Author: Paul Howard-Jones
Institution: University of Bristol
Full reference: Howard-Jones, P. (2008) Fostering creative thinking: co-constructed insights from neuroscience and education. Bristol: Higher Education Academy, Education Subject Centre
This report looks at the role of creativity in the educational process and proposes that neuroscience may provide new ways in which teachers can think and talk about creative processes and experiences and consider these when trying to foster creativity in students. The report explains that no single part of the brain is responsible for creativity. Some regions linked to producing divergent associations, of the type needed for creativity appear usually located in the right hemisphere. However, creativity is a complex thought process that calls on many different brain regions in both hemispheres.
The report highlights how creativity involves a type of generative thinking that is essentially different to the analytical thinking predominantly emphasised in schools. Creativity appears to require movement between the two different modes of thinking: generative and analytical. Analytical thinking can benefit from extrinsic rewards such as assessment praise, whereas generative thinking can benefit from more intrinsic motivations such as fascination and curiosity. Analytical thinking can also be encouraged by mild anxiety, while a stress-free and uncritical environment can produce more generative thinking. Howard-Jones argues that teachers could help their students during a creative process by identifying when their thinking needs to be more generative or more analytical and enabling this transition through influencing their working environment and/or through the application of particular strategies.
The report is constructed around a number of questions including:
The research was conducted as part of a project that aimed to develop the reflective capability of trainee drama teachers regarding the fostering of creative thinking through enhancing awareness of the underlying cognitive and neurocognitive processes.
The ideas reported arose from a process of co-construction that involved a research team of two experienced educators (teacher trainers) and a psychologist with some educational and neuroscientific experience (the author), working reflectively with sixteen trainees in an action research cycle.