The Frontal Cortex reports on an interesting study that found that the personality characteristics teachers define as creative are the same ones that make their pupils least likeable in the classroom.
Eric Barker recently referred me to this interesting study, which looked at how elementary school teachers perceived creativity in their students. While the teachers said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they actually didn’t. In fact, when they were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”
This shouldn’t be too surprising: Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem? The point is that the classroom isn’t designed for impulsive expression – that’s called talking out of turn. Instead, it’s all about obeying group dynamics and exerting focused attention. Those are important life skills, of course, but decades of psychological research suggest that such skills have little to do with creativity.
This is a classic example of the conflict where an institution that imposes strict group standards of behaviour claims to promote individuality and self-expression.
A lovely study published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrated how people who don’t go along with a task for justifiable moral reasons are typically rejected by the group, even when the individuals in the group might otherwise agree with their moral stand.
In other words, we like rebels as long as they are not bothering us.
Link to Frontal Cortex on ‘Classroom Creativity’.