Introducing Creativity to Durham College
Since the fall of 2018, I, along with a few of my colleagues, have been working to make creativity a part of the culture at Durham College. Durham College is a provincially-funded community college located in Oshawa, Ontario, approximately 45 miles (72 kilometres) east of downtown Toronto, Canada.
To bring creativity into the consciousness of our learning community, my colleagues and I have created a Creativity Community of Practice, hosted Durham College Creativity Day, and facilitated a variety of creativity workshops across the college.
However, fostering a culture that includes creativity at a community college also requires one very essential element – the students.
Inspired by a spring 2018 professional development workshop I attended, the importance of having a course about creativity to help students prepare for the challenges of working in the 21st century was discussed at length among the workshop participants.
Why teach creativity?
There are multiple reasons why community colleges and universities across North America should provide their students an opportunity to explore and engage in creativity. In the introduction to their book Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum, Burnett and Figliotti (2020) state that “Fostering creativity is an essential part of modern education.”
But how is creativity an essential part of modern education? In her March 2021 blog for Creativity and Education, The Real Reason You Should Invest in Your Creativity, Carian van der Sman gives three reasons why people should be open to creativity: it is an investment in innovation, it is a part of well-being, and it is part of a new definition of health.
However, for community college and university students, there is a bonus to studying creativity that will stay with students well after their graduation. In the book Thriving Online: A Guide for Busy Educators, Hughes et al. state that educators who use production pedagogies to promote perseverance, curiosity, imagination, inquiry, and creativity by learning through mistakes will help students develop critical global competencies and transferable skills like innovation, leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking.
Creativity: A Personal Understanding
In January 2019, I wrote a proposal for a general education creativity course. Fortunately, the course was approved the following May. With just over a year’s worth of development, in the fall of 2020, Durham College launched its first-ever course based on creativity.
Creativity: A Personal Understanding allows students to study creativity from a personal perspective. Students explore the context, psychology, and science behind creativity by looking at topics such as creative thinking, creative problem-solving, and improving creativity.
The course is a 14-week general education course, which is open as an elective to all full-time students at Durham College. The course is not specific to any program of study.
Students are evaluated based on discussions, reflections, content quizzes, a photo assignment, a creative problem-solving assignment, a final summative reflective assignment, and weekly in-process activities. There are no tests or final exams in this course.
Over the two academic years that the course has been offered, over 200 students from programs such as web design, public relations, hospitality, office administration, mechanical engineering technology, chemical lab technician, millwright, and dozens of other programs have all enthusiastically collaborated and engaged in exploring and growing their own understanding of creativity!
Anonymous course feedback comments from students have been very positive:
- The course has helped me realize that I am creative. Before starting the course, I would have said I was not at all creative. The activities are helping me develop creative thinking skills.
- I have greatly benefited from the sections on divergent and convergent thinking. This will change the way I lead meetings and brainstorming for the rest of my life.
- I never knew how creative I was until I started this course. Everything I’ve learned resonates so deeply with me.
- Learning about creativity while you see other people’s opinions and experiences is very important.
- This course has been amazing! I didn’t want to pick this course as I thought it would be boring and I wouldn’t be good as I’m not creative. The first day of this class I learned that everyone is capable of being creative and that gave me a big confident boost.
- The content is interesting, engaging and really makes you think differently about creativity. Overall, this course is a lot of fun and definitely one of my favourite GNEDS I’ve taken.
Fostering a change in any organization takes a great deal of time, energy, and patience. However, as staff and faculty at Durham College continue to explore our creativity through professional development opportunities, we will slowly start to bring about change in how we approach organizational challenges and teaching methodologies. This change in our thinking about creativity and its role as a part of the college culture will ripple down to the benefit and success of our students. From there, providing our students with the opportunity to study creativity in a supportive, creative environment will allow them to use their own creativity and successfully tackle the challenges of working in the 21st century.
Clayton Rhodes is a professor with the Faculty of Liberal Studies at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario. He holds a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix and an Honours Bachelor of Arts from York University. Outside of the college, Clayton enjoys bowling, slo-pitch, kayaking, and inline skating. His favorite drink is Arizona Southern-style sweet tea. Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.
I love the work you’re doing Clayton! All creativity begins with human personal creativity and understanding it from that level is absolutely essential for building creative muscles as well as enough confidence to proudly self-identify as ‘creative.’ I wish every school in the world offered students this opportunity! You are truly making a positive difference in the life of each student thad connects with the ‘process’ that fills them with energy, flow and joy! Blessings!