Rhetorics of Creativity

This project was directed by Andrew Burn; the researcher was Shaku Banaji. The project was commissioned by what was then Creative Partnerships, later to become Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE). It was the first of an extensive series of literature reviews into aspects of creativity in education. We took as our premise the idea that creativity was a contested idea, represented by widely differing rhetorics in different domains: teaching, policy, the arts, and a variety of academic disciplines. The CCE site describes the review as “an important and original report that surveys the core concept of creativity. It aims to help all those involved in creative programmes develop a more finely nuanced and informed understanding of how we use the term and help us to plan and evaluate creative education activities in a more coherent fashion.”

It goes on to say: “The report takes as its basic premise the notion that the idea of creativity is constructed as a series of rhetorics. Academics, policy-makers and arts educators deploy a range of claims about creativity which emerge from different theories of learning, different contexts, different artistic traditions, different academic or quasi-academic traditions and different policy contexts. Nine rhetorics are identified and briefly explored in the review: creative genius; democratic and political creativity; ubiquitous creativity; creativity as a social good; creativity as economic imperative; play and creativity; creativity and cognition; the creative affordances of technology and the creative classroom.

The review finishes by asking ‘Is creativity an internal cognitive function or an external social and cultural phenomenon; a pervasive, ubiquitous feature of human activity or a special faculty; … an inevitable social good … or capable of disruption … and even anti-social outcomes? And what does the notion of creative teaching and learning imply?’”

The report has been widely cited in recent literature about creativity and education, as well as being an important basis for our own thinking about the nature of creativity. Particularly valuable for our own work was the Vygotskyan conception of creativity as a transformation of cultural resources using semiotic tools, governed by rational thought.

The report can be found here.

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