Education and the Cognitive Development of Creativity

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Gary Siperstein


The importance of creativity in education has been increasingly recognized. Although controversy still exists, many schools are attempting to improve the creative capacity of their students through the curriculum. Current efforts tend to view creativity as a stable function which individuals acquire and possess more or less of. This view does not adequately account for the developmental nature of individuals. In order to design a creativity curriculum which accounts for the cognitive development of students it is necessary to understand what the elements of creativity are and when they are acquired by individuals as they develop. I have developed a conceptual framework with seven elements of creativity which is based on many of the established creativity theories. These elements are: initiative, symbolic representation, symbolic play, extended exploration, perspective taking, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. When I place these seven elements of creativity within the perspective of Piaget's theory of development, a sense of when they emerge in an individual's development can be obtained. Initiative emerges soon after birth during Piaget's Sensori-motor stage. Symbolic representation, symbolic play and extended exploration all emerge during the Piaget's Pre-operational stage. Perspective taking, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning emerge during Piaget's Concrete stage of development. In the second half of the synthesis I show how this theoretical work can inform the design or evaluation of curriculum on the degree to which it enhances creative development. The key features of this application are: lessons should be age appropriate and reinforce the skills that students are just acquiring; in order to facilitate creative development the teaching of different subjects should take into account the process of learning, not just the content. I combine these in an easy to use check list. This list can be used to design curriculum, evaluate existing curriculum or to assess student progress in creative development. Curriculum should be systematically evaluated to assess the degree to which existing lessons or newly designed ones promote creative development in an age appropriate manner. Using what is known about creativity and cognitive development, in addition to the seven elements presented in this paper, it is possible to create a checklist of basic ingredients individual lessons and entire curricula should have. This synthesis is intended to provide educators with a straightforward, developmentally sensitive approach to integrating creative development into their teaching. It is my hope that the methods suggested will prove to be useful and effective.


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