Ruth B. Noller Research Grant

Announcing 2022 Noller Grant Awardees

The Creative Education Foundation (CEF) is proud to present the 5th Ruth B. Noller Research Grant award winners. Typically, CEF awards only one Noller Grant per year, but due to an array of circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we suspended the award in 2021. This year, we wanted to make up for the missed year, and our blind reviewers found themselves in a unique situation – they tied. CEF is thrilled to offer two Noller Grants to two worthy applicants. Please join us in offering your hearty congratulations to Honghong Bai and Kim van Broekhoven.

Honghong Bai

Honghong Bai

PhD, Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University; Tsignhua Lab of Brain and Intelligence, Beijing, China

Dr. Bai’s research objective is to explore how young children express their creativity through object exploration and the “Unusual Box Task” designed by Hoicka and colleagues (2013) to test divergent thinking. Past studies have shown that object exploration can disentangle the myth of creativity in early years, when creativity acumen cannot be explored through verbal metrics. The study of creativity in very young children can help answer how creativity originates, which can inform the development of artificial intelligence and also provide information about how parents and educators can create more “creativity friendly” environments for children.

Dr. Bai’s research includes Dutch and Chinese children ages two to four years. The children will engage in a series of tasks including the Unusual Box Task, two self-regulation tasks, a selective attention task, and a visio-spatial working memory task. Based on her findings, Dr. Bai proposes that creativity consists of two iterative processes: discovering new object-affordances and relating different affordances to create more complex affordances with new possibilities. Additionally, she will carry out mediation analyses to test whether specific traits of children mediate the cultural differences in their exploratory behaviors.

Dr. Bai’s research focuses on creativity in children as a dynamic exploration process as opposed to earlier studies that explore creativity as a stable psychological trait. She asserts,
“For a long time, creativity has been predominantly studied as a stable psychological trait of individuals that carries over different physical and social situations…. [T]his line of studies suffered from a prominent limitation, pointing to the fact that creativity is highly dynamic (in relation to the process) and situated in nature (in relation to the context).”

The line of exploration Dr. Bai is pursuing the idea that creativity emerges from the constant (mostly also iterative) interactions between individual traits and physical and social environments. Because there is virtually no research on very young children that also takes cultural differences into account, Dr. Bai’s study is original and may provide valuable information for us to re-think or re-conceptualize what creativity actually is and how creativity originates and emerges in young human beings.

Kim van Broekhoven

Kim van Broekhoven

PhD, Radboud Teachers Academy, Radboud University, The Netherlands

Dr. van Broekhoven’s research explores the extent to which long term interactions between group members influence the emergence of creativity over time. She observes that the “input-process-output” or IPO model is most typically used to study group productivity, but notes that this model is generally restricted to observing interactions between group members at a single point in time, rather than over time. She notes that “…the emergence of creativity via communicative patterns between group members over time remains underexplored, while this process shapes the production of ideas. As such, based on the sociocultural approach to creativity, we aim to identify blocking and enabling communication patterns that emerge from interactions between students, and to investigate how these communicative patterns affect group creativity over time.”

Dr. van Broekhoven’s research design focuses on five groups of undergraduate students in four sessions in which students identify and define a lifestyle problem, and develop an innovative solution. She will conduct a fine-grained, moment-to-moment interaction analysis where every turn of a participant will be coded. By coding every turn of a participant, she hopes to identify communicative patterns in how ideas are proposed, and responses of team members. Communicative patterns will be correlated to the quality of each generated idea to answer the question as to how blocking and enabling communicative patterns between group members influences the emergence of creativity over time.

Dr. van Broekhoven’s research will bring creativity scholarship further by investigating the moment-to-moment interaction between group members that shapes the production of creative ideas. She will test her assertion that group creativity can only be properly understood in the context of what other people say in the preceding and succeeding turns; what actually happens in the moment-to-moment group interaction over time remains an unexplored research path. As she states, “By doing this, I aim to open up this black box of group creativity, and how we can cultivate group creativity. Second, this research will not only use traditional scoring methods, but will also apply novel computational methods to assess creativity via natural language processing (i.e., semantic distance).”

Ruth B. Noller Research Grant

About the Noller Grant

The Ruth B. Noller Research Grant honors the pioneering work of creativity researcher and educator Ruth B. Noller. The Noller Research Grant fosters and supports emerging, paradigm-shifting research with high potential for impact in the field of creativity, creative education studies, and creative thinking by recognizing an individual or team engaged in such research. Noller was widely known for cultivating the scientific understanding for creative thinking. Noller is most famous for developing the creativity formula Cƒa (KIE) – the interaction between Knowledge, Imagination, and Evaluation generates Creativity. Noller’s groundbreaking work served as the stimulus for future research in creativity.

The 2022 submission process was open October 1, 2021 – January 31, 2022 for the 2022 Ruth B. Noller Creativity Research Grant. The successful applicant will receive a $2,000 cash award, free registration to CPSI 2022, and a travel allowance of $400 to defray costs to attend CPSI 2022 in Buffalo, New York.

Eligibility for Consideration:

  • Candidates must have a minimum of bachelor degree level of academic work, with a demonstrated capacity for conducting research.
  • Candidates must be currently working on, or soon to commence, a research project that aligns with the purpose of this grant.
  • Candidates must be willing and able to disseminate their findings through recognized peer review journals, such as, but not limited to, the Journal of Creative Behavior.
  • Candidates must be willing to present their work to a future Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI), either virtually or in person.

Selection Criteria:

  • The candidate demonstrates an established interest in independent research in the field of creativity beyond the particular work being supported by this grant.
  • The candidate’s research should have potential for far-reaching impact on the field by exploring an original aspect of creativity versus a replicative study.
  • The candidate should be able to show how the financial support offered in this grant will directly affect the research in question.

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