Creativity-Inspiring Environments

By Dr. Jeff King, Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning, University of Central Oklahoma

An interesting article about creativity as prompted by the built environment appeared recently in The New York Times as part of its August 7, 2016, Education Life supplement.

The article’s author, Alexandra Lange, who also authored Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities, says there’s research to show that the interactions and conversations resulting from humans in proximity can spur creativity. Buildings and environments that seek to put humans into such arrangements would seem, then, to be good ideas in service to innovation and creative output. Though Lange indicates there’s little research yet to identify the best architectural designs for sparking creativity, she does say there are common features in buildings that have been intentionally designed to inspire creativity.

Cornell Tech, the University of Utah, York University, Northwestern University, Stanford, the University of Iowa, and Wichita State University are featured for their creativity-friendly building designs. Some common features include spacious, naturally lighted areas to encourage lingering and reflecting; an absence of walls in favor of collective engagement areas; informal lounge areas; and social spaces for learning.

The pictures of these spaces and the description of how institutions are using them in service to creativity-sparking educative activities are inspiring.

Also inspiring, though, are findings as reported in an article by researchers from the Universities of Kansas and Utah about the effect of natural environments on creativity and problem-solving:

. . . we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012)

There is much research supporting the restorative and creativity-friendly impact of time spent in nature. Another example:

. . . the more connected people are with nature, the greater their preference for innovative and holistic thinking styles. Moreover, Study 2 showed that these effects held even when controlling for general affect and well-being. (Leong, Fischer, & McClure, 2014).

Soaring ceilings, wide walkways and staircases, open spaces inside for collective thinking and tinkering — all of these can be excellent approaches to stimulate creativity in the built environment.

But maybe an even more powerful effect can be had by communing with nature:

I have a room all to myself; it is nature. — Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 3, 1853

References:

Atchley, R. A., Strayer, D. L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS One, 7(12). Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3520840/

Lange, A. (2016, August 4). The innovation campus: Building better ideas. The New York Times. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/education/edlife/innovation-campus-entrepreneurship-engineering-arts.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation&action=click&contentCollection=education&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=1

Leong, L. Y. C., Fischer, R., & McClure, J. (2014). Are nature lovers more innovative? The relationship between connectedness with nature and cognitive styles. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 57-63. Available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494414000267

Thoreau, H. D. (1853, January 3). Journal. Available: https://sniggle.net/TPL/index5.php?entry=excerpts05

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DaVinci Institute Announces 2016 Awardees

 

The DaVinci Institute® is honoring five Oklahoma professors, one Oklahoma A+ Schools® teacher and five student teachers for their creative endeavors at the Oklahoma History Center on April 1, 2016.

The mission of the DaVinci Institute is to create a statewide creative renaissance through lectures, workshops, professional development, research and advocacy. The vision of the DaVinci Institute is to improve the quality of education in Oklahoma so as to help Oklahomans carry their creative, innovative talents to the world.

Keynote speaker Mr. Scott Meacham, former State Treasurer and current CEO of I2E | Innovation to Enterprise, will speak on “Education for Innovation.”

The DaVinci Fellows award for faculty is based on the premise that creative thought and insight are fundamental components of extraordinary scholarship and teaching across all academic disciplines.  DaVinci Fellow awards include a medal embossed with Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruven Man and $1000.

Additionally, the DaVinci Institute will recognize five DaVinci Scholars, undergraduate students who are preparing to teach in Oklahoma and who have demonstrated creativity, academic achievement and a commitment to teaching.  Students will receive $1000 in their first year of teaching.

2016 Oklahoma A+ Schools® Teacher of the Year

Jennifer Burris, an Oklahoma A+ Schools® teacher at Harding Fine Arts Academy in Oklahoma City.

2016 DaVinci Fellows:

Lee Brasuell, Assistant Professor of Design, Oklahoma State University

John de Banzie, Professor of Biology, Northeastern State University

Bryan Duke, Assistant Dean and Director of Educator Preparation, University of Central Oklahoma

Bea Keller-Dupree,  Associate Professor of School Counseling, Northeastern State University

Sarah Kyle, Associate Professor of Humanities, University of Central Oklahoma

2016 DaVinci Scholars

Julia Davidoff – St. Gregory’s University

Grace Ferry – St. Gregory’s University

Natalie Jennings – University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

Jami Mumford – University of Central Oklahoma

Samantha Reed – University of Central Oklahoma

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Fred Provenza Speaking at Redlands CC February 18

Dr. Fred Provenza will be presenting “Our Landscapes, Our Livestock, Ouselves, Restoring Broken Linkages among Plants, Herbivores and Humans” at the first Redlands Community College Field Day. Provenza is a nationally known speaker and of interest to everyone who values health and well being.

