Book Review: Ronald Beghetto, James Kaufman and John Baer’s Teaching for Creativity in the Australian Curriculum Classroom
Creativity does not occur in a vacuum – it also needs the “stuff” of content.
Teaching for Creativity was a challenging read, but very worthwhile. Ronald Beghetto, James Kaufman and John Baer highlight research-informed classroom practices that easily promote creativity even within the “perceived” constraints of the standardised curriculum.
The first three chapters of the book address head on the perceived constraints of curriculum, and debunk the myriad myths surrounding creativity, in particular, how we as teachers can create a tragic divide between curriculum and creativity. The authors successfully communicate that at the heart of creativity is a mastery of essential skills and understandings from within and across subject domains.
Vignettes from teachers who have successfully incorporated creativity into teaching English and mathematics are then explored in Chapters 4 and 5. Suggestions, tips and actual lesson plans for primary, middle years and secondary teachers are provided, which support the teaching of standards-based lessons more creatively. The authors further tackle the difficult task of how to modify existing classroom assessments to serve these dual purposes.
What I valued most from reading Teaching for Creativity was the practical deconstruction of creativity through the Four-C Developmental Model of Creativity. In short, the first level, “mini-c”, refers to personal creativity and represents our personal insights that are part of the learning process, for example, a child may experience a mini-c when writing a haiku for the first time. The mini-c level of creativity is most relevant to schools, yet so easily overlooked or missed. What was truly refreshing was the focus on student voice and how effective teachers recognise and invite students’ mini-c insights and ideas whenever they are introducing a new topic or concept. The authors then demonstrate how to support students’ mini-c creativity in the context of everyday academic-subject matter in practical detail.
To a lesser extent “little-c”, or everyday creativity, is explored primarily through the lens of effective feedback that moves students to this next level of creativity. To an even lesser extent, “pro-c”, or professional creativity, is mentioned, which requires practice over a lifetime resulting in a creative expert in their chosen field, making notable and important contributions. Finally, “big-c”, or legendary creativity, completes the model and refers to the kind of genius and eminent work that will be appreciated and remembered for centuries. I found this model quite illuminating, and it deepened my understanding of how creativity incrementally develops and is not reserved just for the pro-c and big-c individuals that spring to mind when we think of creative people.
The takeaway message threaded throughout the book is that students will need the kinds of knowledge outlined in the Australian Curriculum. Furthermore, to be creative at the little-c, pro-c or big-c levels requires increasingly sophisticated kinds of domain knowledge. Creativity, then, does not occur in a vacuum – it also needs the “stuff” of content.