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May 2, 2013 Volume 34, No. 29

Faculty learn in workshops how to encourage student creativity


Next workshop, part of Celebration of Teaching, is May 21

Students are afraid of being wrong, said Suzanne Burgoyne, an MU professor of theater. This leads to students being less likely to take risks and restricting creativity, she said.

“We all have that critic inside of us that tells us to not take risks,” Burgoyne said. “There is that voice that says, ‘Don’t do that. You’ll look like an idiot.’ ” 

In today’s world, full of developing technologies and an ever-changing economy, flexibility and innovation are a necessity. In order to be innovative, one must think creatively. In order to think creatively, one has to take risks. In her classes, Burgoyne promotes creativity by encouraging students to feel safe to take risks, trust their intuition and explore their own creativity. “It’s more facilitating than teaching,” she said. “There are things you can do that can encourage creativity in students.”

Burgoyne became interested in faculty and student creativity after taking a faculty development leave during the 2010–11 academic year. She returned to campus to organize a workshop in May 2011 as part of the Celebration of Teaching, which this year is May 21–22. The workshop, which was led by creativity experts from Wake Forest and the University of Illinois, filled up quickly and had a waiting list of 60 people.

“We knew we had something,” Burgoyne said. “We knew we needed more events like that.”

With the support of Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies, Burgoyne put together a committee to plan future Faculty Creativity Workshops at Mizzou. The goal of the workshops is to share with faculty ideas for increasing student creativity.

“When we formed the committee, we felt that fostering creativity in students may be the most challenging aspect of teaching,” said Bob O’Connell, an MU engineering professor who co-chairs the committee with Burgoyne. “We decided that holding a symposium every year at which faculty and their students could showcase their success at fostering creativity would both encourage them to continue and inspire others who want to be more successful at it.”

Joining Burgoyne and O’Connell on the committee are Kathleen Boggs of the College of Education, Jana Hawley of the Department of Textile and Apparel Management, and Doug Moesel of the Trulaske College of Business.

The Faculty Creativity Workshops hosted a pair of events during the 2011–12 academic year and held another conference last fall. The next workshop is May 21, the first day of the Celebration of Teaching event. 

The main speaker for the workshop is Jane Piirto, a Trustees’ Distinguished Professor at Ashland University in Ohio whose books include Understanding Creativity, Creativity for 21st Century Skills, and Talented Children and Adults. She is an award-winning poet and novelist, as well as a scholar in the psychology of creativity.

— Josh Murray