Creativity Development and Vocational Learning

  • Antje BarabaschEmail author
Living reference work entry


Under the conditions of global competition, innovations are essential for companies’ survival. Creative workers who can contribute to innovations are increasingly demanded, and schools as well as training institutions need to respond to this shift in competence requirements by adjusting their pedagogical practices, including assessments, curricula, and learning environments. This chapter provides an overview about creativity research where it applies to VET. It first presents an overview of some of the main pillars of creativity research and explains the concept of creativity vice versa entrepreneurship. This is followed by providing insights into practices of creativity support and assessment that can be applied in the school context and followed by elaborations on what it means to support creativity development at the workplace. Art can be used as a stimulator in creativity development and is increasingly integrated into learning processes – a topic that will be briefly addressed before the chapter ends with an advocacy for more creativity development within the field of VET and elaborating on the importance of deep domain specific knowledge in all of that.


Creativity Innovation VET Art-based learning 


In our innovation-driven societies, flexibility of the workforce has become a panacea for the economy. It entails the expectation that workers are constantly updating their skills and competencies according to labor market needs. International competition forces enterprises to find new approaches toward increasing the productive potential of their workers. One approach toward the systematic development of enterprises within the context of global competition is to rely increasingly on the creativity of all company’s staff members. Therefore, training of workers becomes a continuous need and has an increasingly important role to play. Particularly relevant within vocational education and training (VET) is the acquisition of skills that support workers in seeking new solutions to workplace challenges, which means to think and act creatively. This new requirement is also reinforced by the development and introduction of new technologies, which will replace workers in some fields and will require new jobs in others. Accordingly, VET is particularly challenged to support the development of creative thinking skills and action competence, abilities that can be expected to support individuals in managing their careers successfully and advancing professionally through their creative contributions at the workplace.

The European Commission had declared the year 2009 to the “year of creativity and innovation.” For this purpose, a number of artists and scholars, among them Edward de Bono, the choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, architect Rem Koolhaas, designer Philippe Starck, and the star cook Feran Adrià. They were the official European ambassadors who claimed that “Europe needs to boost its capacity for creativity and innovation for both social and economic reasons” (European Manifest 2009). The report provides recommendations in respect to education and training, supporting lifelong learning, reforming schools and universities, and investments in research and knowledge production. A European report (Cachia et al. 2010) states that creativity, in the educational context, should be conceptualized as a skill that schools need to foster and inhibit in students. Teachers reacted positively to the importance of creativity and innovation in education, although conventional ways of teaching related to teacher-centered methods, frontal teaching, and chalk and talk seem to prevail largely in schools within the European community. The report highlights five major areas for improvement, which are to enable more creative learning and innovative teaching by adapting curricula, pedagogies, and assessment as well as teacher training and include more ICT and digital media. Further, educational culture and leadership are addressed which need to facilitate this change. The report draws on interviews with teachers and addresses the necessity to move toward a more creativity-supportive practice. However, teachers need to be supported with further training because they currently lack the skills and confidence for changing their teaching practice. Additionally, factors such as tight timetables, overloaded curricula, lack of support in the classroom, too many pupils per teacher, and a school culture that does not support new methods were highlighted. To what extent this is also the case for vocational schools has not been addressed and needs to be inquired.

In VET, students are confronted with workplace realities and contribute as employees to the company’s income. Although they are learners who need to build up skills and competences, they are also a source of ideas that enterprises can build on when further developing their existing products or even working on radical innovations. Viewing the apprenticeship as an opportunity for all, apprentices, co-workers, VET teachers, and trainers and employers, requires a change in organizational learning cultures and to some extent work and learning practices. In this chapter the term student and apprentice is used interchangeably, while the first applies more to the school context and the second to the workplace learning part as well as overall to the legal status a student is based in.

This chapter provides an overview about creativity research where it applies to VET. It first presents an overview of some of the main pillars of creativity research and explains the concept of creativity vice versa entrepreneurship. This is followed by providing insights into practices of creativity support and assessment that can be applied in the school context and followed by elaborations on what it means to support creativity development at the workplace. Art can be used as a stimulator in creativity development and is increasingly integrated into learning processes – a topic that will be briefly addressed before the chapter ends with an advocacy for more creativity development within the field of VET.

