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Professor takes creativity lessons to France, South Africa and Thailand

  • I love creativity ... right?
    I love creativity ... right?
    Associate Professor of Education Kyung Hee Kim discusses a creativity myth with teachers from across Europe during the European Council of International Schools' 2012 Annual Teachers Conference.
    Photo by Chip Goldstein
  • Lessons in leadership
    Lessons in leadership
    Kyung Hee Kim talks about creativity with students at the African Leadership Academy. The students were working on each group's Seven Stages of Creative Thinking Process to solve underlying problems in Africa.
    Photo by Margot Yopes

A William & Mary professor has taken her research on creativity to an international audience over the last few months, first in France, most recently in South Africa, and next in Thailand.

Associate Professor of Education Kyung Hee Kim presented her work at the European Council of International Schools’ (ECIS) 2012 Annual Teachers Conference in Nice, France, and at the International School of Paris in November. During following two months, she traveled across Africa and trained teachers and students from 45 different countries in Africa at the African Leadership Academy.

Kim is an internationally known researcher in the field of creativity. Her work has been featured in multiple newspaper and magazine articles, including a Newsweek cover story.

Kim’s research has revealed a “creativity crisis” in modern America. According to her work, the country’s scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking have been declining since 1990, even as America’s IQ scores continue to rise. (Learn more about the creativity crisis in this Ideation story.)

{{youtube:medium:left|oG-5cy8clY8, Professor Kyung Hee Kim discusses her research chronicling the loss of creativity in the United States.}}

Kim’s international travels this fall began in France, where she was one of the keynote speakers for the ECIS conference. Approximately 1,255 educators from 56 countries attended the event, which focused on providing professional development for staff members – mostly teachers -- at international schools.

During her keynote at the conference, Kim discussed the definition of creativity and the differences between creativity and intelligence, noting that a person can be very creative without being intelligent and vice versa.

Kim also addressed some common myths about creativity, including the idea that people love it. In fact, Kim pointed out, creativity can be a difficult and painstaking task that flies in the face in current conventions, making many uncomfortable, as creativity diverges from the norm. Kim encouraged fostering creativity in homes, schools and workplaces by creating a climate in which creative attitudes may be expressed openly. When an individual displays creative attitudes in a creative climate, creative thinking flourishes.

{{youtube:medium:left|kwOUDTHZ81Q, Professor Kyung Hee Kim discusses common myths concerning creativity.}}

In Paris, Kim worked with ECIS member school the International School of Paris. ECIS schools, which include students from multiple nationalities, focus on providing students the kind of creative climate that Kim spoke about at the conference.

In mid-December, Kim brought her research to another creativity-friendly school, this time in Africa. The African Leadership Academy “seeks to enable lasting peace and prosperity in Africa by developing and connecting the continent’s future leaders” from Africa’s 55 different countries. Before arriving at the academy, Kim drove across Africa – from Cape Town, South Africa, to the neighboring country of Swaziland  -- talking to everyone she met about their experiences and education. Kim finally arrived at the ALA in Johannesburg, where she presented her research on creativity and worked with faculty, staff and students.

Students at the academy come from across Africa and are selected based on their entrepreneurial achievements and community involvement. During school breaks, the students participate in internships throughout Africa. Most of students go to a college or university in Europe or North America, and internships are continuously arranged by the four full-time staff members at the academy, even through the graduates’ college years. All of the students agreed to go back to Africa after finishing their higher education to change Africa for the better. (Learn more about the ALA by watching this CNN video).

As part of her work at the academy, Kim led students in a creative thinking process exercise, asking them to define the largest underlying problem in Africa. Using Kim’s “Seven Stages of Creative Thinking” process, they generated ideas to solve the program and evaluated the solutions. Finally, the students created 45-second commercials to present their ideas and propose solutions.

Kim said that she feels a strong connection to the students in Africa, because they remind her of her own experiences growing up in South Korea. Africa was “the most life-changing experience,” she said, and she hopes to return there during her upcoming sabbatical to help students and teachers in Africa.

Kim’s next keynote speech will be for the 2013 Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in April.