Despite the fact that creativity has been named one of the top-10 skills necessary for success in the twenty-first century, the current educational system in the developed world stifles creativity through its focus on convergent thinking and standardized testing. We propose that a stigma toward creativity exists among educators, which prevents successful implementation of creative teaching and fostering creativity within the classroom. The proposed root cause of the stigma toward creativity in education – that creativity is perceived as disruptive – is examined through the lens of the Adaptor-Innovator theory of creativity and the implicit and explicit theories of creativity, as well as the psychological factors inherent to the social construction of stigma. Seminal and current research in the fields of creativity studies and communication studies offer insight into this phenomenon. The chapter concludes by proposing an antidote to address and fight this stigma as seen through the lens of Fishbein and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action.
- higher education
- social stigma
- implicit and explicit theories
- adaptor-innovator theory of creativity
- theory of reasoned action
If the events of the first half of 2020 have taught us nothing else, it is that we are in the midst of an era defined by
It is in this era that students are persevering to obtain an education, and their instructors are persevering to provide it to them. If the grandparents of yesteryear spoke hyperbolically of their “walk to school that was uphill both ways,” today’s students certainly will have a similar tale to tell – but one devoid of hyperbole – of the uphill battle they and all the members of their schools and universities fought to keep educational goals on track in a world that was in a constant state of flux.
In this uncertain world, students need creative thinking more than ever before - and it is this particularly salient life skill that is lacking in our educational system. Despite the fact that creativity has been named one of the top-10 skills necessary for success in the twenty-first century , the current education system in the developed world stifles creativity through its focus on convergent thinking and standardized testing [2, 3, 4]. As this position is already widely supported, this chapter focuses on making a case for teaching creatively and creativity in higher education, with a specific focus on a significant barrier that stands in the way of enhanced levels of creative education. We maintain that a stigma exists in association with creativity, and that until this stigma is called out and addressed, higher education will continue to fall short of providing this essential twenty-first century skill to its students.
The perception of creativity by laypeople is explored in this chapter by way of the Adaptor-Innovator theory of creativity, and the implicit and explicit theories of creativity. The stigma toward creativity in education is examined through the lens of the social psychology of the construction of stigma and is supported through seminal and current research in the field of creativity studies. The paper will conclude with proposed antidotes to address and fight this stigma.
There is a dearth of research on
2. What is creativity?
2.1 History of creativity in education as a teachable subject
The focus on creativity in education in the Western hemisphere became a key area of concern following the successful launch of
Creativity field experts, including Csikszenthihalyi, Guilford, Parnes, and Treffinger, influenced the shift in formal education from “knowledge acquisition”  to teaching children how to “deal with ambiguous problems, coping with the fast-changing world and facing an uncertain future” (, p. 166) .
2.2 Application of creativity in the process of higher education
In 1953, Stein defined
In this same seminal piece, Stein also explores the important role that culture plays in the fostering and acceptance of creativity - a point that resonates with the current topic of acceptance of creativity within higher education: “Attention must also be directed,” Stein states, “to the broader aspects of education. For example, does the culture tolerate deviation from the traditional, the status quo, or does it insist upon conformity, whether in politics, science, or at school? Does the culture permit the individual to seek new experiences on his own, or do the bearers of culture (parents, teachers, and so on) ‘spoon-feed’ the young so that they constantly find ready-made solutions available to them as they come upon a situation that is lacking in closure (, p. 319)?” It is this critical connection between
There is an interesting pattern that arises in subsequent definitions of creativity. Creativity is specifically referred to as an
In Bloom’s revised taxonomy,
A recent study by van Broekhoven, Cropley, and Seegers explored the nature of creativity in students in the arts versus those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. They surveyed 2,277 German university students and found that high openness, high Creative Self-Efficacy, and strong proficiency in divergent thinking are “general prerequisites for creativity” across
All students - in art, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - not only have the potential to be creative, but must have this innate predisposition enhanced to ensure success in their own disciplines, and prepare them for success in their careers and lives beyond university.
