The Education for Creativity May Lower the Students’ Anxiety About the Future

Abstract

This paper is a brief presentation of a research regarding the possible correlation between the individual creativity and the level of anxiety about the future of students involved in tertiary education. Basically, our experiment consisted in measuring the creativity quotient of a number of 30 students using a previously developped scale, and then comparing the results with their levels of anxiety about the future determined using the Bolanowsky AAF scale. Preliminary results show that students with higher scores at a creativity test feel better prepared to face the future, and exhibit lower levels of anxiety regarding their educational and professional evolution. On the other hand, there is growing evidence that the individual creativity can be significantly improved through specific education. Since the students’ anxiety is a catch all indicator of the factors having a negative impact on the process of education, it results that a systematic effort to stimulate the creativity of the students might be one of the most effective means to mitigate the impact of many risk factors and improve the overall quality of education.

Keywords: CreativityAnxiety about the futureRisk in education

Introduction

We have argued elsewhere (Susnea et al., 2014), starting from ethical considerations, that the

formal education system must foster the creativity of the students, as a means to provide them with a

certain robustness against the uncertainties of the future, and we suggested (Susnea, Pecheanu & Tudorie,

2015) that a reformed School remains the only institution capable to do this on a large scale.

These ideas are supported by many prominent voices (see Robinson, 2009; Wagner, 2012, and

many others).

But is there any experimental evidence that creativity really does it? Are the students that score

high at the creativity tests better prepared to cope with the uncertainties of the future?

For obvious reasons, longitudinal studies that track the evolution of the students and the outcomes

of the education over long periods of time are difficult to carry, and in lack of such data, we chose to

indirectly measure the students’ uncertainty about the future through one of its effects: the anxiety.

The present paper describes the preliminary results of a research aimed to compare the individual

creativity with the level of anxiety about the future of the students involved in technical tertiary

education. The experimental data suggest a possible correlation between the two indicators: students with

high creativity are visibly more confident that they will be able to successfully face the challenges of the

future, while less creative students exhibit higher levels of anxiety about their professional future.

Related Literature

There exist a significant literature (see Florida, 2006; Resnik, 2007) arguing that the modern society

is fundamentally different from what it used to be just a couple of decades ago: “we are shifting from an

economy based on physical inputs—land, capital, and labor—to an economy based on intellectual inputs,

or human creativity...” (Florida, 2006).

Economic data (Ocean Tomo, 2015) clearly support this idea: for example, between 1975 and

2015 the weight of the intangible assets in the market value of the S&P 500 companies raised from 17%

in 1975 to an amazing 84% in 2015 (see figure 1 ).

Figure 1: Fig. 1. The evolution of the components of the market values of the companies listed in S&P 500 (source: Ocean Tomo, 2015)
Fig. 1. The evolution of the components of the market values of the companies listed in S&P 500 (source: Ocean Tomo, 2015)
See Full Size >

Another dimension of the evolution of modern society is what has been called “the pace of life”.

Urbanization, demographic pressure, global communication lead to a constant increase of the overall rate

of environmental change (Bettencourt et al., 2007), and deeply affects the way we perceive this change.

It has been said that our “brain is an anticipation machine” (Gilbert, 2006). We constantly create

projections of “possible futures” by fusing sensory data and information about the past experiences, but

there is always o certain dose of uncertainty in our predictions. On the accuracy of these predictions

depends our ability to adjust our behavior and activity in order to influence the course of events towards a

desired outcome. Therefore, higher levels of uncertainty generate and fuel the feeling that the future is

uncontrollable. From this pespective, Grupe & Nitschke (2013) demonstrate that the uncertainties about the future

are closely connected with the level of anxiety, and argue that anxiety is a normal emotional response to

uncertainty (see also: Rosen & Schulkin, 1998).

It appears that the modern society requires higher levels of creativity (Robinson, 2009), but in the

same time it is less stable, and more unpredictable and therefore generates anxiety (Walters et al, 2012).

The simple experiment outlined below was aimed to clarify how these two factors correlate.

