Creativity is defined here as the use of imagination, existing knowledge and skill, and original ideas to create something new or innovative. In the educational domain, there are multiple factors and processes that are relevant to students’ creativity. In this article, I outline some of motivation and engagement factors and processes that are important for students’ creativity.
Motivation and Engagement - and Creativity
Motivation is defined as students’ inclination, interest, energy, emotion, and drive to learn, work effectively, and achieve to academic potential. Engagement is the behavior that accompanies this inclination and energy (Martin, 2003, 2005, 2010).
Extending this definition to creativity, we might define creativity motivation as students’ inclination, interest, energy, emotion, and drive to use their imagination, existing knowledge, and original ideas to create something new or innovative. Creativity engagement would thus be defined as the behavior that accompanies this inclination and energy.
Over the past fifty years, researchers have developed a range of theories and factors relevant to students’ motivation and engagement. The Motivation and Engagement Wheel (Martin, 2010) is one such approach. Figure 1 shows the Wheel. As this figure illustrates, and as fully detailed elsewhere (Martin, 2003, 2005, 2010), the Wheel comprises:
- Positive motivation
- learning focus
- Positive engagement
- planning and monitoring
- task management
- Negative motivation
- failure avoidance
- uncertain control
- Negative engagement
In considering each of these 11 parts of the Wheel, it is evident they have relevance to students’ creativity. Here each of these factors is described in terms of their potential links to students’ creativity:
Self-belief is students’ belief and confidence in their ability to use their imagination, existing knowledge, and original ideas to create something new or innovative, to meet challenges they face in the creative process, and to innovate to the best of their ability.
Valuing is how much students believe what they create or innovate is interesting, useful, important, or relevant to them or to others. If students value the creative process, they tend to believe that what they create or innovate can be inspiring or illuminating and believe that it is important to create and innovate.
Learning focus is being focused on innovating, solving problems, and developing creative ideas and skills. The goal of a learning focus is personal development and personal progress - not beating or outperforming others. If students are learning focused, they tend to work hard, want to learn more, enjoy learning new things, enjoy solving problems by working hard, and do a good job for its own satisfaction and not just for rewards.
Planning and monitoring is how much students plan their creative activities and pursuits, and how much they keep track of their progress as they are doing them.
Task management refers to the way students use and manage their time in their creative pursuits, organize their creative activities, and choose and arrange where they create and innovate.
Persistence is how much students keep trying to work out a creative solution or to solve a problem even when it is challenging. If students are persistent, they keep working through their creative activity until they complete or solve it and spend good time trying to understand parts of the creative task or activity that do not make sense straightaway.
Anxiety has two parts: feeling nervous and worrying. Feeling nervous is the uneasy or sick feeling students get when they think about the creative process or creative activity. Worrying is their fear about not doing very well in the creative process or creative activity.
Failure avoidance occurs when the main reason students initiate or persist with a creative task or activity is to avoid doing poorly at it or to avoid being seen to do poorly at it. If students have an avoidance focus, they tend to engage in the creative process mainly to avoid getting a bad result, avoid people thinking they cannot do it, or because they do not want to disappoint their parents or teachers.
Uncertain control refers to students’ uncertainty about how to do well in the creative process or how to avoid doing poorly in the creative process. If students are uncertain in control, they can be at risk of helplessness or disengagement when it comes to creative activities and pursuits.
Self-sabotage refers to students’ behaviors that reduce their chances of success in the creative process. Examples are procrastination, not trying, or wasting time while they are expected to be engaged in the creative process.
Disengagement is evident when students feel like giving up when undertaking creative tasks or activities. Students high in disengagement tend to accept failure, believe there is little or nothing they can do to avoid failure or attain or repeat success, and behave in ways that reflect helplessness.
Assessing Creativity Motivation and Engagement
The Motivation and Engagement Scale (MES; Martin, 2015) is used in schools (e.g., by teachers, counsellors, psychologists) to assess students’ academic motivation and engagement on each part of the Wheel. There is a primary school version (Motivation and Engagement Scale - Junior School) and a high school version (Motivation and Engagement Scale - High School).
Importantly, the MES has also been adapted to assess motivation and engagement in various creative and arts domains (e.g., Martin, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). This has been important in showing that we can derive valid and reliable measures of motivation and engagement related to creative disciplines.
Supporting Students’ Creativity Motivation and Engagement
Defining and measuring creativity motivation and engagement helps educators boost students’ creativity motivation and engagement. To nurture and sustain creativity it is thus important to boost positive creativity motivation in the forms of self-belief, learning focus, and valuing - and positive creativity engagement in the forms of planning and monitoring, task management, and persistence. While boosting these positive creativity motivation and engagement factors, it is also important to reduce potentially negative creativity motivation in the forms of anxiety, failure avoidance, and uncertain control. It is also important to reduce negative engagement in the forms of self-sabotage and disengagement (Martin, 2003, 2005, 2010).
Portions of this article were presented at the 5th Transnational Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Conference, June 2016, Tianjin, China.
Martin, A.J. (2003). How to motivate your child for school and beyond. Sydney: Random House/Bantam.
Martin, A.J. (2005). How to help your child fly through life: The 20 big issues. Sydney: Random House/Bantam.
Martin, A.J. (2008a). How domain specific are motivation and engagement across school, sport, and music? A substantive-methodological synergy assessing young sportspeople and musicians. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33, 785-813.
Martin, A.J. (2008b). Motivation and engagement in diverse performance domains: Testing their generality across school, university/college, work, sport, music, and daily life. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1607-1612.
Martin, A.J. (2008c). Motivation and engagement in music and sport: Testing a multidimensional framework in diverse performance settings. Journal of Personality, 76, 135-170.
Martin, A.J. (2010). Building classroom success: Eliminating academic fear and failure. New York: Continuum.
Martin, A.J. (2015). The Motivation and Engagement Scale. Sydney, Australia: Lifelong Achievement Group (www.lifelongachievement.com).