2.3 Higher education as an economic engine: driving innovation through creativity
The role of higher education is to prepare students for future success. Today’s world can be best described by an acronym used in pedagogy by the U.S. Army War College since the late 1980s:
To highlight the nature of our rapidly evolving world, the 2018 World Economic Forum charts the skills on the rise and on the decline in the workplace. By 2022, the top 10 skills that will be in demand include the following :
Analytical thinking and innovation
Active learning and learning strategies
Creativity, originality, and initiative
Technology design and programming
Critical thinking and analysis
Leadership and social influence
Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
Systems analysis and evaluation
This list highlights the importance of creativity. Not only is it explicitly referenced as the third item on this list, but the skills inherent to creativity and creative problem-solving (i.e. analytical thinking, innovation, active learning, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, leadership, social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning, ideation) appear throughout the entire list. Creativity is the driving force of innovation in our VUCA world. Our educational system, however, seems to be woefully lagging behind in fostering the creativity-relevant skills so necessary for success in today’s workplace.
Despite creativity’s necessary place in education, it is missing from curricula and practice. Moreover, a strange series of stereotypes and misconceptions can be spotted when the word
2.4 Stereotyping creativity as disruptive: An examination of creative style and implicit and explicit theories of creativity
2.4.1 Creative style
In the late 1970s, Kirton put forth a theory and an assessment by which one’s creative
Highly adaptive people (“Adaptors”) are primarily concerned with making improvements to ideas or processes that fit within the confines of the parameters already set in place within their organizations. They are likely to try to solve rather than seek problems. They tend to challenge rules cautiously, and usually only when backed by others. Highly innovative people (“Innovators”), on the other hand, are concerned with making improvements to ideas or processes by removing those ideas or processes from the confines of the previously established organizational conventions, and then proposing solutions that completely reconceptualize the idea. They tend to discover both problems and unique solutions, and often challenge rules at the expense of previously held traditions .
According to Kirton, in traditional workplaces, Adaptors’ solutions to problems are more readily accepted as they already fit within a familiar framework, whereas Innovators’ solutions face more opposition, as they seem to “come out of left field,” and thus tend to be seen as more
From the Adaption-Innovation Theory stems a body of research aimed at exploring laypersons’ perceptions toward Adaptors and Innovators within work environments, particularly as those attitudes pertain to creative problem solving. This line of research has illuminated the phenomenon that laypersons have a bias toward perceiving an “innovative” person as being more creative than an “adaptive” person. Thus, this bias reveals how
2.4.2 Implicit and explicit theories of creativity
Implicit theories, in general terms, are a result of the constellation of observations gathered by laypersons as driven by their own perception of the world. Explicit theories, by contrast, are a result of empirical study and scientific observation. Thus, implicit theories of creativity are those influenced by how “the public” view creativity. Explicit theories of creativity are those driven by academic research. Research patterns indicate that implicit theories of creativity – laypeople’s idea of what a “creative person” looks like – are very much in keeping with the description of the Innovator as outlined by Kirton . The findings from a series of studies across a range of cultures generally support this claim.
A 2000 study presented 188 American participants with two different lists of characteristics, labeled “Person A” (whose list was populated with Adaptor traits) and “Person B” (whose list was populated with Innovator traits; the Person A and Person B lists were randomized to prevent an order effect; that is to say, in some cases Person A reflected the innovative qualities and Person B the adaptive characteristics). Survey respondents were asked to rate the creativity of both persons on a 10-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all creative) to 10 (exceptionally creative). Results revealed that the participants judged the “person” with Innovator traits as being significantly more creative than the “person” with the Adaptor traits. Research participants also completed the KAI and it was found that those with an innovative preference showed an even stronger bias in judging the Innovative style as being more creative [25, 26].
In an ensuing 2003 study, 128 Argentinian participants took a similar measure, in which a person is described with Innovator traits and another person is described with Adaptor traits, and then were asked to supply words that they associated with
A 2014 study compared 139 laypeople from the U.S. and 384 laypeople from the main ethnic groups in Singapore (defined by the researchers as Chinese, Indian, and Malay). Using the same measure described previously, results indicated that Kirton’s Innovators were rated as being more creative than Adaptors, and words common across both groups associated with creativity were “think outside the box,” “new,” “innovative,” “unusual,” and “different” (, p. 227).
