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- Heuristic reflections on assessing creativity in the design disciplines
- Friedman, Ken
- The challenge of understanding creativity is the core issue in the research project 'Assessing Creativity: Strategies and Tools to Support Teaching and Learning in Architecture and Design'. The project seeks to develop models for assessing creativity based on best practice in the design disciplines: architecture, design, interior design, and landscape. The first step in this project therefore involves understanding the nature of creativity itself, in order to appropriately assess it. This contribution is an 'essay' in the classical sense of the word defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: 'action or process of trying or testing', a 'composition of moderate length on [...] [a subject] more or less elaborate in style, though limited in range.' It is heuristic as well: an attempt at discovery. What I wish to discover---to disclose and examine---involves a range of issues that we do not often address in the design disciplines. Reporting the findings of a 2008 study on architectural education in Australasia (Ostwald & Williams 2008a, 2008b), Hedda Haugen Askland, Michael Ostwald and Anthony Williams (2010a) propose three major issues that impede the field: '[...] a lack of understanding of pedagogical dimensions of creativity in design; [...] no appropriate strategies to understand where different levels of creativity occur and how they should be assessed; and [...] a lack of appropriate models or tools to support assessment of creative works.' While these challenges are significant, many people in the design field seem to believe that architects and designers know intuitively what creativity is and how to measure it, as well as knowing how to elicit the best and most creative efforts of their students. When many designers and architects discuss creativity, they echo St. Augustine's (1961: 264) words on the subject of time: 'I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.' Where Augustine admits his perplexity, however, those in design and architecture education who cannot explain creativity tend to ascribe their lack of words to tacit knowledge or to a form of internalised expertise that requires no explanation. More problematic, many in design and architecture demonstrate little interest in taking on board what experts in other fields have learned about creativity and mastery. Scholars such as David Durling, Nigel Cross and Jeffrey Johnson (Durling 1996; Durling, Cross & Johnson 1996) have examined creativity and learning styles, contributing much to our understandings of creativity and its assessment. A multi-disciplinary approach to creativity is vital to any robust approach to creativity assessment. Yet, design and architecture professionals continue to overlook many of these contributions on creativity, or simply assume that they already understand the nature of creativity. Those who appeal to such innate forms of knowledge occasionally argue that no useful research in creativity exists, and that we must therefore invent this wheel ourselves---as though a century of research (Kaufman & Sternberg 2010) in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and the human sciences did not exist. It is my hope that this ALTC project will shed light on the challenges we face. This essay offers a sideways look at the issues of creativity that are often ignored. While one occasionally finds these assertions in conference papers or doctoral theses, they are more common as background beliefs stated in tearoom conversation or discussion lists. For this reason, there is little point in citing sources for these assertions---rather, I intend to address the issues they represent.
- Publication type
- Book chapter
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Design
- Creativity, design and education: theories, positions and challenges / Anthony Williams, Michael J. Ostwald and Hedda Haugen Askland (ed.), pp. 171-180
- Publication year
- Australian Learning and Teaching Council
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2010 Ken Friedman. Support for the original work was provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This work is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/). The published version of the paper is reproduced here in accordance with this policy.