Generation Z and Creativity

Abstract: Generation Z needs the adults’ trust in order to escape from behind the monitors and to unleash their creativity. Today’s children need teachers who are involved to help them be creative and develop their literary-artistic language.

Keywords: creativity, life skill, generation Z, literary-artistic language, student, teacher

Generation Z is represented by youngsters and adolescents born after the year 1995, who are constantly oscillating between virtual reality and the real world, thus the issue of language and language education are topical discussions in the educational field, the creativity of the young generation revolving mainly around virtual space and most of the time, being blurred by the fear of not being criticized. Among the students, the digitalization of society entails the degradation of language and the lack of language education, most of them having anxiety when they have to communicate freely, to be spontaneous and opened for a new challenge. Even if they know the language, they no longer manage to express themselves in the plastic way as their predecessors used to, they run into verbal blockages and internalization, reactions generated by prolonged exposure to the virtual world. In order to reduce the degradation of society, measures are required in terms of updating and developing language among the school population, but especially in developing and stimulating the creativity of today’s students.

It is well known that Romanian education finds itself in a period of transition in which it is trying to impose innovations that are hoped to provide immediate but lasting results, but we all know that it is quite difficult for things to change radically in such a short period of time. However, the latest studies in the field show that the current situation can be managed by „streamlining the learning process of students in conditions of mimicked teaching experience, created by the teacher‟ (Cristea Sorin, 2018, p.92) and by trying to stimulate students’ creativity regardless of the object we teach, by identifying the real needs of children and by prioritizing them.

Research has shown that students need a creative, logical thinking that allows them to manage emotions regardless of the context and as a result I considered that Romanian Literature classes are a good opportunity to develop communication skills, the ability to work in a team and the capacity to properly manage the preliminary information they have received, so as to detach them from the screens and give them a new perspective on life and on the world projected in literary works, experiences that can be easily correlated with what is happening around them.

Starting from the definition given by the specialized literature to creativity, according to which it “is a combination of psychic attributes that, under favorable conditions, can lead to the generation of new and valuable products for society” (Sternberg RJ, 1985), I identified a theoretical model in order to support an efficient development of creativity through the use of artistic literary language, a model that takes into account six key elements, found in several specialized works:
1. intellectual abilities;
2. the volume of knowledge/ information;
3. thinking style;
4. personality;
5. motivation;
6. environment.

Among these elements, Sternberg focuses mainly on the intellectual abilities that he considers indispensable in the instructive-educational approach. According to the theorist, the intellectual skills necessary for the development of creativity are divided into three categories:

  • Analytical – the ability to recognize personal ideas that are worth exploring;
  • Synthetic – the ability to look at problems from a new perspective in order to escape the limits of conventional thinking;
  • Practical – knowing how to convince others.

Viewed in the context of life skills development, which is currently being discussed, creativity is a skill without which the success of a student cannot be achieved, because society is saturated with people who find themselves limited by theoretical barriers immediately after they finish school, thus experiencing serious problems regarding communication, teamwork and group integration, adults who prefer to work alone behind a monitor. We can say that these problems are generated mainly by the considerable amount of time that the young people spend in front of the monitors, but also by the lack of communication, either in the family, or at school or among their friends.

The generation that does not know the barriers of communication, lives a life led by the illusion of a perfect existence with endless discussions on social media sites, which, however, do not find their correspondent in real life, hence the raising amount of youngsters who suffer from anxiety or other social disorders. Sir Ken Robinson, a respectable researcher in the field of education who harshly and vehemently criticizes most education systems, believes that the education provided by this system is linked to the old principles of the industry-based society, a culture that is mainly focused on academic side, ignoring the skills and competencies necessary for today’s society: social interaction, emotional intelligence, imagination, creativity, they all get lost behind the monitor. In order to have a satisfying job  in the past, it was enough to go through the theoretical notions, to assimilate them and to be able to apply them at work, without making deviations, while now you need an innovative spirit, initiative, revolutionary ideas, therefor creativity. On top of that, teachers are constantly confronted with the barriers raised more and more often by the „digital natives”, who no longer find a priority in school subjects and consider the current educational system obsolete.