A study with contradictory findings still sheds light on the implicit and explicit theories of creativity. In a study of 201 Saudi Arabian laypeople, participants used the same instrument - they were presented with Kirton’s description of the Adaptor as one persona and the Innovator as a second persona and were asked to rate each style with respect to creativity level, and then provide words they associated with
In an effort to examine college and university students’ implicit perceptions of creativity, a pilot study was conducted in which 93 undergraduates at a northeastern American liberal arts college were asked “what words do you associate with creativity?” The top five words included
Finally, research conducted by Mueller, Melwani, and Goncalo provide important insights. In an article entitled “The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire but Reject Creative Ideas,” the results from two studies suggest that when faced with uncertainty, people are likely to harbor an implicit bias against creativity and also judge creative ideas more harshly. Additionally, when unoriginal or “more practical” solutions are readily available, people tend to be less accepting of creative ideas . In a later book,
From the research explored above, we can make the following assertions. First, Adaptors and Innovators are
Therefore, when laypeople are asked about their attitudes toward
The hypothesis set forth in this chapter is that fostering creativity as a teaching practice is not implemented with greater intentionality in higher education because a stigma exists toward creativity in the classroom. This stigma is based on creativity’s association with disruptive behavior. To examine this hypothesis further, let us define and explore the construct of social stigma.
3. What is stigma and how is it manifested toward creativity in education?
3.1 The definition and formation of stigma
Since Erving Goffman first explained stigma as the process by which members of society reduce a person in their minds based on some perceived discrediting aspect , much effort has been put forth toward the advancement of a deeper understanding of not just what sigma is, but how it is formed. Consider these two definitions of stigma: Stigma is “a characteristic of persons that is contrary to a norm of a social unit” (, p. 80) and “stigmatized individuals possess (or are believed to possess) some attribute, or characteristic, that conveys a social identity that is devalued in a particular social context” (, p. 505) .
Stangor and Crandall  developed a theoretical model that helps explain how stigma develops, involving three major components: (1) function, (2) perception, and (3) social sharing (Figure 1). While this and related frameworks are usually applied to stigma research in the field of health communication and in sociological arenas, like mental illness stigma , AIDS stigma , and homelessness stigma , this framework is also relevant to the implementation of creativity in higher education.
3.2 Creativity stigmatized as symbolic threat
This chapter will focus on the first stage of stigma formation in Stangor and Crandall’s model: The initial perception of a
3.3 The prevalence of symbolic threat in the stigmatizing view that creativity in the classroom is
We have established the case by which
In the introduction to
When Torrance and Safter opine that there are not enough “great teachers” in the world, they identify “great teachers” as those who have the following characteristics (, p. 1):
Great teachers perform miracles.
They inspire their students… to creative and independent thinking and action which may at times get out of hand.
They are continually in danger of “crucifixion.”
The latter two statements, in which a creatively-led classroom may occasionally get out of hand, and in which the instructor is in danger of literal (or, as is more likely the case in contemporary experience, figurative) crucifixion, speak to stigmatization of creatively-led classrooms as disruptive, and those who lead those classrooms as disruptors deserving of punishment.
A review of seminal and contemporary literature concerning perceptions of creativity - in terms of teaching
In a 2005 study of 36 elementary school teachers, Aljughaiman and Mowrer-Reynolds conducted in-depth interviews with educators that explored the teachers’ attitudes toward creativity, definitions of creativity, and perceptions of creative students. Results revealed that teachers frequently misconstrue what it means to be a
In his chapter entitled “Creativity in the Classroom: The Dark Side” in the book
shakes the foundations of the received classroom order,
brings uncertainty for pupils (and parents),
questions the value of laboriously acquired knowledge and skills,
threatens loss of status and authority for teachers, and
weakens teachers’ self-image (, p. 304).
The stigma toward creativity again becomes evident in this list - namely, that creativity is a symbolic threat, and that the threat is in the form of
Marquis and Henderson  conducted a study across eight universities in Ontario to determine how instructors perceive and implement the teaching and learning of creativity. The study cites a common theme found within literature on creativity in higher education - that creativity is heralded as an important skill (in Marquis and Henderson’s article, by a 2012 report by the provincial government), but little to no data exist which address how this need is mobilized in the university environment.
