Creativity, Imagination and Innovation in Education Symposium ☆

Creativity, Imagination and Innovation in Education Symposium

With a philosophy firmly rooted in the belief that creativity is essential in all disciplines and knowledge-oriented societies, The Department of Arts and Humanities will host the Creativity, Imagination and Innovation in Education Symposium this April 28th and 29th at Teachers College. Aimed at both practitioners and scholars, the symposium will explore these concepts in relation to their place in both formal and informal educational contexts, and examine the notion of “ubiquitous creativity” as it relates to education and the culture-at-large.

While creativity and imagination play a vital role in education, it is feared that the current educational climate, so focused on standardized test scores, presents a dangerous environment in which these elements of human development run the risk of being stifled. It is with this in mind that the symposium seeks to offer a sense of hope in the renewal of the critical role that creativity and imagination can play in cultivating innovation in schools and in society as a whole.

Because creativity is an important disposition that can be nurtured or discouraged, the symposium will look at methods of promoting this critical element of thought and stimulating innovative ideas in a variety of contexts. By bringing together a diverse group of scholars, thinkers, and artists who will have the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences, the symposium hopes to promote an exchange of ideas that will result in an enterprising set of new understandings. It is a goal for participants to leave feeling reinvigorated in their quest to promote these intellectual practices within their own educational activities at whatever level.

Professor Lori Custodero, who is co-chairing the event along with Professor Margaret Crocco, explains another aspect of what the symposium endeavors to accomplish: “I hope that collectively we can inspire and generate ideas around the value of creativity, imagination, and innovation, and actually think about how these new insights might be translated to our educational work.”

Because the symposium is geared toward a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, there is sure to be something for everyone. A diverse set of participants, as varied as the session offerings, is expected – faculty and students from TC, teachers from all educational settings, levels, and content areas, scholarly friends, and administrators, among others. Professor Custodero hopes that this gathering of professionals and forward-thinking educators will produce a plethora of new ideas about stimulating creativity, imagination, and innovation across formal and informal educational contexts.

To aid in guiding the conversation are a group of accomplished scholars, artists and educators who will present a variety of experiential workshops on Thursday evening about everything from drama, digital storytelling, and garage bands to the philosophy of aesthetics. Workshops will be offered concurrently and take place after the welcome reception in Macy Gallery.

On Friday morning, a panel of scholars will present a session that features Ron Gross as moderator, who will pose questions and invite dialogue among panelists about questions such as:  What is creativity? How do we nurture it in K-16 education and adult organizations? How do we find space for it in an educational milieu that puts such a premium on standardization and accountability? How do we “know it when we see it”? Does it look the same around the world?

Among the panel participants are Beth Hennessy, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, who looks at creativity as it pertains to the individual and the environment; Keith Sawyer, a psychologist from Washington University, who studies the socio-cultural framework from which creativity is born and will draw upon his research on educational contexts designed to nurture creativity; Michael Wesch, an anthropologist from Kansas State University who will discuss creativity as it pertains to working with media. From Teachers College, presenters include Michael Hanson, who directs the master’s program on creativity in the Department of Human Development; Lori Custodero, of the Music and Music Education Program; Xiaodong Lin who studies creativity in China; and Victoria Marsick, who consults with business organizations on promoting creativity.

After lunch, Joan Jeffri will introduce brief vignettes of a number of individuals whose lives represent “flourishing and surviving the creative life.” These multi-generational artists and creators will then offer “salons” in which members of the audience will have an opportunity to interact face-to-face with presenters. The symposium will culminate with keynote speaker Steven Berlin Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, who will share his views on this subject, followed by a jazz ensemble performance.

In the spirit of the longstanding Teachers College legacies of John Dewey and Maxine Greene, the symposium hopes to remind educators of the critical role of creativity and imagination in sparking innovation. Prof. Custodero asserts that, “Creativity comes not from homogeneity which seems to perpetuate the status quo, but from gatherings of people with a variety of perspectives. In our case, we come with a shared commitment to improving the educational contexts in which we work. Thinking and talking with each other, we hope to envision and enact new possibilities.”

The symposium is free for everyone, but registration is required. For registration and more information about the symposium, check out the website:

Liz Hoelzle