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Lesson Plans

creativity versus imagination

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craig roland (rol1851.EDU)
Sun, 16 Feb 1997 11:48:42 -0500

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PurpleArt wrote:

>This may be splitting hairs, but how would one describe the difference
>between creativity and imagination?...snip...Is there any documented
>research >that could be recommended?

This question frequently comes up in my art methods class and serves as a
basis for discussion and reading. I find that art education students
typically use these terms when writing mission statements, goals and lesson
objectives but are unable to define them or explain what they mean. While
I don't claim to have THE answer to your question, I can share a few
resources and thoughts:

One of the more indepth and thoughtful accounts I've read on the
"imagination" is in the book "Imagination & Education" by K. Egan (& Dan
Nadanar I think....Sorry, I don't have the book handy). I've used the
first chapter "In Search of the Imagination" in this book from time to time
as a reading in my course. A few points from this chapter come to mind:
The imagination is simply a mental function like memory or attention...its
neither good or bad, but becomes so in how it is used and within the
context of particular cultural values...i.e., both Hitler and Shakespeare
were imaginative. Also, the major use of imagination by children is to give
them some sense of power or control in an modern "adult" world (Elliot
Eisner also speaks to this use). One of the more memorable points made in
this book is the notion that we need a kind of education that recognizes
imagination as fundamental to "learning to learn" and as essential to the
feeling that life is more than a repetitive, consuming experience.

For me, the dictionary serves as a good source for defining these terms:

imagination n. 1. the act or power of forming mental images of what is not
actually present.

creativity n. 1. the quality of being creative; ability to create.

creative adj. 1. having the power to create. . .3. constructive;
purposeful; involving something useful or worthwhile.

So, for me, "imagination" involving "visualizing things" while "creativity"
involves giving form to those "visualizations"...or something like that.

Two authors/researchers I've found to be most helpful in understanding and
defining creativity for myself (and my students) is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl
( I had to run out to my car to get the tape of his book "Flow" for the
spelling of his name) and Teresa Amabile (I highly recommend her book
"Growing up Creative" for teachers, art ed students and parents and her
book "The Social Psychology of Creativity" for those interested in studying
research on this subject.)

Hope this helps some,


CRAIG ROLAND. Associate Professor-Art Education.
Department of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville Florida.
32611-5801. (352) 392-9165 - Art Ed Office (352) 392-8453 - Fax

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