Creativity Development in VET

The Pillars of Creativity Research

Research on creativity started in the United States in the 1950s with Richard Guilford (1950), a psychologist who developed a comprehensive factor analysis model for the assessment of personality. His psychometric studies on intelligence and creativity showed that there is no causal relationship between intelligence and creativity. Creative individuals tend to create larger amounts of possible solutions, findings that lead to the development of the concept of “divergent thinking.”

Convergent and divergent thinking is needed for the creative process (Cropley 2006). Convergent thinking is oriented toward deriving the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question. Divergent thinking involves producing multiple or alternative answers from available information. It requires making unexpected combinations, recognizing links among remote associates, transforming information into unexpected forms, and the life. Guilford (1950) argued that psychologists and teachers traditionally place too much focus on convergent thinking (problem-solving skills, logic, coherent answers, etc.) at the expense of divergent thinking (unusual, lateral thinking that involves seeking out new possibilities).

Guilford’s achievement includes the development of a comprehensive factor model of the human mind and personality, which consists of 120 creativity factors. For Americans his research was at the time of utmost importance in the context of international competition and cold war. Not only was it important for the development of new competency assessments, for example, among pilots, it also was expected to help find the best talents, an urgent desire following the “Sputnik-Schock,” which stands for Russia sending its first satellite into orbit. The result was a massive investment in the United States into creativity research (Krause 1996).

In the aftermath of the massive initiation of creativity research, many different disciplines started to be concerned with it, such as psychology, philosophy, cultural science, economy, sociology, neurobiology, and education. Howard Gardener, with his theory of multiple intelligences, pathed the way for the recognition of additional abilities that are beyond rational thought and rational logic. Especially the intelligences associated with the arts and sports (musical, visual-spatial, and bodily kinesthetic) are highly relevant when it comes to acting creatively. Today, especially within the field of economics, the importance of creativity development has become highly prominent, which must have consequences for the ways in which not only students within higher education institutions are trained but also apprentices within VET.

While there are many research centers focusing on students and knowledge workers to develop their creative potential (Stanford D-School, Stanford Department of Management Science and Engineering, International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University or Hasso Plattner Institute), within the field of vocational education and training, the relevance of the topic seems not to be recognized much at this stage. This book chapter follows the advocacy of Gerald Hüther (2011, 2012) and Rothauer (2016) in arguing that VET schools need to go far beyond teaching knowledge and essential life and learning skills and open up for new ways of teaching that support the creativity of students as an essential competence.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is the competence to create innovations (Witt 2010), and more specifically Amabile (1996, p. 33) coins it as “A product or response is creative to the extent that appropriate observers independently agree it is creative. Appropriate observers are those familiar with the domain in which the product was created or the response articulated. Thus creativity can be regarded as the quality of products or responses judged to be creative by appropriate observers, and it can also be regarded as the process by which something is produced.”

Amabile (1987) developed a simple model for creativity which comprises three features: domain-relevant knowledge, technical skills, and intrinsic task motivation. To produce work that is original, she argues, individuals must also possess creativity-relevant skills, such as suspending judgment, self-discipline, perseverance, and nonconformity. Motivation is generally divided into extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, whereas the latter is more conducive to the generation of new ideas. Although an eagerness to work diligently appears to be an essential component of high levels of creativity (Golann 1963) and although a number of introspective accounts describe creativity as marked by deep involvement in the activity at hand, these accounts also stress the importance of intellectual playfulness and freedom from external constraints (e.g., Einstein 1949).

Acting creative means to find valuable starting points for renewal bring ideas for their solution and realize them properly and with efficiency. At the core of creativity is creative thinking which resolves out of a new combination of what is already known. Creative thinking skills, however, are manifold and can comprise constructs, such as visionary thinking, diagnostic thinking, strategic thinking, thinking with ideas, judgmental thinking, contextual thinking, or tactic thinking. Also, analogical, associative, lateral, and combinatorial thinking skills have been referred to. Developing all of these thinking styles is a comprehensive task for teachers and requires a thorough revisit of curricula in order to understand to what extent these thinking styles are embedded in the training of competences in VET.

