In a celebrated TED talk (which is now nudging north towards 38 million views) Sir Ken Robinson persuasively argued that schools were killing creativity. Sir Ken never saw teachers as the problem, but rather the system in which they worked which, because of a combination of government policies and educational traditions, privileged one kind of education over another.

To those who like to count and measure, creativity can appear inconveniently intangible.

But is it? Perhaps not. Necessity being the mother of invention, it looks as if new ways of teaching creativity in schools and colleges could one day be reality as technological, economic and social disruption are changing the meaning of what it means to be work ready.

In this new world, creativity is not a luxury (if it ever was) but an economic necessity.

A recent paper (pdf) for the Roosevelt Institute by Roisin Ellison and Joe Hallgarten, of the UK’s Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce argues the case for remodelling school education so that it puts more emphasis on teaching and nurturing creativity.

Of course, to do this requires structural change and the authors, well-aware of this, anchor their arguments in practicalities based on rigorous theorising.

Harnessing the power of creativity would have to come through “a combination of new leadership, cultural change, and renewed institutions based on a strong sense of shared purpose.”

The “Power to Create” would be made substantive and distinctive “by its emphasis on inclusion, imagination, practical tools, and concrete innovation”.

The authors note an emerging view that creativity is innate in everyone, is “learnable” in different ways, and is therefor a trainable competence that is “teachable”.

However, a lack of consensus on a definition of “creativity” is hampering progress:

“… robust, common assessment mechanisms would raise creativity’s status among decision-makers, enable a better understanding of the impact of specific interventions, and, most importantly, support pupils’ metacognition of their own creative capacities and how to improve them”.

Not everyone, they say, is convinced that creativity can be taught, learned, or assessed.

We therefore need to break through unhelpful divisions … and make a compelling case for promoting creative capacities, based on rigorous evidence rather than advocacy-heavy or unsubstantiated claims.”

It now appears that the evidence is being collated, assessed and disseminated.

We watch this space with much interest.

– DM