Which is more creative, the arts or the sciences? Research confirms it’s key for both

  Last updated July 28, 2020 at 2:27 pm


Creativity will be a vital component of jobs of the future – and it needs to be taught across STEM and arts at school, says an expert.

artistic representation of creativity analytical and artistic brain

Why This Matters: Creativity needs to be given an environment to thrive.

Australian schools and universities need to increase their emphasis on teaching creativity, says internationally renowned expert Professor David Cropley. The call comes as new research shows it is more than ever a core competency across all disciplines and critical for ensuring future job success.

Cropley, from the University of South Australia, collaborated with researcher Kim van Broekhoven from Maastricht University to investigate whether differences exist between creativity in the sciences and creativity in the arts.

The researchers found that creativity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is very similar to that in the arts. They say it indicated a holistic approach to teaching it in schools and universities, would benefit all.

The research has been submitted for peer review, but not yet published.

Creativity needs to be integrated into education

Cropley says the study provides a valuable insight into how education systems might assess and foster students’ creative capabilities.

“The big change for education systems would be moving away from a rather fragmented and haphazard approach to teaching creativity, to a much more holistic and integrated approach.

“To prepare the next generation for the future, we need to understand the gaps in the market – the human skills that computers, artificial intelligence and automation cannot achieve – and this is where creativity fits,” he says.

Deeper: How to be more creative

“Until this research, we didn’t know whether creativity in STEM was the same as creativity in anything, or if there was something unique about creativity in STEM. If creativity was different in STEM – that is, it involved special attitudes or abilities – then we’d need to teach STEM students differently to develop their creativity.

“As it turns out, creativity is general in nature – it is essentially a multi-faceted competency that involves similar attitudes, disposition, skills and knowledge, all transferrable from one situation to another.

“So, whether you’re in art, maths or engineering, you’ll share an openness to new ideas, divergent thinking, and a sense of flexibility.

“This is great news for teachers, who can now confidently embrace and integrate heightened levels of creativity across their curriculum for the benefit of all students – whether STEM or arts based.”

Creativity a vital skill for jobs of the future

The study surveyed 2277 German undergraduate students aged 17 to 37 (2147 enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses; and 130 enrolled in art courses). The researchers explored how creativity differed in terms of self-expression thoughts and perceptions.

The World Economic Forum has identified creativity to be as important as artificial intelligence in the jobs of the future.

Also: The team changing how we view eye conditions

Cropley is working with several Australian schools to further embed creativity into their teaching.

Geelong Grammar School’s Dr Tim Patston says we cannot underestimate its importance in a digital world.

“Students in the 21st century must be open to the amazing diversity of possibilities available to them in further education and careers when they leave school. And, while every student will create their own unique path, a solid and common grounding that embraces creativity is essential,” Dr Patston says.

“Working with the University of South Australia, we’ve been able to truly embrace creativity as a core competency to ensure that our students not only succeed, but flourish.”

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