Fred Provenza is professor emeritus of Behavioral Ecology with the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University.  He is a pioneer in the study of how behavior links soils, plants, herbivores, and humans and their collective effects on landscapes. The many awards he received for research, teaching, and mentoring represent the productivity that flowed from warm professional and personal relationships with over 75 graduate students, post-doctoral students, visiting scientists, and colleagues he worked with during the past 40 years.

The presentation will be in the Darlington Chapel at 9am, Feb. 18, 2016. All faculty, students and staff are invited to attend. They can also sign up (RSVP) for the rest of the field day including lunch by going to the RCC Website and clicking on Redlands Field Day Event and following the link.

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Gender Bias in Whether Others See You as Creative?

By Jeff King, Ed.D., Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning, University of Central Oklahoma

Some fascinating research out of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University indicates that people tend to rate men as being more creative in most situations: “Our research clearly showed that people associate creativity with ‘agentic’ masculine qualities—boldness, risk taking, independence. And because of this, people believe that men are generally more creative than women,” says Duke PhD candidate Devon Proudfoot in describing the research she and two other Duke researchers recently conducted (as quoted by Adams, 2015).

Proudfoot, Kay, and Koval (2015) set up a series of experiments to determine if there is a gender bias in attributing creativity, and for the most part, there is. They did find, though, that the bias — at least in the experiment they conducted — was not present when judging the work of a fashion designer.

Briefly, the researchers had people rate the creativity involved in creating architecture and fashion design. If raters believed the architect were male, they rated the architectural design as more creative, but the bias disappeared in fashion design.

Mostly, however, people tended to ascribe creativity more frequently to men than to women, though “design” was also the contrary finding in the TED talk experiment, a particularly fascinating experiment in which viewers rated the creativity possessed by various TED presenters.

With the TED talk research, Proudfoot, Kay, & Koval (2015) provided TED talk viewers with a list of 14 adjectives, asking the viewers to pick three to apply to each presentation. The researchers chose from among the 100 most viewed TED talks as the presentations shown.

The adjective, “ingenious,” was the one most highly associated with creativity on the list of 14. That adjective was most frequently applied to male TED talkers.

But perhaps it was because more men than women gave TED presentations on topics of creativity or which displayed creativity, you might say. The researchers controlled for this, and once again, men were said to be more creative — except for parity in one subject: design.

What’s up with that?

Why would the bias towards seeing men as more creative fail to show up when it comes to design or fashion design? One possible explanation is that people may believe that women are just as likely to possess the kind of creative thinking needed to excel in design. In fact, perhaps it is the way that we define creativity in a particular domain that determines whether we’re likely to be biased towards one gender or the other. Proudfoot and colleagues found that people’s general beliefs about what it takes to “think creatively” show substantial overlap with traits we more closely associate with men, such as competitiveness, self-reliance, and risk-taking. (Grewal, 2015)

This idea of how creativity is defined bears some investigation. One can rig the game, of course, by defining a thing in terms that clearly communicate a stereotypical trait. Ask most Americans to associate the word, “bravery,” for instance, to a man or a woman, and our cultural biases will probably prompt most people to associate bravery with men.

Such biases exist in other ways. Culturally, “architect” usually prompts a mental image of a man more frequently than a woman just as “engineer” or “pipe fitter” would, yet certainly there are female engineers and pipe fitters. “Soldier” is a highly stereotyped image, too, in spite of the Department of Defense’s recent decision to allow women into all combat roles.

But our conversations about creativity need to be gender-neutral for a slew of reasons.

