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Professor leads panel on creativity in education

R. Kelly UWO Photo.JPG

Robert Kelly key speaker at National Creativity Network Meeting in New York.

By Caitlyn Spencer

“I call it the Bobblehead Effect. Everybody embraces creativity, but it’s a matter of: how do you do it?” Robert Kelly’s statement seems obvious, but the question of how to foster creativity has generated a great deal of discussion as the information age has made way for the conceptual age. Among these discussions have been an endless assortment of TED Talks, countless articles on creativity in education, the workplace, and daily life, and the Lincoln Center’s Imagination Conversations, two years’ worth of discussion in cities across the United States.

Last week, Kelly attended the grand finale of the Imagination Conversations: America’s Imagination Summit. Running from July 21-22 in New York, the summit featured presentations on imagination, creativity, and innovation across different fields and contexts. Besides attending the summit, Kelly also took part in a panel discussion representing the education sector in the post-summit National Creativity Network Meeting.

The NCN meeting also featured Scott Noppe-Brandon of the Lincoln Center Institute, representing culture, and Betsy Fast, editor-in-chief at, representing commerce.

It’s no wonder that with worldwide struggles to survive despite astronomical debt and social disparity, communities are searching for creative solutions; Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University found that childhood creativity correlated to lifetime creative accomplishment over three times more than childhood intelligence.

In the US, Kelly notes that much of the focus on creativity has centered on innovation in commerce for developing and marketing new products and systems. “You see it even in education. You have projects that are creative, but that serve the industrial complex,” Kelly says. “Creativity in education has far wider applications beyond just serving the needs of market economy growth.”

In his own courses and research on creativity in educational practice, Kelly has broadened the scope of creative practice beyond commerce, arguing that it’s only one of the directions creativity education should be taken in. “We need to create for social innovation, artistic invention  and we need to look at science, but pure science, not for profit,” Kelly says. He cites programs such as Denmark’s KAOSPilot and Architects for Humanity as examples of creativity being put to more productive use. “In my classes, the students produce original work, and I don’t mean essays,” he explains. “I mean children’s stories, starting businesses, social projects, political initiatives.”

Later this year, Kelly will release the second of three books on creativity in education entitled Educating for Creativity, following 2008’s Creative Expression, Creative Education: Creativity As A Primary Rationale For Education (co-edited with Carl Leggo). “The first book started the conversation,” he says. “The second is nuts and bolts: how do we do this? How do we make a space for creativity in education?”

A collection of written responses to the Imagination Summit, penned by select attendees, will be made publicly available later this year. For more information on the Imagination Summit, click here.

For more on Robert Kelly’s research, visit his website at Educating For Creativity will be released by Detselig/Temeron Books in December, in hard copy and ebook. Kelly is also associate editor for Research for Community and Cultural Change, a new volume from the International Journal of Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice, due out in August.