One of the factors explored in this study was the influence of instructors’ disciplinary identities on their perception of creativity and its pedagogical modalities. Disciplinary influence on the conceptualization of creativity include the argument of domain specificity (that true creativity within a given field can only be assessed by experts within that field), some may perceive creativity as more pertinent to some fields over others, and finally, that creativity is often affected by the aforementioned “art bias”, through which creativity is fused in its scope with the arts, specifically.
The instrument used in Marquis and Henderson’s study was a digital survey instrument in which the approximately 613 respondents were asked to provide definitions of creativity and to answer questions about the importance of creativity in their disciplines and their strategies for helping students develop their creative abilities. Several interesting findings emerged from this study, chief of which is the definitions of creativity provided by the participants and the overall value placed on creativity.
Definitions were characterized by themes common to the literature including
While both the overall importance of creativity and the responsibility to foster students’ creativity were nearly universally rated as “important,” some respondents from the STEM fields indicated that they had a difficult time envisioning the role of creativity within their fields, basing these statements on the assumption that creativity was about developing something entirely new, a point that speaks to the bias toward innovators over adaptors in the research previously described. Marquis and Henderson also found that
Banaji, Cranmer, and Perrotta  conducted interviews of 81 educational stakeholders within European schools in an endeavor to uncover the barriers toward creativity implementation within the school system. They provide further support for this hypothesis in describing how the notion of “disciplinarian classroom environments” is passed on through generations of educational trainers to trainees, promoting an environment in which nonconformity is punished. Banaji, Cranmer, and Perrotta provide further evidence in stating that “some teachers’ fear of losing control of the discipline in classes – linked to a lack of confidence in their own classroom management skills – discourages active learning approaches more widely than attempts to nurture creativity” (, p. 10). That the perceived disorder of a classroom is linked with teachers’ confidence in their own classroom management abilities is a salient point that is further examined in the next section.
4. How might we overcome symbolic threat stigma toward creativity in education?
4.1 Returning to the literature on
In the literature about social stigma as applied to the field of health communication, top strategies implemented in the fight against social stigma include “education and teaching,” and “normalizing” (e.g. [48, 49]). Therefore, it is logical to believe that we might reduce the symbolic threat-based stigma of the perception of creativity in the classroom as disruptive through these same means - creativity training and creativity normalization.
4.1.1 Education and training in creative teaching
In their 2018 meta-analysis of 53 contemporary studies examining teachers’ beliefs about creativity and its nature, authors Bereczki and Kárpáti  concluded that teachers’ beliefs toward creativity-fostering practices would be dramatically improved through gaining professional competency in teaching for creativity. Thus, one might extrapolate that the importance of implementation of creativity training among educators in the college and university setting cannot be ignored.
Consider Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada as an example. Around 2012, Sheridan College, formerly known as the Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Learning, set the goal of becoming a fully creative campus. Sheridan operationalized this goal by infusing creativity into their discipline-based courses, as well as offering courses fully centered on the subject of creativity. Sheridan also created a series of intensive professional development workshops on building creative thinking and creative problem solving into course learning outcomes, Creative Problem Solving, small group facilitation, and creativity training. Finally, Sheridan sought to infuse creative thinking and creative problem solving strategies and tactics into the college’s day-to-day operations. These efforts have seen great success. Over 3,000 students have enrolled in a general elective course called “Creative Thinking: Theory and Practice.” Well over 6,500 students have taken at least one of the five courses in a 5-course undergraduate certificate in creativity, with 200 students having completed the full certificate. And more than 300 faculty and administrators have taken part in the creativity professional development workshops . Sheridan College serves as an exemplary case study in internalizing and operationalizing creativity at an institutional level. For two more case studies on universities that have successfully internalized creativity at this level, see Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga, Colombia, the first fully creative campus in Latin America, and the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State .
As stated in Puccio and Lohiser , “There should be creativity courses, creativity content, and creativity professors at every university and college in the world” (, p. 26). The increase in competence in teaching creatively would thus not only mechanize the implementation of creativity in the classroom, but would also serve to increase instructors’ confidence in their own abilities to foster creativity in an intentional manner, which in turn will likely reduce the stigma of creativity resulting in disorder and disruption.