As the researchers conducting the experiments described above point out, it’s important that we work to become aware of biases and stereotypes as the first step in eliminating them:

As our economy becomes more and more based on innovation, this bias is going to matter more and more,” Kay said. “If we think creative behavior is more desirable, then it’s even more important to be aware of stereotypes about creativity. (Aaron Kay as quoted by Phillips & Medlyn, 2015)

Works Cited

Adams, K. (2015, December). Even women think men are more creative. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://hbr.org/2015/12/even-women-think-men-are-more-creative

Grewal, D. (2015, December 8). The creativity bias against women: Research shows that females are perceived as less ‘creative’ in many contexts. Scientific American. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-creativity-bias-against-women/?WT.mc_id=SA_MB_20151209

Phillips, G., & Medlyn, E. (2015, October 12). New research: Men perceived as more creative. Duke Magazine: Fuqua Edition. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/news_events/news-releases/aaron-kay-creativity/#.VmjLJdFIiY0

Proudfoot, D., Kay, A. C., & Koval, C. Z. (2015). A gender bias in the attribution of creativity: Archival and experimental evidence for the perceived association between masculinity and creative thinking. Psychological Science, 1-11. DOI:10.1177/0956797615598739.

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2016 Davinci Fellows and Scholars Awards – Application Materials Now Available

The DaVinci Institute seeks applications for its 2016 DaVinci Fellows and DaVinci Scholars awards.

The DaVinci Fellowship funds creative projects, broadly defined, among Oklahoma’s higher education faculty. Acting on the premise that creative thought and insight are fundamental components of extraordinary scholarship, invention, teaching, and performance across academic disciplines, those chosen as DaVinci Fellows receive $1000 awards to support creative endeavors in the coming year.  Follow this link to download 2016 DaVinci Fellow Application Materials

The DaVinci Scholar Award is designed to honor pre-service teachers whose academic accomplishments and service to the university are deemed most notable. Nominees will demonstrate the ability to integrate content into relevant applications through a service learning proposal. The proposal should exemplify scholarship, creativity, inventiveness, sound teaching techniques, and a keen sense of responsibility. Eligible applicants for this award must in their final two years in a teacher preparation program. Awardees receive a $1000 prize payable in the first year of employment as an Oklahoma K-12 educator. Follow this link to download 2015-2016 DaVinci Scholar Application Materials.

 

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ReImagining Higher Education – DaVinci Fall Forum, October 23, 2015

How will higher education evolved in the 21st century?  While the future is unknown, one thing is for sure – if it is to be successful, educators must take into account how people best learn, technological developments and student interests.  This year’s Forum will be held on the campus of Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma on October 23, 2015.

It will include at tour of the Rose State Fab Lab and open a conversation that will include faculty, administrators, and students in exploring what the future may hold for designing courses, curricula and experiences for highly effective collegiate education.

You won’t want to miss this.

Registration is now open.  Head over the Events page on the DaVinci website to reserve your spot now.  Reservations include lunch and Fab Lab activities.  Member institutions may send two participants for no charge, and $10 for each additional participant.  Non-member institutions may send participants for $10 each.  Please register by October 19 so that we can be sure to have an accurate number for lunch.  Institutions are strongly encouraged to send one student per faculty member if at all possible in order to encourage an inclusive conversation.

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First-Generation College Students Are Not Disadvantaged Slobs

Felix J. Aquino, Ph.D.
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Oklahoma City Community College

I am a first-generation college graduate. There . . . I’ve said it. I grew up in a very solid, blue- collar household. My father had an eighth grade education and my mother finished high school.

If one is to believe much of what has been written about those of us raised in similar circumstances and going on to advanced degrees, we have all had to overcome tremendous adversity in reaching our exalted status. The litany of our “deficiencies” is familiar: our parents can’t advise us on navigating college, we don’t do as well on standardized tests, we don’t have academic role models in the house, we’re lower middle-class, and we don’t value learning. The list goes on. Therefore, our task as collegiate educators is to take these slobs and improve them into being productive members of the educated classes—people like us.

I would submit that this view of the non-college educated working class is a result of our applying a deficit model to this group; their problem is that they differ from us. The extent of their difference from us is the extent of their deficiencies. We assume that they bring little to the collegiate table.

In my own particular case, it is true that, once I was in high school and beyond, there was not much my parents could do to help me, other than being financially and emotionally supportive. I never got help from either parent in figuring out quadratic equations or chemistry valences. It is also true that my parents were of no help to me in navigating college or graduate school. Nor did they have a clue about what was involved in getting a doctorate in anthropology. Fortunately, I found all of the aforementioned pretty easy to figure out on my own.

