disposition. I also love how you reflected on the article and connected it to your own practice, even coming up with ways to modify a project you will be doing with kids. Keep this up in future annotations! This level of detail is going to serve you well when it is time to craft the Understandings section for your proposal!

Also, I think you would love Drive by Daniel Pink! He discusses the links between motivation and creativity (or autonomous thought/action, which is definitely related to creativity).

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Anonymous said...

I think in project based environments we are constantly asking "Are They Disposed to Be Creative?" when students' work is not meeting our expectations. In some ways aren't we taught that traditional learning environments are stifling creativity and that if given a chance that students will express themselves fully? I like your reflection in that it points out that it isn't that simple but rather like any other form of expression it is subjective. Regardless, motivation seems to always play a pivotal in bringing out the best possible work.

I agree with Stacey that Daniel Pink does a great job putting this into perspective. There is a video version called "Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us" that we show to our team every year. Very interesting conversations always result from showing it.

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