Rothauer (2016, p. 40) summarized the request for the variety of skills needed to be creative: “Considering our holistic abilities we not only need to connect analytical thinking with associative, experimental thinking, but also intuition and emotion with rationality. We need to trust sudden insights and unusual lines of thought and follow up on them, instead of only go through something systematically and analytically. Experiments of thought and the openness for untested terrain contribute in our times of constant change and less predictability to shaping the future than the attempt to continue with well-known and proven approaches.”

The creational process or “Schöpfungsprozess”involves the experimentation with ideas, their consideration, discarding, selection, rearrangement, revision, and perfectioning, which has been coined as the method of “design thinking” (Plattner et al. 2009). Holm-Hadulla (2005) had summarized the process of creative thinking as it is embedded in the design thinking approach with preparation, incubation, illumination, realization, and verification. Wording differs when describing the method, and a last order should be mentioned here. Design thinking according to Rustler (2016) comprises to understand, observe, synthesize, develop ideas, prototype, and test (Rustler 2016). Especially the development of prototypes has been considered largely relevant in educational settings. Working with ones’ hands, materializing ideas, shaping and reshaping them, as well as sharing them with a group have become a common practice within the schools who prescribed themselves to the method.

Next to understanding of what creativity and the creative process mean, it is also relevant to have a common idea of how to identify creativity. According to Barron (1955) and Guilford (1950, 1957), creativity consists of two core elements. These are on the one hand newness, novelty, or originality and on the other hand appropriateness, usefulness, or meaningfulness. Judging creativity by means of standardized testing seems to be adventures if not impossible according to the large scope of these dimensions. Especially research findings on the ways in which our memories work are pertinent for understanding creative work. Among the two types of memory, declarative and non-declarative, the latter is particularly relevant when studying creative minds. Declarative memory is closest to everyday meaning of memory; it is the capacity to recall everyday facts and events into consciousness. Declarative memory is representational and provides us with the means to model the world and to compare and contrast remembered material. Vice versa, non-declarative memory is expressed through performance rather than recollection. While this can be declared as right or wrong, non-declarative memories appear as changes in behavior and cannot be judged in terms of accuracy (Howard-Jones 2010). For the context of VET, where the majority of assessments of work performance is done qualitatively by experts, it is highly relevant to have common criteria for the assessment of behavioral changes and performance.

The terms creativity and innovation are often used interchangeably. In the following, the concept of “innovation” will be introduced and somewhat distinguished from creativity. Innovation has been defined as “the intentional introduction and application within a job, work-team, or organization that are designed to benefit that job, work-team, or organization” (West and Rickards 1999). West and Farr (1991, p. 16) understand innovation as “the intentional introduction and application within a role, group, or organization of ideas, processes, products or procedures, new to the relevant unit of adoption, designed to significantly benefit role performance, the group, the organization or the wider society. The elements need not be entirely novel or unfamiliar to members of the group, but it must involve some discernible change or challenge to the status quo.” The term “innovation” is used in many different contexts. There is the discrimination according to how new the innovation is as mentioned above: basis innovations, simple imitations, or creative imitations. In the literature appear many different types of innovation, such as incremental, semi-radical, radical, social or environmental innovation, etc. (Rustler 2016).

Research on creativity has outlined a large number of abilities and skills that contribute to being creative. Although intelligence is relevant, only in combination with phantasy, it might lead to innovations. Very important in the context of the abilities of our minds, memories, nerves, or emotions are that creativity requires knowledge. “Without knowledge phantasy cannot evolve and ideas cannot be developed, except by chance” (Witt 2010, p. 24). In order for creativity to lead to innovations, further requirements are courage, a mood for experimentation, seeking new information, appreciation of the new and of change, the ability and willingness to fool around, curiosity and openness, self-confidence, endurance, and persistence. All of these are requirements that shape personalities in particular ways – a task that VET teachers and trainers need to pursue. How to approach supporting creativity in apprentices within VET schools is part of the content in the next section. It will provide some ideas derived from the literature, and it is meant to inspire for “fooling around” with pedagogical methods and tools.