Did I learn nothing from my parents? Nothing could be further from the truth. However, the valuable lessons they imparted may have been different from those learned by the sons and daughters of the upper middle class. I would like to share some of the most salient.

The value and dignity of hard work. I have vivid memories of my mother, a dressmaker by trade, bringing home piecework to do on her home machine after the dinner dishes had been cleaned up, when economic circumstances required it. There was also no tolerance for any indignity directed toward them, or their children, by anyone.

How to make do on limited resources. It was not until I got to graduate school that I realized how poor we were because, through my parents’ sacrifice, we never lacked for anything.

The value of upward mobility. From very early on, my siblings and I knew that our parents were determined that our lives be different from theirs and that the mechanism for that was education. And a blue-collar background was not something to be ashamed of, but to be proud.

I could go on but my deeper point is this: our challenge as educators is to figure out what strengths all of our students bring to the table and how to build on those strengths and bring them all along, irrespective of their origins.

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Fail Safe, Fail Fast: One Creative Solution to College Completion

Jeff King, Ed.D., Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching & Learning, University of Central Oklahoma

Dr. Randy Bass of Georgetown University teaches a course in which he asks students to design the kind of learning environment they think would work best for them, to “design the college of the future” that is best built and run in order to help students learn.

Over the terms he has taught this course, he reports that students frequently create similar designs because certain aspects and characteristics are commonly described. One that is often mentioned is a safe place to fail in service to learning.

In many ways, the business-as-usual college is not a safe place to fail simply because there are few places to do so without losing the academic currency you’re trying to accumulate; namely, grades. Failing reduces your net worth; passing increases your net worth.

It can be a dog-eat-dog world for students in higher education.

Contrast this with an environment such as that posited by the Georgetown students. In their university, the fact that you fail on the way to learning is not something you’re penalized for; rather, you fail safe and fail fast on your way to learning (i.e., achieving course, program, and institutional outcomes). When you think about it, this is the natural human process of learning.

The infant learning to walk fails safe and fails fast — her mom is nearby, protectively scaffolding the support to take those first tentative steps, no matter how many times the “failure” of lurching off balance and landing kersplat occurs. The point is, this process isn’t thought of as “failing”; it’s called, “learning to walk.”

And that’s what the Georgetown students are advocating for. This can’t happen, though, in a class with a couple of tests, a mid-term, and a final — those constitute summative, high-stakes engagements where failing costs you dearly.

On the other hand, a class in which failing is “fast” because constant formative assessment occurs — ongoing feedback meant to help students correct course during the process of learning — is also one in which that kind of “failing” is also safe: it’s not thought of as failing, it’s thought of as learning to walk.

So what about this creative solution for college completion:

The process of learning is safe, scaffolded, and iterative because constant feedback is provided, and “failing” is called “learning” as students advance toward achieving the learning outcomes. At certain summative points throughout the class, tests are then not so fearful because students have “failed fast, failed safe” during the constant-feedback process of correcting course as they develop skills and acquire knowledge.

Fail fast, fail safe, then prove what you know and can do. This may be a creative approach to help students learn that isn’t really that creative at all.

Ask any two-year-old.

 

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Creativity and College Completion: Certificates

By Bret Danilowicz, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Oklahoma State University

To achieve Oklahoma’s goal of increasing the number of students who complete higher education, we need to connect with a broader audience than just “traditional” undergraduate students.  I define traditional students as those who progress into a full-time undergraduate degree program within a few years of completing high-school- roughly 60% of our high-school graduates.  For the non-traditional population (the remaining 40%), the cost, time and interest needed to complete an undergraduate degree can be overwhelming.  Let me walk you through why, and follow with a recommendation how our state can provide a simpler transition into higher education for non-traditional students.

Higher education is generally perceived as a two-year or four-year degree.  Although the value of a degree to a graduate’s long-term earnings is well documented, the upfront cost is daunting.  For individuals paying for their tuition, fees, books, and other expenses, costs range roughly from $6,000 for a 2-year degree at a public community college to over $200,000 for a 4-year degree at a private university. The cost is well known; what the potential student does not know is if they themselves will complete the degree to benefit from its cost.  Will they achieve passing grades and will their personal motivation for the coursework persist?