Methodology

Our research hypothesis was that the students having higher creativity quotients are more

confident that they are able to face the challenges of their professional future. Basically, the experiment

consisted in measuring the anxiety levels and the creativity scores of a group of students, and then we

compared the figures.

We have used the Bolanowski scale (Bolanowski, 2005) to measure the anxiety about the future

(AAF) of a group of N=30 students in the third grade at the Department of Computer and Information

Technology of the University “Dunarea de Jos” of Galati, Romania.

This scale comprises the following 4 items:

1.I am anxious that I will have substantial problems to earn enough for my needs after

graduation.

2.After graduation, I will have serious problems with getting a convenient job.

3. In the years to come, I will need to invest a lot of effort to keep up with the progress in my

specialization.

4. I believe that I will need to struggle for a long period of time to reach a good professional

position.

The user input was collected by means of a 5-point Likert scale, and the sum of the results for all

items was reduced to the interval [0-100], where AAF=0 means no anxiety at all, and AAF=100 indicates

a very high anxiety.

The individual creativity quotients (CQ) of the students were determined using the tool described

in Susnea & Vasiliu (2016a). This is a web based application that collects the user responses to a 20 items

scale, and uses elements of artificial intelligence (fuzzy logic) to derive a numeric value (CQ) that refects

the individual creativity. A beta version of this instrument is available online for open access on the web

page of the project TECRINO – Teaching Creativity in Engineering http://www.tecrino-project.eu/ .

Though this tool was primarily intended to assess the evolution of the students involved in courses

of technical creativity, it proved to be a convenient solution whenever a fast evaluation of the individual

creativity is needed.

Experimental Results and Discussion

The experimental data collected so far is still insufficient for a serious statistic analysis, but the

preliminary results, shown in figure 2 , seem to support our research hypothesis.

Obviously, this was a very basic experiment. Further research is needed with a larger and more

diverse group of students.

Since dropout is a major component of what has been called “academic failure” (see Rumberger,

1987), we would extend the Bolanowski scale by adding another item to reflect the anxiety induced by

the fear of not being able to complete the studies.

Also, it is known that there are considerable gender differences in what concerns the incidence and

intensity of the anxiety (McLean et al, 2011). Therefore it may be useful to analyze the results

considering the gender of the participants (in our experiment there were 22 male, and only 8 female

participants).

Figure 2: Fig. 2. The creativity quotient CQ compared with the AAF index for N=30 students in the sixth semester at the Department of Computer and Information Technology of the University “Dunarea de Jos” of Galati, Romania.
Fig. 2. The creativity quotient CQ compared with the AAF index for N=30 students in the sixth semester at the Department of Computer and Information Technology of the University “Dunarea de Jos” of Galati, Romania.
See Full Size >

A number of 19 out of the total of 30 participants in our study (63%) were already employed at the

date of the experiment, so they were obviously less concerned about getting a job. Probably, it would be a

good idea to repeat the experiment with first grade students, who are affected to a higher degree by

uncertainty about their professional future.

An interesting variation of this experiment would be to compare the students’ anxiety not with the

actual creativity, but with their belief about their own creativity .

We have reasons to believe that there exists some soft of placebo effect on the creativity . We

noticed that students who passed a fake creativity test, and were told that they have oustanding creativity

quotients actually exhibited a more creative behavior after the test: they were more confident to enter

technical debates with their peers, produced a larger number of ideas on a given topic. If this is true, then

any creativity course is highly beneficial .

Conclusion

We believe that the level of students’ anxiety is a “catch all” indicator of all the environmental

factors that have a negative impact on the quality of the education (see also Frenzel et al, 2007). This

simple experiment, showing a correlation between high creativity and low levels of anxiety about the

future, is yet another argument in favor of a systematic effort to foster creativity in formal education.

We have argued (Susnea et al, 2016b) that the anxiety about the future is a measure of the risk in

education . It results that monitoring the anxiety of the students using simple tools like the Bolanowski

AAF scale may be used for the early identification of the students at risk. And involving the students in creativity courses may be one of the most effective means to reduce the risks of academic failure and to

improve the overall quality of the education.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.155

Online ISSN

2357-1330