Disrupting Education:

Creativity and Innovation in Honors


Many educators speak of the innovation or “creativity crisis” currently afflicting U.S. education: basically, a lack of these qualities in faculty pedagogy and student experiences. According to Bronson and Merryman (2010), a 2010 IBM poll of 1500 CEOs listed creativity as the primary “leadership competency” of the future, integral to sustaining and increasing national economic growth by addressing national and international matters of import, such as healthcare, poverty, peace, hunger, safety, and the environment. Yet, while other countries are making creativity development a priority, US scores have consistently declined. The inattention to developing these skills is a barrier to education, falling under the subcategory of outdated or outmoded pedagogy, suited neither to the needs of today’s diverse student populations nor the ever-changing global employment market. While “innovation” and creativity often are touted in many academic master plans and assessment tools, their definition and implementation remain inconsistent.

Following the 2018 conference theme of “Learning to Transgress”, a 2019 theme of “Disrupting Education: Creativity and Innovation in Honors” seems the next logical step in our explorations. If creativity and innovation have lost their places in American life and education, but are deemed necessary, then honors can and should provide solutions.

The question becomes, how best to think of and incorporate the key terms in our daily practices? I suggest we start with fundamentals.

Children sing, dance, tell stories, draw, observe, question, and develop alternate solutions as they build their experiences, all of which is encouraged. Yet, somewhere along the line, as we progress, we lose those impulses, responses, and even freedom. By the time we are in college, many assume creativity is found only in the arts and innovation is confined to tech and industry—thinking connotatively rather than denotatively.

Lynda Barry, acclaimed cartoonist, author, playwright, and professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Discovery, suggests that everyone is innately creative and this creative impulse has a biological function. In her writing, talks, and courses, she explores the unexpected, helping readers and students rediscover and re-develop their creativity to explore the connection between drawing, observing, experiencing, and thinking. She challenges us to re-discover our inner child to inform our adulthood.

As honors faculty, students, and staff, can we use her ideas as a means to unlock our preconceived notions and complacency? To apply creativity to all aspects of education, thinking and life? The theme allows us the opportunity and Barry offers some techniques to reconsider our current practices and re-imagine them in new and slightly different ways. This provides a wealth of opportunities for engaging, interacting, and disrupting.

New Orleans, known for its creative and innovative approaches to everything from education and environment to music and food, provides the perfect background/backdrop for our explorations. A melting pot of people and cultures, each month in New Orleans celebrates something different and unique.

With all of this to inform our thoughts, proposals for the 2019 conference might consider:

    • What creative means can we find to generate and productively utilize data to meet our needs?
    • How can we re-imagine our teaching techniques? Our advising practices? Our student, staff and faculty support systems?
    • What restrictions or deterrents exist to more progressive or creative teaching and thinking? What can we do to reduce or change them?
    • How can we encourage risk-taking in the classroom—for students, faculty, and professional staff?
    • How can we expand diversity in myriad ways: thinking about people, experiences, backgrounds, etc.?
    • What new jobs will be available in the future? How will we help our students and ourselves prepare for them?
    • How might we engage more parts of our brain to develop solutions to real-life issues?
    • How can we ensure our programs help our students recognize and value their personal experiences, better understand their positionality, and perhaps move beyond to grow?
    • How might we recognize and celebrate our personal difference, experiences, and gifts to re-imagine the future?
    • How will we continue to re-imagine and recreate ourselves and our programs to improve education and our world?

Honors education often is at the forefront of thinking, pedagogy and practice. As practitioners and consumers, we must continue to disrupt and eschew the routine and seek creative means to challenge ourselves, our peers, and our students, thus allowing ourselves and others the flexibility and creativity to move into the future: an inclusive, just, peaceful, and creative global world.