Creativity: 2023 Torrance Festival of Ideas

I’m pleased to be presenting part of my creativity work at the 2023 Torrance Festival of Ideas in April. In its third edition, the online festival, organized by the Torrance Center for Creativity & Talent Development (UGA Mary Frances Early College of Education), is a free, cultural event where more than 20 professionals, academics, and students from around the world present their work on creativity and imagination, and discuss issues to deepen research on the field.

The goal of the festival is to bring together creativity work (research and otherwise) from across multiple domains — such as neuropsychology, psychology, gifted education, learning and organization development, game design, design — and make it accessible to the general public. This is a unique opportunity to engage in enriching conversations about creativity and innovation, and learn about how this mindset can impact any field from gaming, storytelling, and science to AI, technology, wellbeing, education, and equality.

2023 Torrance Festival of Ideas – April 18-20th: Register here!

Daydream. Imagine. Play. Helping students reconnect with their superpowers

My talk will focus on personal creativity — or creativity Little c, as coined by Teresa Amabile; the intersection of creativity, well-being and happiness, and how education could empower students to reconnect with their creative selves. I will discuss my creativity what I have learned from the freshman seminar I taught at Princeton University which was aimed at equipping first-year students with the tools to envision their ideal future.

After more than two decades in higher education, I have seen too many students beginning their freshman year with pre-conceived ideas and assumptions of what college should be, how they should behave, and what society expects from them. They aim to become successful leaders and change the world, but many also struggle and feel anxious about their own life choices, and are fixated on finding “the” right answer or “the” idea to achieve what they think success should look like. This mindset combined with the fear of thinking differently and taking risks stifles their ability to dream, imagine, and pursue their own paths, making it harder for students to achieve their full potential.

Explicitly teaching creativity since the first day that students of class has a strong impact on their behaviors for the years to come. By understanding and practicing the underlying cognitive mechanisms of creative work, and learning the diverse cognitive operations (divergent and convergent thinking, cognitive flexibility, associative processing) and benefits (self-expression, adaptation, day-to-day problem solving) involved in creative thinking, students start seeing creativity as a skill that they could get really good at, rather than an innate ability of only a few.

In addition to teaching students divergent thinking — how to think broadly, and generate multiple ideas and solutions to open-ended, unframed problems, and how to balance it with convergent thinking, it is essential to first explore the role that creativity plays in everyday life and its personal benefits such as helping individuals deal with a range of negative feelings and other unhealthy mental conditions (e.g. loneliness, anxiety, stress).

I will share innovative pedagogical methods I developed to teach deliberate cognitive creativity and metacognitive skills to help students build confidence and increase self-worth, as well as discuss initial learnings from applying these same techniques in recent classes with early career scientists.

Looking forward to the festival and learning from everyone’s projects!

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