We are talking here about a generation that grew up with smartphones at hand, learning from an early age that any information is just a click away. As a result, they no longer see the usefulness of learning by heart the theoretical definitions and notions, the importance of textbooks, but especially the one of the classical teaching methods, the balance increasingly tilting in favor of technology at the expense of reading, which entails significant shortcomings, both in terms of theory and in terms of literary language. This also leads to the lack of the ability to create connections, to make analogies; most students look for answers on the Internet and get stuck when they do not find them exactly as expected. In this context, teachers are forced to reinvent themselves and update the methods used in the instructional-educational process, so as to arouse the student’s interest and desire to deepen the knowledge that are wished to be transmitted, bringing lessons as close as possible to the reality seen through Generation Z’s eyes, for which, in principle, everything related to school is obsolete. Any teacher dedicated to his profession and his students finds himself in a constant search in order to stimulate and snatch the pupils from internalization and the continuous hiding in the virtual world, for at least 50 minutes. As a consequence, he must always be aware of both methodological changes in his field, as well as with the directions of the virtual world.

During my teaching career, I continuously pursued the transmission of the notions covered by the curriculum, but a top priority of mine has always been being close to the pupils so that I could adapt my working methods and techniques according to the needs and specifics of each class of students. I have been and still am concerned with the methods by which I can stimulate creativity and develop students’ literary-artistic language, so that when they take the exams at the end of an educational cycle they will be able to adapt in order to obtain maximum scores.

Going through the specialized literature, I discovered that in order to stimulate creativity in the Romanian Literature classes, one can choose both formal methods and informal and non-formal methods that fit the children’s interests, age peculiarities and their needs. Among the multitude of methods aimed for stimulating creativity I mention the Frisco method, brainstorming, role play, the workshop method, living library, photo voice, thinking hats, literary process and portfolio method. But in order for all these methods, which are intended to be innovative, to prove their usefulness, it must be borne in mind that ability is a “possibility for an individual to consciously demonstrate that he knows how to do something” (Mihaela Stoica, 2014, p. 9). Creativity is a controlled behavior that leads to the achievement of goals and proves that the bases for the development of life skills are the following four evaluation criteria:
1. Behavior – which is based on the verb TO DO;
2. Knowledge – which is based on the verb TO KNOW;
3. Attitude – which aims at the idea of MANIFESTING AN ATTITUDE, HAVING A POSITION;
4. Performance – which is based on the verb TO DEMONSTRATE.

Without taking into account these criteria when assessing a student’s skills, any attempt to stimulate and develop creativity will lead to failure, because we cannot develop and, above all, create if we do not clearly establish from the very beginning what we want our students to do, what they know, what their position about that specific task is and what they can demonstrate based on what they already know. As Sorin Cristea mentions in his pedagogical works, the didactic act must, among other things, simulate real life events / situations, these experiments being performed with the help of didactic methods that “predominantly employ a fictitious practical action, made by simulating situations of learning in conditions of experimentation ‟ (Cristea Sorin, p.92) and entails the detachment from the virtual world and the anchoring in the lived reality or the one illustrated by fiction.

In order to verify if the life skills can be identified in literary creations, I applied their evaluation based on the text „A lost letter” written by Ioan Luca Caragiale, following the theoretical aspects presented above (BKAP), as follows:

THE ABILITY to reason an opinion – model applied to 8th grade students in two consecutive school years, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (Dănăilă-Moisă Mihaela, 2020, p.16)
Step 1:
BEHAVIOR – to do
E.g. He read the comedy and now he identifies the moral traits of the characters and makes a comparison between their behaviors.
Step 2:
KNOWLEDGE – to know, to acquire
E.g. After reading, he knows how to differentiate between the narrator’s annotations and the dialogue, implicitly, monologue.
Step 3:
ATTITUDE – to have a position
E.g. He is curious what it would have been like if the publication of the letter had not been prevented and he is trying to issue various hypotheses based on the text of the work.
Step 4:
PERFORMANCE – to demonstrate
E.g. He is able to prove that Zoe is a strong woman or, why not, to bring arguments to denigrate her / fight her actions.

