Creativity is a commendation given to responses that are new and appropriate, generative, or influential (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Simonton, 1999). Appropriate means that the novelty solves a problem; generative, that it leads to other new things; influential, that it expands a domain. Children, like other novices, are capable of creativity at the appropriateness level. Generativity and domain change require far greater expertise. (Stokes, 2005).
Creativity at the classroom level can be characterized by two things, novelty and appropriateness. Novelty depends upon variability; appropriateness, on expertise. This chapter introduces a constraint-based model of problem solving to establish these two important precursors of creativity. Before introducing the problem-solving model and applying it to the classroom, we briefly discuss the critical connections between variability, novelty, and learning.
VARIABILITY, NOVELTY, AND EXPERTISE
Variability is defined as how differently something is done. As Figure 5.1 shows, variability can be pictured as a continuum with high and low levels at its extremes.
High Variability and Novelty
Expected (reliable, repeated) behaviors lie closer to the low end of the continuum, while surprising (novel, unanticipated) behaviors lie closer to the higher end (Stokes, 1999). The reason for the placements is simple: reliability is rewarded, reinforced. As a result of operant conditioning, responses that were successful in particular situations in the past will be tried before new ones are attempted. Since familiar solutions surface sooner than novel ones (Maltzman, 1960; Runco, 1986; Ward, 1969), variability is a precondition for novelty. It is also a precondition for acquiring expertise.