4.1.2 Normalizing creativity in the classroom
It is our belief that the very act of training instructors in how to efficiently and effectively mobilize creativity as a pedagogical tool will initiate a normalization process. A red thread that runs through the courses at the Creativity and Change Leadership Department (formerly the International Center for Studies in Creativity) at SUNY Buffalo State is that its students should embrace creativity in every facet of their lives. Graduates should be so comfortable with the creative process that it becomes a way of life, rather than simply serving as a tool one produces from a toolbox and then files neatly away when a task is completed. Anecdotal evidence collected through interactions with peers in the program, and even the friends, family members, and colleagues of those peers suggests that the training in creativity functions as a deeply rooted normalization process that spreads, social-contagion style, through daily lexicon and routine behavior. Moreover, recent research has shown that the impact of the creativity curriculum taught at SUNY Buffalo State significantly improves creative attitudes  and shows long-lasting effects on divergent-thinking abilities . If critical creativity components, including the Thinking Skills Model of Creative Problem Solving , The FourSight Model , and the Torrance Incubation Model of teaching , can be trained and taught to educators as prolifically as possible, it is quite likely that creativity will become a more normalized phenomenon within education, and thus will gradually be freed from stigma.
4.2 Creativity and the theory of reasoned action
Creativity, as suggested by the scholars cited thus far, can be considered
This philosophy of embracing creativity as a lifestyle can be analyzed through the lens of the Theory of Reasoned Action  and can be used as a model through which to enact the societal change necessary to overcome the stigma toward creativity in higher education.
4.2.1 Theory of reasoned action
The Theory of Reasoned Action, developed by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen in 1967, charts the process by which attitudes inform beliefs, which influence individuals’ intent to act, which then serve to rejuvenate the cycle through informed knowledge . Figure 2 shows an adapted model of this theory that has been structured by the authors of this chapter to serve as a lens through which to mobilize a deliberate approach toward combating stigma toward creativity in higher education.
This modified model of the Theory of Reasoned Action shows that individuals’ beliefs about the
Fostering a positive attitude toward creativity in higher education is paramount to its successful application. Creativity, in part, can be considered an attitude, or mindset. Fostering deeply-held positive beliefs toward creativity is similarly critical. Quintessentially, creativity also is a belief system, and ultimately, creativity is the product of a culminated set of behaviors, potentially a lifestyle of cultivated actions. These behaviors include seeking opportunities to constructively evolve through Polarity Management , which is to say, maintaining the status quo where helpful and, more relevant to the current situation, disrupting the status quo where necessary and seeking opportunities to lead others
If more instructors were to increase their intention to ultimately embrace creativity, this intention will hopefully lead to action, which will in turn provide feedback on a broader normative belief system and subjective societal norm concerning creativity in academia. For every individual who disrupts the status quo of what is arguably a lack of deliberately creative education tactics within higher education, those individuals would contribute positively to developing normative societal and subjective beliefs about creativity.
As stated in the opening of this chapter, the topic of stigma toward creativity explored as it relates to education in a general sense is meant to serve as a springboard for a deeper dive into the realm of higher education. While stigma toward creativity is already documented, few studies exist on the
A widely accepted tenet of the relationship among these constructs of attitude, behavior, communication, and stigma  suggests that stereotypes are born out of natural human habits toward cognitive processing. The reduction of one’s cognitive load through categorization of information can corrupt into binary absolutes and laws (e.g. “all people from X group are alike in this particular way”). These cognitions travel, as it were, to the heart where they stimulate emotional responses (e.g. “That person is from X group toward which I have a negative association, and so I fear him”). The emotion then travels outward to the limbs, where the emotion is made manifest into behavior, becoming discrimination (e.g. “I will not engage with him based on my fear”).
The key, then, to changing individuals’ behavior - to reducing stigma-led discrimination toward creativity as a critical educational subject and critical educational method - lies in changing hearts and minds. Minds must be changed through training and education, and the subsequent normalization might just change hearts. Creativity is a force for innovation. If we do not promote creative thinking in our educational practices, if we do not teach