Topics: Educational psychology, Cognition, Problem solving Pages: 7 (1941 words) Published: January 20, 2014
importance of creativity styles
Tom Balchin, Brunel University
Norman Jackson, Higher Education Academy

It is difficult to find ways to focus on examining how much creativity a student possesses. I propose that examining the relationship between creativity and cognitive styles is useful to explore, and have found research, notably Guilford 1980; Kirton 1976; Messick1984 and Witkin and Goodenough 1981 that indicates that cognitive styles have an impact upon thinking, problem solving, decision making and creating.

This avenue of research appears to be a productive one for several reasons. First, examining styles in relationship to creativity will assist researchers and teachers in discovering what kinds of creativity techniques work best with what kinds of people and under what kinds of circumstances (Stein 1975). Secondly, understanding style may help an individual to appreciate why someone else approaches or solves problems differently than oneself. Finally, understanding style may be very important for those that rely on group creativity. Research has demonstrated that individuals of various styles will possess different creative strengths and weaknesses (Bloomberg 1967, Kirton 1976 and Spotts and Mackler 1967). Utilizing the styles and strengths, which various individuals bring to a group, will empower the group to function more effectively and efficiently. In the context of the growing interest in problem and enquiry based learning in higher education it would be worth considering the likely group dynamics that would result from mixes of people with different cognitive styles.

What do we mean by cognitive style?
Cognitive styles refer to the preferred way an individual processes information and describe a person’s typical mode of thinking, remembering or approach to problem solving. Cognitive style simply denotes a tendency to think and behave in a certain manner. Learning styles (for example those defined by Kolb 1984) specifically deal with different styles of learning. Cognitive and learning styles can be used to predict what kind of teaching approaches would be most effective for an individual or group. This short piece focuses on cognitive styles that might be useful to consider when designing teaching for creativity.

Before discussing a specific cognitive style theory, it is important to review the characteristics of cognitive style. Witkin and Goodenough (1981) believed that style is concerned with form rather than content. In this was, style refers to the


manner in which we characteristically process information. Styles are also pervasive. Messick (1976) stated that “...styles cut across diverse spheres of behaviour”. In other words, the style that you possess at work you will most likely possess at home or play. Cognitive styles are also stable over time; measured over a period of time an individual's cognitive style will remain relatively the same (Witkin, Moore, Goodenough and Cox 1977).

Another important point about style is that it is not an either-or situation; Gregorc (1979) shows that we all possess some of each style, however each of us prefers one style over the other. Messick (1976) states that “...each style has adaptive value depending on the one style is consistantly more adaptive than another.” In this way, styles are ‘value neutral’. Each style possesses its own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, all styles are valuable and useful. One of the most promising cognitive style theories to impact the field of creativity that I have found is Kirton's (1976) ‘adaptation-innovation’ distinction. Mainly through his observations of managers, Kirton (1961) noted that some were able to initiate change that improved the current system, but were unable to identify opportunities outside it. He calls these people ‘adaptors.’ Other managers were fluent at generating ideas that led to more radical change, but generally failed in...

References: Bloomberg, M. (1967) “An Inquiry into the Relationship between Field
Independence-dependence and Creativity.” in the Joumal of Psychology, 67, p.
Gregorc, A. F. (1979) “Learning/Teaching Styles: Their Nature and Effects.
Gryskiewicz, S. S. (1982) “Creative Leadership Development and the Kirton
Adaption-Iinnovation Inventory.” Paper presented at the Occupational
Guilford, J. P. (1980) “Cognitive Styles: what are they?” in Educational and
Psychological Measurement, 40, p
Kirton, M. J. (1977) “Manual of the Kirton Adaption-Iinnovation Inventory.” in
London, England: National Foundation for Educational Research.
Messick, S. (1976) Personality Consistencies in Cognition and Creativity, in S.
Spotts, J. V. & Mackler, B. (1967) “Relationships of Field-dependent and Fieldindependent Cognitive Styles to Creative Test Performance.” in Perceptual and
MotorSkills, 24, p
Stein, M. 1. (1975) “Stimulating Creativity .” N.Y. : Academic Press.
Witkin, H. A., Moore, C. A., Goodenough, D. R. and Cox, P. W. (1977) “Fielddependent and Field-independent Cognitive Styles and their Educational
Implications.” in the Review of Educational Research, 47, p
Witkin, H. A. and Goodenough, D. R. (1981) ”Cognitive Styles: Essence and
Origin (Psychological Issues Monograph NO
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