Preconditions for Supporting Creativity Development in VET Institutions

The sociologist Ulrich Bröckling (2007, p. 154) summarized the challenges that all individuals face in the race for more creativity in the following way. Foremost, creativity is something that everyone owns or disposes over – an anthropological possession. It is further something that one needs to have – a binding norm. Above and beyond, it is something that one never has enough of – an “interminable Telos” – and last, it is something that can be increased by applying various methods and exercises. It is a learnable competence. Creativity development in students starts with VET teachers becoming and acting creative. What this entails has been studied by Tanggaard (2014) who claims that creative learning pathways require to:
  1. 1.

    Fool around and play with things and materials at hand.

  2. 2.

    Dig deep into traditions as sources of inspiration

  3. 3.

    Learn from, manage, and survive resistance.


For teachers in VET, the topic is new, and there are many constraints that they need to overcome in order to make room for new approaches to teaching and learning. Challenges are manifold. It starts with teachers being mostly occupied with managing the required content within the given classroom time and the feeling that there is not enough room for maneuver left to support more individualized learning within experimentation. The incentive to teach students to be more creative is often missing, because many companies, which train apprentices, still do not see the value of more creative workers and therefore creative competence is not purposefully required (e.g., not listed in job advertisements). Reports of apprentices about their workplace experience indicate that throughout their training they experienced that workers are mostly concerned with managing a given task and little with seeking better ways for developing products or managing their days. Innovations or innovative ideas at the workplace even cause unrest, insecurity, and inconvenience and are therefore often not wanted or welcomed. There is the conviction that apprentices first need to learn their trade and acquire the foundational knowledge and competences for working in a chosen profession. Qualified workers often do not expect from apprentices to take part in a critical assessment of work processes and product development. Lastly, competence assessments and quality standards can be constraining when room for exploration and experimentation is needed. Both require openness for mistakes and fuzziness. When it comes to designing classroom instruction in innovative ways, teachers might face multiple issues, such as a troubled relationship to technology, a self-image as being not creative, different personal interests and aspirations about how to work, and also issues of identity (linked to their course of study, academic orientation, occupational choice, image of the profession, or area of specialization entered) (also see Perret and Perret-Clermont 2011, p. 169).

Where VET is organized in a dual nature, part time in school and part time at the workplace, the students’ appreciation for work and using their growing professional skills can be met (Nielsen and Kvale 2003; Tanggaard 2006). Workshop formats where practical skills are thought can to some extent be of similar nature. By using technology, such as videotaping or video annotation, learning between the workplace and school can be bridged. Focusing on the products and services developed and enabling a critical discussion, for example, on the aesthetics of it are effective tools also for creativity development.

Focusing on the scope of action for teachers, some of the constraints above can be overcome by appropriate teacher training as well as by consulting the literature for pedagogical tools. For the different forms of training, a “framing” specific to the learning activity is needed in relation to the nature of the tasks involved (exercise, individual or collective project, development work), the type of educational support that is established, the implicit “teaching contract” that structures exchange, the individual or collective form of work, the time frame (work to be completed in a few hours or over a course of several weeks, with or without a fixed deadline), and finally the forms of educational assessment made of the completed work (Perret and Perret-Clermont 2011, p. 169).

Focusing on classroom instruction that stimulates creative thinking, Feldhusen and Treffinger (1980, p. 32) proposed ten recommendations for establishing a creative climate, which is essential for student engagement:
  1. 1.

    Support and reinforce unusual ideas and responses of students.

  2. 2.

    Use failure as a positive to help students realize errors and meet acceptable standards in a supportive atmosphere.

  3. 3.

    Adapt to students’ interests and ideas in the classroom whenever possible.

  4. 4.

    Allow time for students to think about and develop their creative ideas. Not all creativity occurs immediately and spontaneously.

  5. 5.

    Create a climate of mutual respect and acceptance between students and between students and teachers, so that students can share, develop, and learn together and from one another as well as independently.

  6. 6.