Having as a support text the same literary creation written by Ioan Luca Caragiale, „A lost letter”, the teacher can engage the students of generation Z in a creative process, giving them a topic of thought, which should require their knowledge about social media, thus arousing their interest. Students may be asked to answer the following questions: What would happen if the action took place in today’s world? Would there still be a letter or would Zoe and Trahanache have communicated on Whatsapp, Messenger or Instragam? Would Cațavencu have found other methods in order to blackmail his political enemy? Let’s imagine that the tormented citizen is a hacker hired by Cațavencu in order to break into Zoe’s Facebook account. What would the demagogue do with the information thus found? Would he publish the screenshots in the newspaper or on the facebook group of the mountain town? By using these work tasks the teacher proves the his ability to transpose himself into the student’s world, but at the same time he gives free rein to creativity and verifies their willingness to inverse Caragiale’s imagination into contemporaneity.

Still regarding the context of developing life skills through Romanian literature classes and implicitly flourishing students’ creativity, the ability to think critically that is based on the active involvement of the student can be approached by using: communication skills, relationship skills, problem solving skills and collaboration and cooperation abilities. In my opinion, all these skills are important, perhaps even defining factors in stimulating students’ creativity, especially if they are fully exploited and constantly used in class, so that the student becomes familiar with them and comes to consider them natural. When given the discreetly controlled freedom to express their views, to support their own ideas and induced or drawn, to ask questions in order to understand things, to cooperate with others in carrying out tasks, to find solutions and last but not least to accept the diversity of opinions, the student feels in control of himself and especially of the statements made, reaching to make true value judgments that start from theoretical foundations and are passed through his filter, giving free rein creativity. Thus, students can discover that even communication that does not uses a screen can provide freedom of expression.

Each teaching method has its role in the classes, regardless of the object in question. Some aim to facilitate the transmission of theoretical notions, others to set the baggage of knowledge that was previously transmitted in the process of training, but few stimulate creativity, so the teacher has the obligation to constantly study and choose accordingly the methods used in the classes.

As shown in Robert J. Marzano’s work, „treating teaching as a science on the one hand and as an art on the other is not a new concept” [Robert J. Marzano, 2015, p.15] but we must bear in mind that “a truly successful teaching is a dynamic aspect of expertise in a wide range of instructional strategies combined with a deep understanding of each student in a class as well as their needs at certain moments in their lives” [Robert J. Marzano, 2015, p.15-16]. Without these premises, the paradigm of creativity in the instructive-educational approach of the students cannot be taken into account and it is not possible to disconnect them from the monitors and place them in a current time.

In conclusion, I can affirm that the stimulating of creativity and the power to develop it as a life skill is placed in the hands of every teacher who can give his students the opportunity to act creatively, encourage them in these endeavors and reward them for creative thinking, determining them to allocate time to classical study as well. In this way, he can more easily reach the objectives set by the national exam programs and, why not, to facilitate the student’s work in the instructive-educational process, giving him the chance to be self-taught, to think critically, to research what he learns and to transform robotic, mechanical learning into a pleasant, creative process maybe even using modern working tools.

1. Cristea, Sorin, (2018) Training methodology in the educational process, (vol. 10) Didactica Publishing House, Bucharest
2. Dănăilă-Moisă Mihaela, (2020), Creativity from theory to practice, Docucenter Publishing House, Bacău
3. Robert J. Marzano, (2015), The Art and Science of Teaching, Trei Publishing House
4. Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence, New York: Cambridge University Press
5. Vlasie Manuela (coord.), (2014), Life skills in the context of sustainable development – course support

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Mihaela Dănăilă-Moisă, PhD student at Tiraspol State University
teacher, 1st didctic degree, “Dr. Alexandru Șafran” Secondary School, Bacău country, Romania

prof. Mihaela Dănăilă-Moisă

Școala Gimnazială Dr. Alexandru Șafran, Bacău (Bacău) , România
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