Defining Creativity

The “I” of the Beholder

For my Creative “I” interview, I spoke with Heather Hall, the secondary Art teacher at the Cayman International School. Heather’s job, at its essence, is to work with high school students helping them learn how to be more creative. But beyond her life as an educator, as an active, working artist, Heather’s focus on creativity extends to all parts of her life.

Heather’s personal definition of creativity primarily focused on “taking an idea and bringing it to fruition in an original way.” When asked about her own creative process she spoke about always starting with something visual. As an avid amateur photographer, she takes lots of photos. Typically, she finds inspiration to paint (her primary medium of choice) from one of the photos she has taken. She’ll go back to a photo and break it apart, start sketching it, start thinking about how she can, say, move beyond the photo, change the scale, etc. But the path she takes often depends on the photo and on the medium she is working in.

For Heather, all art (creative production) serves a function. For example, it can bring all kinds of insight to people. It can help access emotions for people. It can inform people about a problem. The function just depends on why it started on its path: was it simply to make something beautiful? Or perhaps to tell a story? The value of a creative product may be found in what it contributes to the world, how it serves its function.


During my interview with Heather, I found her to be quite confident in her definition of creativity. And while the exact way she initially defined it did not match up perfectly with the N.E.W. definition discussed in the reading, further exploration of the topic revealed that she truly did embrace a concept of creativity that was Novel, Effective and Whole. Personally, I do not believe I have ever spent so much time actively considering what it means to be creative. For the most part, I felt like I knew creativity when I saw it. However, professionally, my recent forays into Project Based Learning and 21st Century Skills have given me a newfound desire for and respect for having a clearly identifiable, rubric-based definition of creativity. Being able to both understand myself and clearly convey to others what I am looking for when measuring creativity in projects is essential to developing lessons and projects that are truly educational.

Lastly, this in-depth focus on exploring and defining creativity has given me some new avenues for extending my own creative wings. In personal creative pursuits, asking whether what I am doing fits the NEW criteria is a convenient stimulus for keeping my efforts fresh and creative. For example, when creating a desktop image for use at the school this month, I ended up abandoning an initial effort that failed the novelty test, only to follow it up with a better (read: more creative) solution the following day.



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