Does Creativity Decline or Increase with Age? A Study of the Development of Creative skills Among Elementary School Students the Driving Forces Behind and the Needs of the Future

Nanna Sofie Riskjær Jakobsen, Maria Steffensen & Sabrina Veng Stæhr

Student thesis: Master thesis


A central enquiry in the field of creativity research concerns the question of creative development, which many researchers have looked into over the years. This thesis more specifically questions the validity of professor George Land’s study that finds a substantial decline in creativity as children grow op. This thesis: “Does creativity decline or increase with age? A study of the development of creative skills among elementary school students, the driving forces behind, and the needs of the future” seeks to examine the development of creative skills in Danish elementary school students from grade 0 to 9 and to map the possible driving forces behind this development. Furthermore, this thesis comments on the needs of the future in regard to creativity in the labour force. This thesis is an analysis of children’s creative development and is based on a quantitative study that is triangulated with qualitative approaches. To measure creative potential, and thus deduce creative skills, the quantitative study administered three divergent thinking tests; Alternative Uses Test, Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, and Duck Challenge, to 407 students in one Danish elementary school. The results from Alternative Uses Test were rated on the variables: fluency, flexibility, originality, elaboration, subjektiv vurdering, and creative value. The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking results were rated on the variables: fluency, flexibility, originality, elaboration, and resistance to premature closure; and the Duck Challenge results were rated on the variables fluency and duck score. Analysis of variance found significant variance across the grades on most of the variables. Tukey’s HSD helped identify that the variances on the variables increased with grades, thus this thesis found that creative skills increase with age. To investigate the drivers behind the increase in creative skills, interviews were conducted with two teachers from the elementary school where the quantitative study took place. The teachers’ experience of the creative development in their students and Teresa Amabile’s three components of creativity model helped derive two primary driving forces. 1) That the natural resources; expertise and creative thinking skills grows too as the students grow older, and that it is the students who manage to hold onto both components that helps drive the increase in creative skills. 2) That the many teachers who act as motivators and facilitators of creativity in the classroom support the students’ creative development and thereby the increase in creative skills as they get older. 3 In regard to the question of the importance of creativity in the labour force of the future, Associate Professor Lars Geer Hammershøj, who does research in children’s education and creativity, was interviewed to attain greater insight in this matter. Additionally, articles from the researchers Ballalle & Ballalle and Halal, Kolber, & Davies were incorporated to shed further light on how our era’s rapid technological advances will affect the jobs of the future. Both sources led to AI as being the main disruptor of the future labour force, since AI will come to automate many professions. There is a silver lining though; AI will have a hard time replacing jobs that require complex, reflexive, and ambiguous work, which are indeed some of the strengths of the creative employee. This is why creativity will play a sizeable role in the future job market. It is not just the future labour force who will be unsettled by AI, though. Recognised British creativity researcher Ken Robinson argues, that it is of utmost importance that the school system cultivates creativity to the highest degree they can muster. This thesis agrees with Ken Robinson’s point, but reiterates that the thesis’ quantitative study found an increase in creative skills with age which is a desirable starting point in regard to the future we face.

EducationsMSc in Psychology, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages167