Problem Finding – Benefits of Creativity

Term: 1 Year: 2021

Although the beginning of 2020 feels like a very long time ago now, I can still recall the wave of validation that washed over me as I sat in the theatre, listening to our keynote speaker describe the thought process (that I often try to disguise), deeming it not just acceptable but highly valuable.

In my world of education, surrounded by fast-paced, systematic and efficient colleagues, alternative ways of operating can easily be considered as supporting rather than leading.

Our guest speaker was Professor Elanor Huntington, Dean of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University, who spoke about encouraging student involvement in STEAM-related fields. She shared a story about a group of psychologists in the 1970’s who were interested in understanding the nature of creativity and asked 30 Fine Arts students to make something with various objects they were given. She explained that they very quickly fell into two groups: the problem solvers – making something efficiently and effectively – and the problem finders – sorting objects, resorting, making something, remaking something, “generally faffing about” and eventually finalising something. When independently judged for creativity, the latter group was considered to be much more innovative.

This upholding of creative exploration, and the assurance of benefits that it nurtures was professionally affirming for me, highlighting the value that creative learning offers.

With Professor Huntington’s research revealing that creativity predominantly rests on four pillars (deep expertise, divergent thinking, confidence and motivation), her big question – ‘do we have the right kind of problem finders for our future?’ – entices a pursuit.

As an art educator, there is a responsibility to push back predetermined destinations and provide time and space to sit in the unknown – to stretch thinking and ideas with more questions and exploration. Commitment to encouraging and supporting this notion of ‘problem finding’ in our programs provides an opportunity to contribute to the development of ‘the right kind’ of qualities to tackle our future challenges.

Jacqui White
Junior School Arts Co-ordinator
Ballarat Grammar