Does Art enhance creativity through motivation?

There are several people who are taking the stand that creativity in school needs to be enhanced to let the children reach their full potential of intelligence. Sir Ken Robinson is one of those and he focuses especially on the arts and underlines the importance of it in school next to the main subjects like Math and English. Diana Laufenberg also encourages creativity in class and stresses the importance of figuring things out on oneself. Creativity though is based on interest and interest again affects education.

In his famous talk from 2006 that has been seen by almost 15 million people in the world Sir Ken Robinson says that parents often give their children the advice not to focus on arts because they supposedly won´t make a living. He gives an example of Gillian Lynne, choreograph of “cats” and “phantom of the opera”. As a child her parents were really desperate because of her school achievements, and they went to a specialist who told her parents to put her in a dancing class. She found it wonderful because in her eyes there were children dancing who were like her, “people who had to dance to think”. She is an example of success doing what she embraces to do.

Usually the reality is but different. There are many people out there who do not enjoy their work, but are relieved when the week is over. This has to change, people should do what they are good at, and one fundamental step to make that people find out about their strengths and what they would like to do is to not only allow but really enhance creativity. Creativity again contributes to motivation, and motivation is a fundamental psychological issue in education that influences achievement.

Guilford stated already in 1950 that creativity is an area on which there has to be more focus on, but until now there has been only little coverage of it in Psychological Books for student (Sternberg, 1999). Sternberg also says that there are two levels of implications due to creativity: the individual and the societal level. Thereafter creativity on the individual level means problem solving in the job and in daily life. On societal level it leads to “new scientific findings, new movements in art, new inventions and new social programs” (Sternberg, 1999).

Alperson states that creativity is fundamental in arts and that it is characterized by it (2003). Of course, creativity can also be adapted to other areas, but in those the subject is not defined by it itself. Eisner initiated in 1974 the evaluation of educational impacts on arts. This led to the findings that art has an influence on other aspects in life and on learning that go beyond the experience of art itself. It thereafter improves the imagination (Greene, 1995), leads to an increase in performances in spatial reasoning (Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Wright, Dennis & Newcombe, 1997) and an increased academic achievement (Catterall, 1998) etc. I want to focus yet on the positive effect art has on the motivation of students as this is essential for learning.

In 1999 a program in Canada has been called into life that makes art to a main contributor in its education program (Upitis & Smithrim, 2005). The program is called Learning through the Arts (LTTA) and was developed by The Royal Conservatory of Music. Thereafter professional artists collaborated with teachers on the development of a curriculum and worked with the children. This program analyzed the effects of arts in education compared to schools who did not take part in the program. There were no significant baseline differences between these groups on socioeconomic status, achievement, attitudes towards school, participation in arts, parental values toward the arts and teacher and principal beliefs and practice. At the end of three years LTTA students in grade 6 scored significantly higher on tests of computation and estimation and there were no differences in language and mathematics tests. This was explained by the increased engagement through LTTA on the physical, emotional, social and even transcendental level. Transcendence was ascribed when a mute student began to speak for the first time. The changes occurred only in computation because due to the authors Upitis and Smithrim it is easier to improve in this area (2005). Besides, the program led to a more positive attitude towards school.

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi teaching arts contribute to an increase in student´s intrinsic motivation (1997). His flow theory of motivation is defined by the goals of the activity. The activity provides direct feedback on the task and the purpose of the activity lies in itself. The concentration is focused on the activity. Demands and ability are balanced thereby avoiding boredom or excessive demand. The person who is experiencing the flow has the feeling of control over the activity. Besides, “flow” is defined by “effortlessness”, this means that our worries disappear. The feeling of time is changed and the act and the consciousness merge.

Flow is a form of luck on which someone has no influence. In order to get into a state of flow experience the activity needs to be pleasurable, and the requirements need to be so high that full concentration is needed. But it must not exceed a certain level because then the “effortlessness” is not given anymore. Furthermore Csikszentmihalyi highlights that it is of importance that the activity is playful in the sense that the one who is experiencing the flow seems creative and artistic and merges into the activity.

Arts are usually perceived as playful in the eyes of the children and represent an activity in which flow can take place. But it does not have to be the flow that gets children motivated. The interest itself in an activity is to do something because you like the activity itself without having a certain goal of achieving something. Thereafter engaging in arts characterized by its playful and creative character often leads to interest and can therefore be motivating. This can be augmented by the teacher giving the pupil the chance to decide on a topic he wants to create by himself, thereby assuring that he really wants to do it because it interests him.

The theory of Csikszenmihalyi shows how the motivation process in arts could work. Of course, there is more evidence needed to back up that arts improve motivation. Finally it would be interesting whether a deeper focus on arts in school really leads to higher achievements on all subjects. On the basis that motivation is increased by creativity and that arts motivate I think that teaching arts could have a positive effect on taking over responsibility and thereby the chance of own initiative to learn. Besides it could support self-efficacy by actually seeing the outcome of what you have created. Positive effects on self-esteem have been identified by a study of Sylwester (1998).

I want to conclude with the following quote:

The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather
the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. – Glenn Gould

Alperson, P. (2003). The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics.

Catterall,J . (1998).Does experience in the arts boost academic achievement? Art
Education, 51(3), 6-11.

Csikszentmihalyi,M . (1997) Assessing aesthetic education. Grant makers in the
Arts, 8(1), 22-26.

Eisner, E. W. (1974). Is the artists-in-the-schools program effective? Art Education,
22(2), 19-23.

Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S.Y. (2002). Handbook of Positive Psychology.

Sternberg, R. J. (1999). Handbook of Creativity.

Upitis, R., & Smithrim, K. (2003a). Learning through the Arts ‘M: National Assessment
FinalReport. Toronto: The Royal Conservatory of Music.

Upitis, R., & Smithrim, K. (2003b). Learning Through the Arts “M: Assessment Tools.
Toronto: The Royal Conservatory of Music.

Upitis, R., & Smithrim, K. (2005). Learning through the Arts: Lessons of Engagement.
Canadian Journal of Education, 28, 109-127.

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3 Responses to Does Art enhance creativity through motivation?

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