I heard a phrase at a conference once which rocked me to my core.

Research kills creativity.

This little sentence has disturbed and delighted me ever since in my education career.  Education is based on research.  We rely on it for data on our students, curricular programs, what methodology we promote and even what we feed to our children.

We are obsessed with research in education.

So does that mean that as a byproduct we are obsessed with killing creativity?

When I think about this phrase really hard, I boil it down to research taking over creativity.  We need data to confirm or deny if something is working – for that, we must have respect.  But our obsessive-compulsive use of data and research has stifled all of that which inspires, questions and compels us to develop.

Research and development is used in marketing all the time.  They research the potential for a product and then go about developing it.  Yet, our research destroys the possibility of development because we are so concerned with twisting and turning the data to what we want it to be.

I think the real reason that this phrase has given me such aggravation as an educator is the implicit knowledge that the research itself doesn’t kill creativity.  It is the process of manipulating the data and using our own biases to defend or defy the research that kills creativity.

I know of an administrator who makes it mandatory for all her teachers to create a data chart on every child in her school and meet twice a week to chart and discuss that data.  If I had to stare at that data for that amount of time, I think I could make it say whatever I wanted in my head.  That doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Instead, why don’t we spend more time on learning creative ways of engaging those students?  Of getting them to be hands-on in their learning?  In using project-based learning, technology, arts integration and multiple intelligences and anything and everything else that would excite that child’s passion for learning?

Respect your data for what it is and use it to CREATE more meaningful, engaging lessons.  What a creative idea that would be.