    Be aware of the many facets of creativity besides arts and crafts: verbal responses and written responses both in prose and poetic style and fiction and nonfiction form. Creativity enters all curricular areas and disciplines.

  7. 7.

    Encourage divergent learning activities. Be a resource provider and director.

  8. 8.

    Listen and laugh with students. A warm, supportive atmosphere provides freedom and security in exploratory thinking.

  9. 9.

    Allow students to have choices and be a part of the decision-making process. Let them have a part in the control of their education and learning experiences.

  10. 10.

    Let everyone get involved, and demonstrate the value of involvement by supporting student ideas and solutions to problems and projects (as cited in Fasko 2000–2001, pp. 319–320).


The creation of a creativity-supportive atmosphere is the foremost condition for students to discover and work with their creative ideas. The next step for teachers is to enable students by providing a number of tools as well as knowledge and experiences.

Fasko (2000–2001, p. 321) proposes for these purposes the following actions for an inquiry-discovery learning experience:
  1. 1.

    Provide the initial experience to interest students in inquiring about a problem, concept, situation, or idea.

  2. 2.

    Provide the students with manipulative situations and materials to begin avenues of exploration.

  3. 3.

    Supply information sources for students’ questions.

  4. 4.

    Provide materials and equipment that will spark and encourage student experimentation and production.

  5. 5.

    Provide time for students to manipulate, discuss, experiment, fail, and succeed.

  6. 6.

    Provide guidance, reassurance, and reinforcement for students’ ideas and hypotheses.

  7. 7.

    Reward and encourage acceptable solution strategies.

Additional strategies are suggested in the literature:
  1. 8.

    Use randomness, such as when students are required to incorporate material and stimuli into their work (Ernst 1948).

  2. 9.
    Replicate a typical innovation process, which comprise the following elements (Witt 1996, p. 7):
    • Establish a framework for potential change.

    • Browse through information to find a starting point for an innovation.

    • Collect ideas for change and renewal.

    • Assess the ideas and select feasible ideas.

    • Concretize ideas and develop measures for their implementation.

    • Test the new product or process.

    • Introduce the new product or process.

    • Test it and improve it.

The next step after creating framework conditions and a climate as well as applying various tools and approaches is to focus on specific measures that support the generation of effective novelty (Savransky 2000):
  1. 1.

    Improvement (improvement or perfection of both quality and quantity of what already exists)

  2. 2.

    Diagnostics (search for and elimination of shortcomings in what already exists)

  3. 3.

    Trimming (reduction of costs associated with existing solutions)

  4. 4.

    Analogy (new use of known processes and systems, e.g., bionics)

  5. 5.

    Synthesis (generation of new mixtures of existing elements)

  6. 6.

    Genesis (generation of fundamentally new solutions)

In addition to:
  1. 7.

    Brainstorming (Osborn 1957) and brainwriting (Rohrbach 1969)

  2. 8.

    Divergent thinking (mental provocation and introduction of stimulus word) (Bono 1996, p. 138; Guilford 1950)

  3. 9.

    Inversion method

  4. 10.

    Morphological methods by newly constructing of elements of a complexity by mindmapping, functional analysis, and comparisons with nature (Zwickly 1971)

One of the essential preconditions for creativity is coined as “cognitive style,” which means understanding complexities and being the ability to break set during problem-solving. The following features were identified by Amabile (1996, pp. 88–89) as relevant in this respect:
  1. 1.

    Taking a different perspective on the use of objects

  2. 2.

    Abandoning an old set of problem-solving strategies and moving into a new direction

  3. 3.

    Understanding complexities

  4. 4.

    Avoiding foreclosure of alternatives

  5. 5.

    Suspending judgment

  6. 6.

    Using wide categories in order to find relationships between diverse bits of information

  7. 7.

    Remembering accurately

  8. 8.

    Breaking out of performance scripts

  9. 9.

