Elaboration, the hardest part of creativity

Dscn0056c copyFinally comes the time to cease spinning off new ideas, and use creativity to push one idea as far as possible. Elaboration is the act of  embellishing or adding details to an idea to enrich the initial concept.[1] This adding of details would seem to be the easiest of the creative tasks for the intellectually bright student, however elaboration scores based on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking are continuing to drop indicating an increased need to teach this particular creative skill. [2]

You may not want to tell students this, but the word elaboration is made up of the prefix “e” meaning out of, and the root “labor” meaning, of course, labor. Elaboration come out of work. That is why 40 to 50% of the grade for a creative project should be based on it. So exactly was is elaboration? It looks like different things, depending of the content of the project.

The details are found in the elements that make up the content. For example in visual arts the elements are generally considered to be line, shape, value, space, texture, color.  The basic building blocks of music are pitch, timbre, intensity, and duration. These elements are not are scattered haphazardly across the piece but organized in to create a unified piece. However, unity does not mean repetition to the point of being boring; there is variation within unity – like the same style of brush stroke used to make different shapes, or the same the series of pitches played at different rhythms.  The scale for assessing elaboration could be based on four areas:

1) Amount of detail

2) Use of multiple elements

3) Demonstration of unity

4) Interesting variations

All writing may share the elements of purpose, voice, style, tone, description and organization that students use to create their composition. However, different genres have additional elements. A few major ones are listed below:

Fiction or memoir – character, motive, conflict, climax

Poetry – content, rhythm and sound repetition

Essay- focus, structure, evidence

The element of math and science will be based on elements of problem solving – identifying, classifying, method of investigation, and proof of theory.  According to Torrance creativity occurs in logical stages that can be used in multiple contexts:

1) Sensing the problem

2) Making a hypothesis

3) Testing and revising the hypothesis

4) Conveying the results

Elaboration of detail is essential when testing and revising the initial idea (or hypothesis) and conveying the results of these inquiries. In each case the work that the student does in adding detail through use of elements should be listed as part of a rubric so that students have a path to start their elaboration. Where they end up will be up to their imagination.

[1] Torrance, E. (1988). The nature of creativity as manifest in its testing. In Sternberg, R. (Ed.), The nature of creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[2] Kim, Kyung Hee (2012) Yes, There IS a Creativity Crisis! http://www.creativitypost.com/education

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