Generally, creativity can be defined as creating original ideas, processes, experiences, or objects. Creativity can be characterized as involving the ability to think (Guilford, 1986):
● Flexibly, or able to use many points of view
● Fluently, or able to generate many ideas
● Originally, or able to generate new ideas
● Elaboratively, or able to add details
The development of creative thinking over time is important for adult learners. It enables alternative ways of thinking, unblocks old patterns and habits to find new solutions to problems, builds intercultural connections and confidence, instills curiosity, stimulates and motivates individuals.
However, some learners are assimilators, who prefer to use known understandings to solve problems, and others are explorers, who like to find new solutions. Research shows that if the teacher's involvement in creativity is high (e.g. encouraging students to see themselves as creative), the creative achievement of students will also be higher. When appropriate creativity-enhancing processes are valued and supported by a “mentor,” the learning outcomes for the learner are greater. This process can be supported beneficially by technology (Shepard & Runco, 2016).
Key quality elements to foster creativityFostering creativity can range from simple team-building exercises to complex, open-ended problems that may require a considerable amount of time to solve. Promoting and supporting creativity can be accomplished in many significant ways focused on the learner and instructor. Below seven key quality elements are displayed that assist to foster creative performance for learners.
1.The first essential element in promoting creativity is to create a welcoming environment. According to Galbraith and Jones (2012), “a conducive and inviting environment is essential to generate creative and innovative ideas, projects, or products''. Individuals who feel a sense of trust, openness, respect, support, and acceptance are more likely to engage in learning activities. It is so important to establish a conducive climate. Without it, all other promotional dimensions related to creativity have little meaning.
2. A basic necessity to enhance creativity is to have instructors and learners from diverse backgrounds, with varying interests, learning and thinking styles, and experiences. A diverse group of instructors and learners can catalyze change and creativity within instructional processes.
3. Promoting creativity must also include personalizing the environment in which instructors and students work and learn. It is also essential to provide the necessary equipment to conduct the required tasks/exercises. The transformation and personalization of the environment generates the creative rhythms of the instructor and learner. Personalizing the environment also supports the experiences of instructors and learners by allowing them to put meaning to what they are doing and studying. In essence, personalizing the instructor and learner environment places a sense of control in their hands which is necessary for stimulating creativity.
4. A fourth factor in promoting creativity is to provide time to generate new ideas, projects, concepts, or innovative approaches to instructional and learning processes. It is vital that appropriate time is provided to engage in such processes. Time is necessary to buffer the day-to-day tasks in which instructors and learners participate. It is a fundamental element in becoming a critically reflective thinker, which can be seen as a necessity in creating new ideas, projects, and learning opportunities. To enhance this, one may select a specific day and time of the training programme in which instructors and learners share ideas. As generating new creative ideas takes time for both instructors and learners, this would allow participants to exchange ideas, to engage in and deal with encounters that may arise from debate and confrontation (Galbraith & Jones, 2012)
5. Another factor in promoting creativity is to encourage feedback. Edelman (1999) posits that, “New ideas need to be talked through in a supportive yet objective manner” (p. 10). By encouraging feedback, creative individuals are asked to engage in the process of exchanging feedback; that is, they need to engage in their creative action, reflect on the action, engage in creative action after learning from the reflective process, reflect again and so forth. It is apparent that a conducive environment can provide a supportive climate for ideas and allows innovations to flourish.
6. To provide a supportive group interaction, it is significant that some ground rules must be created and agreed, so that ideas brought to the table are debated in an open and honest manner. Supportive group interaction can be a substantial means to spawn new ideas, listen to different opinions, and serve as an agent for marginal voices within the group. According to Galbraith and Jones (2012), the primary overall benefit of group interaction, in the promotion of creativity, is that it provides an environment composed of imaginative individuals who bring with them a set of divergent viewpoints that ultimately encourages imaginative thinking and gets the creative juices flowing.
7. The last but important element in promoting creativity in class are the unplanned accidents, mistakes, and failures that occur. They are all necessary components in the process of creativity. Since creativity is a human endeavor, accidents and mistakes are inevitable. The unplanned, unexpected, and unanticipated serve as a mechanism for further reflection and innovation. One should be leery if no mistakes are made throughout the creative process. This may suggest that someone is not thinking or trying to think creatively. To be creative, those engaged in the process quickly learn that it is essential to learn from their mistakes.
Teaching methods and techniques
Adult education requires the use of different teaching methods and techniques. Methods can be classified in three general categories:
a) methods of presentation (fast and comprehensive provision of information - difficulty to bring into action critical thinking of learners and relevance of teaching objects with other content or knowledge - danger for passive learners),
b) instruction methods (the trainer organizes learning activities aiming towards achieving a set of specific learning objectives – cultivation of reflection and critical thinking),
c) discovery methods (helping learners to follow a process of intellectual and mental exploration– practical training – transfer of learning).
The last two categories of methods undoubtedly promote the active participation of learners which is one of the basic goals of adult education. The use of these methods depends on the nature of the teaching content, the teaching situation and the group of learners. Their combination can prove effective because it stimulates the motivation of adult learners avoiding monotony.
Although developing creativity and innovation in education is challenging, it is important and necessary to facilitate learners to obtain these abilities which also prepare them to succeed in their future complex work environments.
Instructional strategies that support creative and innovative learning should focus on systematic development (Seechaliao, 2017). These instructional strategies have common elements and processes: problems in the beginning, solutions findings, testing, and evaluation. Also, using various stimulating ideas to find possible solutions to problems can facilitate brainstorming and help learners think about new ideas. These results are similar to some
studies which indicated a common process of creating educational innovation. For example, in the process of creating innovation, Songkhram (2014) pointed out that the output is innovation, and the feedback is the result of the following steps of creating innovation and learners’ evaluations. Results also showed that instructional strategies using questions, classroom discussion, self-directed study, inductive and deductive thinking, or media can engage students in learning activities and help them unlock their creativity in learning.
Keller-Mathers and Murdock (2002) suggest the following three-stage process for educators to use to systematize the creative thinking process:
In the following chapter, you can explore some useful methods and techniques that can assist you to create a creativity-based learning environment for adult learners.