    Perceiving differently


Interpreting, conceptualizing, and applying these techniques require from teachers exercising with students and learning what and how it works best under specific didactical considerations. Ideally, the application of these approaches builds on the primary goal of teaching knowledge and skills as well as building competences as they are listed in the framework curricula of a training program. The last points to consider for teachers are assessment criteria and assessment procedures. The assessment of creativity largely remains a subjective statement; finding objective criteria to judge creativity seems to be difficult, if not impossible. This might be a reason for neglecting the development of creativity within VET curricula, because learning it cannot be easily assessed or measured.

Nevertheless, Amabile (1979) undertook the endeavor to identify criteria for what she termed the Consensual Assessment Technique with the following 16 dimensions to judge creativity:
  1. 1.

    Expression of meaning

  2. 2.

    Degree of representationalism

  3. 3.


  4. 4.


  5. 5.

    Degree of symmetry

  6. 6.

    Planning evident

  7. 7.

    Novelty of idea

  8. 8.


  9. 9.

    Novelty of use of material

  10. 10.

    Variation of shapes

  11. 11.

    Effort evident

  12. 12.


  13. 13.


  14. 14.

    Overall organization

  15. 15.


  16. 16.

    Technical goodness


These criteria may guide teachers in their assessment of students’ creative work. The assessment should ideally be done by the students themselves in order to shape their critical judgment skills. Since assessment is essential for student learning, it should be given substantial time and attention. At the same time, the feedback needs to be given by starting with positive reinforcement first and then judgment by content variables defined at the beginning and be sensitive when it comes to the overall implementation. Similar criteria apply to creative work at the workplace, which will be addressed in the next section.

Framework Conditions for Unleashing the Creative Potential of Apprentices in Enterprises

Enterprises are increasingly realizing that workers need to take over ownership and that new approaches are necessary to profit from employees’ full potential. More than before, it is important that employees can act autonomously and problem oriented (Griffin et al. 2007). Creativity in this way becomes an aspect of work performance, while at the same time, it means an active form of well-being (Warr 1994). This corresponds well with Hackman and Oldham (1976) Job Characteristic Model which comprises those aspects that are relevant for workers to be satisfied at work: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback from the job.

Accordingly authoritative hierarchical management structures need to be replaced by participatory approaches with less reporting, more recognition, and trustful and fear-free cooperation among workers and apprentices. This new approach not only sets free productive potential among managers, who are traditionally largely concerned with administrative or reporting tasks, it also requires new forms of work organization, a new communication culture, as well as a shared learning culture. The establishment of a creative climate is as important in organizations as it is in schools. This involves that apprentices perceive new tasks as a challenge, to have the freedom to play with ideas, and that new ideas are supported. It requires an atmosphere of trust and openness and a dynamic use of time and space. An atmosphere of liveliness, playfulness, and humor needs to be created for which leaders are largely responsible. Supporting creativity also requires discussions, a readiness to take risks, and discharging conflicts (Rustler 2016).

Social factors can have a powerful impact on creativity (Amabile 1996), and the question of what are the social conditions most conducive to creativity becomes highly relevant for organizational cultures in learning and work settings. Amabile (1996, p. 120) defined the following social environmental influences on creativity, distinguishing between those with a positive or negative effect on workers’ creativity:




Autonomy/sense of control

Threatening critical evaluation connoting incompetence

Sufficient resources

Expectation of critical evaluation

Optimal challenge


Recognition/reward that confirms competence

Contracted-for reward connoting

Reward that enables intrinsically interesting work

Restricted choice/constraint control

Task matched to interest

Arbitrary/unrealistic deadlines

Sufficient task structure to support competent performance

Competition with co-workers


Recognition that failure in work can provide valuable information

Lack of communication

Mechanisms for considering new ideas

Lack of cooperation

High-level encouragement toward innovation

Emphasis on the status quo

Immediate supervisor encouragement

Emphasis on extrinsic motivators

Co-worker skill diversity

Win-lose competition within the organization

Co-workers’ openness to new ideas

Rigid procedures

Rigid status structures

Apathy toward project from others in organization

Co-workers challenge ideas constructively

Emphasis on intrinsic motivators

Competition with outside organizations

Constructive work-focused feedback

Clear strategic direction, with procedural autonomy



Next to work climate, the learning culture within a work setting can impact creativity development. Particularly important for working creatively is a solid information base. Information exchange at the workplace, especially between apprentices and more experienced workers, through working in teams or through rotation models where apprentices can get to know different parts of the enterprise and being able to observe processes would support the development of a wider view and the possibility to gather knowledge. In addition to these sources of information, various media and digital devices can be used. However, finding reliable and valuable information requires good searching skills as well as critical judgment skills.

A change in the work organization is a logical result of the required climate changes described above. This could mean that a formerly vertical organization needs to be turned into a largely horizontal work organization, with project work being the norm. Decision-making would be more than before a concern of middle management, such as project managers. Individual responsibility and initiative among workers are strengthened, and ideally cooperation takes on the form of equal partnership. While individual creativity, which involves activities that individuals perform on their own, will still be required in certain jobs and work environments, more emphasis is put onto organizational creativity mechanism, or the practices and formal procedures adopted by organizations to promote creative behavior (also see Bharadwaj and Menon 2000). Tanggaard and Stadil (2014) frame the conditions for creativity work with low distance of power, quick interchange of knowledge, learning across sectors, and the conceptualization of new products and designs on “the edge of the box.”

Some of the conditions above are already becoming a reality in enterprises, while others are still mainly theoretical considerations. The gradual workplace culture change and a turn toward valuing, unleashing, and using workers’ creativity start to arrive in the minds of VET teachers and trainers and lead to changes within the organization of apprenticeships. One trend would be to delegate more responsibility to the apprentice, especially during times of the master journeymen’s absence. Such situations force the young employee to find ones’ own solution that one believes is better than those that already exist. The new trend to become early on a member of a team and over time of many different teams (which can mostly be practices within larger enterprises and organizations), some of them can be called “innovation teams,” provides apprentices with the experience of developing a shared understanding of what a company stands for, what its goals are in terms of vision and mission, and how it wants to achieve them. Values, attitudes, and shared beliefs are highly relevant, and learning about them as well as integrating them in ones’ mind-set is part of the socialization process at the workplace.

After addressing the cultural and organizational needs within schools and workplaces to facilitate creativity development among VET students, the necessary framework conditions are clarified. However, there is an aspect missing that mostly comes to mind first when talking about creativity. It is the arts as well as arts-based methods in teaching and learning that heavily rely on creativity and also inspire new one. The following paragraph will provide some elaborations on the role of art and its integration into VET.

The Role of Art in Teaching, Learning, and Working

Joseph Beuys declared once “everyone is an artist” (1972, Manifest at Documenta 5 in Kassel). While the sentence holds true, it might often be used ironically to comment on ones’ humble attempts to work creatively. However, the statement is becoming a philosophy for modern workplaces to the extent that not just the creativity of workers within the so-called creative professions needs to be developed but that every ones’ creativity can be drawn on to develop innovations. Creativity is needed to produce art and art inspires new creativity. This has implications for the ways in which individuals and teams work, on the shape of their work environment and on the usage of art as a tool to unleash creativity.

While most people think of art primarily in the form of paintings, music and performance, or sculptures, it can be much more. When during the era of Pop Art art has been declared as a good, Marcel Duchamp’s readymades declared goods for art, and concept artists declared a concept as art, the idea of designing almost everything as art evolved, and finally art became much more than a physical product or creation. It can be a process, a concept, a rhetoric design, a service, or a network. Art can be anything, be it immaterial, digital, or virtual (Rothauer 2016).

Along with the creation of art came the notion of design. Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system, or measurable human interaction. The idea of designing something does not only relate to shaping a product with a particular aesthetic approach; it is also the response to develop something better because the existing product or practice seems to be insufficient. Thinking about a solution for this insufficiency is foundational to design and later on to design thinking. Today many different approaches to design have been developed because of the large variety of perceived defects in society, e.g., sustainable design, information design, inclusive design, service design, or social design (see Rothauer 2016).