Compounding the cost investment is the time needed to complete a degree.  Many non-traditional students need to work full-time (or close to it) to cover their living expenses – and possibly their family’s- while also covering the cost of their degree.  Someone working full time and managing to take four courses a year (an accomplishment in itself) would take five years to receive a “two-year” associates degree or ten years to receive a “four-year” baccalaureate degree- assuming the student passes all of their courses.  Cost + time = uncertainty about higher education degrees.

Yet there is another route towards completion in higher education: undergraduate certificates.  These certificates are comprised of a small group of related courses that provide targeted education within a specific subject area.  Certificates can be used as a stepping stone to a full degree- allowing a student to take courses which immediately align with their career interests, yet also align with the requirements of a full undergraduate degree (should they choose to continue after earning a certificate).  Starting at just five courses, these certificates cost as little as $1,500 at a community college and can be completed in under two-years even by part-time students.  Upon completion, certificates add value to a person’s competitiveness in the workforce, adding an average of 27% pay for men and 16% pay for women1– and these count towards Oklahoma’s completion agenda.  (The primary reason for the gender difference appears to be the certificates associated with the largest salary increases as in the computer-related fields tend to be predominantly completed by males- see Inside Higher Ed).

Real examples of undergraduate certificates include project management, biotechnology research assistant, digital arts, accounting, and family services: each is directly applicable to a growth area in the workforce (see some options in Oklahoma by looking at the OCCC and TCC websites).  While undergraduate certificates are presently available at community colleges across much of the state, certificate programs number less than a quarter of the available associates degree programs.  Alongside the more limited range of programs, certificates are not promoted with the same effort used to promote degree programs.  Just how aware is Oklahoma’s populace about the certificate option and its potential value?  (Note that undergraduate certificates are also available at universities- but these are generally intended to be taken concurrently with a degree program.)

Colleges should be encouraged to increase the availability of these undergraduate certificates, while the state launches a marketing effort specifically to promote the value and flexibility of these certificates. It would allow non-traditional students an entry into higher education that is likely better suited to their cost and time needs, and they can more quickly assess the value of higher education for their career.  National data suggests that after completing a certificate, a full third of these students will continue into an undergraduate degree program (and there are many benefits to them and Oklahoma for them doing so- perhaps a subject of a future blog?).  While no single solution will result in Oklahoma’s goal to have more of its residents complete some form of higher education- increasing the availability, awareness of, and completion of undergraduate certificates should be a part of the plan.

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Creativity and College Completion: The Challenge

By Blake Sonobe, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

A college education has for generations been, for many, the primary route for economic advancement.  I still recall the words of my father, “In order to get ahead, you have to have a good education.”  These words remain true to this day.  Similarly, there is excellent correlation between the economic wealth of a nation and the educational attainment of its people.  Recent studies have shown that the economic health of our nation may be at risk.  The recent Georgetown University study provided the following statistics.  Through 2020,

  • there will be 55 million job openings in the economy; 24 million openings from newly created jobs and 31 million due to baby boom retirements.
  • 35% of the jobs openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, another 30% will require at least some college or an associate’s degree and the remaining 35% will not require education beyond high school.
  • at the current rate of certificate and degree production in the United States, there will be a shortage of 5 million workers with postsecondary education by 2020.

To remain economically competitive as a state and a nation and to give our residents an opportunity for economic advancement, it is imperative that we significantly increase the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees.  Oklahoma’s Complete College America project was kicked off in September 2011 with five major reforms:

  • Focus on Readiness
  • Transform Remediation
  • Build Bridges to Certificates and Degrees
  • Adult Completion – Reach Higher
  • Track and Reward Progress and Completion – Performance Funding

Through continuous development of strategies to implement the reforms, Oklahoma has exceeded its goals for certificates and degrees in the first two years of Complete College America.  To successfully achieve its goal of increasing the number of degrees and certificates by 67% (the number predicted to be needed in Oklahoma) by 2023, new strategies must be developed in the following areas.

  • Increasing the retention and graduation rates for students attending college.
  • Reaching traditional and non-traditional students who in the past were not able or had not considered attending college.

How can we better do this?  2020 is not far away.

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