Creativity in Higher Education: A Qualitative Analysis of Experts’ Views in Three Disciplines

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Education Sciences


Creativity has been identified as an increasingly important graduate attribute for employment in the 21st century. As sites of significant development of disciplinary specialization, universities seem to be the natural place for creativity to be fostered. However, there remain contestations and ambiguities in the ways creativity is theorized, and this translates to difficulties in operationalization, particularly in the higher education context, which attracts significantly less research than the school setting. Here, we report on interviews with physicists, historians, and poets, as both educators and producers of knowledge that progresses their disciplines, to provide elaborations on the nature of creativity. We draw on sociological theory to elucidate the characteristics of creativity as expressed by experts in particular disciplinary fields. We find that whilst perceptions appear common across the disciplines, on further analysis, they tend instead to encapsulate discrete attributes. Further, there are some qualities of creativity that are uniquely emphasized by participants in specific disciplinary fields. We argue that theorizing both the discipline and the nature of creativity together is important in order to understand how creativity might more fruitfully be discussed and fostered in higher education.

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