Leads: Marie-Claire Shanahan (UofC Education), David Ng
Team: Latika Raisinghani, Tathali Urueta, Janice Valdez
Collaborator: Samson Nashon (UBC Education)

Science and Creativity. What's the Connection?

What do children think about science? Does this idea of science include their understanding of what it means to be "creative?" If not, how does this affect their interest in scientific things? This project aims to look at these questions, and provide formative ways of researching the intersection of science and creativity.

Funding: AMBL/Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC

Status: 2014 – 2017
Funds: ~10,000/year

Open Research Blog:

Note that this research initiative is in connection to our Science Creative Literacy Symposia program.


Formal Summary of Research

Science is a creative endeavour, and it is essential that science education experiences both reflect that and provide opportunities for students to develop scientific creativity. Students who demonstrate scientific creativity are more likely to pursue careers in science and engineering, and scientific creativity provides a way of encouraging scientific interest and talent in those who will pursue those careers.

Perhaps more importantly, creativity plays an important role for all students in developing an authentic view of science that better represents the practice of science as a creative endeavor. Without opportunities to understand that relationship, students tend to view science as an algorithmic process that always proceeds through the execution of set research steps. This misrepresents science and tends to alienate students who seek creative and open-ended engagement and thought. This can lead to loss of scientific identity for many students, a loss that contributes to declining interest, attitudes and engagement in science. And despite the widespread recognition from science educators and sociologists of science that creativity is a central element of scientific work, opportunities for students to understand and develop scientific creativity are strictly limited within most school curricula.

This study attempts to understand how that mismatch can be addressed by exploring students’ and teachers’ responses to an outreach program that integrates opportunities for scientific inquiry and creative writing. It compares four different versions of the program to probe the essential elements necessary in programs of this type to effect change in students’ own scientific creativity and their understanding of science as a creative endeavor.

The study context is the Science Creative Literacy Symposia, a field trip program hosted by the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. The program invites students in Grades 5-7 to campus with their teachers for a day-long workshop that consists of scientific activities led by Science graduate students in the morning and creative writing opportunities led by Fine Arts graduate students in the afternoon.

The first phase of the study (Year 1 and 2) will be an exploratory qualitative examination of student and teacher experiences in the program as it already exists. Students (n = 250 and 300) will participate in workshop sessions on various topics and in discussions of scientific creativity based on the interests and background of the individual graduate student facilitators. Data collection will include student writing completed during the workshops as well as open-ended questionnaires and interviews during and one month after the workshops.

This is currently where we are in terms of our timeline. Data has been acquired and we are actively coding the survey responses along a span of 40+ thematic nodes. Once coding has been done, we will next perform some analysis and provide a preliminary report.

The second phase will follow some students through three years of participation in the program with their teachers, during which classes will be randomly assigned to four different versions of the workshops. These four versions will differ in the degree of connection made between students’ scientific inquiry work and their creative writing and in the degree to which scientific creativity is explicitly discussed. This longitudinal mixed-methods phase will involve collection and analysis of students’ writing and open-ended responses to the program as well as quantitative analysis of their responses to measurement instruments probing their understanding of science as a creative process, their own developing scientific creativity, their perceptions of themselves as scientifically creative and their resulting identification in science. These will draw on existing instruments such as the Science Student Role Identity Questionnaire, developed and validated by the principal investigator in part through previous SSHRC-funded research and the Scientific Creativity Test for Secondary School Students developed by Hu and Adey (2002).

The third phase of the study (Year 5) will be an in-depth longitudinal and comparative analysis to understand if integration of science and creative writing has the desired effects of developing scientific creativity and understanding of science as a creative endeavor and what type of integration is necessary for long term changes in students understanding and perceptions. These findings will provide valuable empirical insight into the pedagogical and curricular changes that can be made to better represent scientific creativity and prevent the loss of interest and engagement related to its exclusion from school science programs.


Ng, D., Raisinghani, L., Shanahan, M.C. Urueta, T. and Valdez, J. (2017). Bridging the Gap Between Science and Creativity Through the Science Creative Literacy Symposia. Presented by MCS and JV at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education 2017 Conference. Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. May 2017.

Ng, D., Raisinghani, L., Shanahan, M.C. Urueta, T. and Valdez, J. (2016). Science Creativity Literacy Symposia: Impact on Students’ Perceptions of Science and Creativity. Presented at Investigating Our Practices Conference, UBC Faculty of Education, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. May 2016.