Award-winning education professor shares creative genius

by Aimee Zabel

Dr. John Baer, professor of Education and this year’s recipient of the Dominick A. Iorio Award for Faculty Research, delivered a lecture in Sweigart Hall on Nov. 7, entitled “Creativity in Physics Versus Creativity in Poetry, Gender Differences in Creativity, Creativity and Mental Illness, and How to Nurture Creativity: A Few Things I’ve Learned About Creativity, Minus the Statistics.”

Established in 1997, following the retirement of Dean Iorio, an award was set up in his name for excellence in faculty research. Baer has studied the area of creativity extensively for the past 15 years and was presented with this prestigious award at the University’s Founder’s Day Ceremony on Nov. 3.

“Creativity varies from area to area, even from task to task, and despite the way creativity has been thought about, written about and mostly tested, as if it were a single skill, you can deploy it anywhere,” said Baer.

Equipped with Powerpoint slides, Baer presented his research, and despite the title, gave statistics of his findings among the students he has tested over the years. Drawing influence from Theresa Amabile, associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University, Baer concluded that creativity is not generic, but rather
task-specific.

“Creativity is not one muscle; it is a lot of muscles,” Baer said. “If you go to the gym and all you do is pull-ups, sure, it will strengthen some muscles. Same with creativity training: If you want to develop all those creativity muscles, then you have to exercise all those
creativity muscles.”

An avid fan of Disney World, Baer is currently working on a study to develop his own creativity testing model, the Amusement Park Theoretical, which provides a framework for creativity assessment, the selection of students for gifted programs in school, and the development of creativity
training programs.

Baer pointed out that while there may not be one distinct definition of creativity, it is not something that remains
consistent.

“Creativity is not an either, or,” he said. “We are all creative, to greater or lesser degrees, and I think that creativity can change. Not only does that creativity change from the course of the day to a year, but in the kinds of things that we do.”

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