Design thinking can build a bridge between art, design, and finding solutions for particular problems through the development of new ideas. It is mainly an innovation method applied in education and gradually now at workplaces, e.g., at Swisscom. However, most enterprises that apply the methods of design thinking have not taken a holistic design thinking approach, which would also require a change of their work environment, a requirement which was claimed to have a major impact on creative thinking and creative work. Although working with art is not a requirement within the design thinking theory, the development of the collection of information and inspiration, e.g., by looking at art objects, as well as the development of new designs that can be artful brings the two close together. Next to it, art-based methods to shape work and learning are increasingly applied in education and some workplaces.

Rothauer (2016), for example, cites a project undertaken at the company Unilever which struggled to remain competitive in the market and undertook a training program with hundreds of their employees who learned with artists to unleash their creative potential. A representative from human resources resumed: “(…) I think that by exposing people to the visual arts, to the theatre and to poetry, the skill levels in design, video and therefore advertising and personal communication, both written and verbal, have gone up. People are being more challenged” (Hill, zit. by Darso 2004, p. 110). Other examples refer to introducing theater-based methods in the training of nurses, policemen, or personnel in various social occupations.

The “Arts-in-Business Movement” which had been created with this large-scale activity at Unilever could be taken as a model for exploring the possibilities of integrating arts into vocational education and training. Darso (2015) realizes that the movement did not take off within industry yet, although the time seemed to be ripe for it. However, she is convinced that education is foundational to changing the ways in which businesses operate. Students need to experience artfulness themselves first in order to understand how the process works. This would enable them to contribute to innovation at the workplace by understanding artistic creativity as the basis, as a mind-set (Darso 2015).

Based on the realization of what comprises art, Seelig (2012, p. 79) states that “learning about art is much more than learning how to paint a picture, make a photograph, or create a sculpture; it is about how to observe the world with great attention to detail, to internalize those observations, and then to give expression to them in the chosen medium.” It is the challenge for VET to provide environments and opportunities to teach students these observation skills. These skills are essential in the development of an aesthetic mind and critical for developing an individual opinion about something as well as an individual style.


There is a large body of literature about the concept of creativity, how it evolved within the arts and crafts metier, and how it is needed for innovations. Authors have provided several lists of advice as what kind of climate, including attitudes, values, and beliefs, is necessary for stimulating creativity, which methods can be applied within teaching as well as at the workplace, and how creativity can be assessed. While the literature is largely concerned with primary education and the workplace, general education is covered to some extent, and a very few sources do specifically refer to the field of VET. A wide consensus exists about the need to do more to support creativity within education as the following statement by various authors illustrates: “The relationship between education and creativity would seem to be a natural one, almost obvious in its degree of ‘fit’. But to a great extent, this appears not to be the case” (Makel 2009; Plucker et al. 2004).

For VET creativity development and its potential for innovation need to be understood as an essential element within our attitude and our pedagogical approaches toward learning. Part of this paradigm is that teachers and VET students need to develop the self-confidence and trust in their abilities. For VET teachers, the challenge is to unleash their own creative potential as a precondition for understanding how to support students in developing theirs. Thinking about creativity and acting creatively require a change of mind that goes beyond schooling. To think innovatively and act creatively should be a general approach to work and life. Acting creatively selectively in certain moments is less promising than turning this approach into a life philosophy.

While most scholars agree that creativity development is important and that it needs to be better integrated in curricula, there is some disagreement about the role of knowledge in all of that. Some futurists believe that knowledge acquisition will increasingly be less important, because we might soon have a chip in our brain and easily draw on all the existing knowledge. However, this only holds true, if one knows which questions to ask and how to make sense of the existing knowledge. Witt’s (2010, p. 24) statement about the role of knowledge, which says that “without knowledge phantasy cannot evolve and ideas cannot be developed, except by chance,” should support one of the traditional roles that educationalists have and also pioneer their thinking about how to transmit, reflect, and discuss knowledge in the future. It is evident that “domain-relevant skills,” such as factual knowledge, technical skills, and special talents in the domain in question, as well as “creativity-relevant skills,” such as cognitive style, application of heuristics for the exploration of new cognitive pathways, and working styles, need to go hand in hand.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eidgenössisches Hochschulinstitut für BerufsbildungZollikofen/BernSwitzerland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Karen Evans
  • Natasha Kersh
    • 1
  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

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