10:22 AM

To Create, or Not to Create, That Is The Question.

UHD’s Dr. Scott Furtwengler Research Is Seeking the Answer


By Sheryl E. Taylor

Dr. Scott Furtwengler

Throughout his journey in higher education as a graduate student and a professional, Dr. Scott Furtwengler’s curiosity was always piqued in measuring student success as it relates to creativity.

His study, “Development of a Creativity Orientation Scale Using EFA”, explores the psychological motivations and reasons why people do not engage in highly creative and innovative activities, will publish in the December edition of the “Journal of Creativity”.

“The findings of the study suggest a continuum across creative-averse orientation and creative-approach orientation and how it predicts behavior,” said Furtwengler, Assistant Director of UHD Institutional Research. “This may help explain why, even though some of us engage in creative ideation, we may be reluctant to actually produce creative or innovative ideas.”

During his doctoral studies, Furtwengler and a fellow colleague conducted research on the "Big C" and the "Little C" of creativity. The "Little C" are activities performed every day using simple items to solve a problem in a novel or creative way; whereas the "Big C" is how innovation or an idea changes a whole domain...think Mozart’s contribution to classical music.

So, why are there not more "Big C" creatives in the world when we educate millions of K-12 to college students each year?

What Furtwengler learned is that people non-consciously suppress their creative tendencies due to fear of social exclusion or being labeled as atypical, abnormal, deviant, against the grain or negative.

“How do people make that leap to being an Einstein or a Mozart?” he said. “What can we do to get to the ‘Big C’ level of creativity?” From surveying more than 200 participants via an online questionnaire, Furtwengler discovered that many of the respondents considered themselves creative, but they looked negatively on creative people and creative ideas. “They weren’t even aware of this perspective and it blew me away.”

However, the question remains ... what can we do about it? “We need to delve deeper into how we are nurturing the creative tendency within our families, schools, communities and cultures as well as creating environments that offer the latitude to make mistakes and explore new ideas,” he emphasized. “It’s a pretty tall order, but there isn’t just one thing. How do these external, social and psychological influences interact with one another and influence our fear ... and what are some of our internal mechanisms that allow us to make that leap to being creative?”

When it comes to higher education institutions, Furtwengler wants to gather more research and publicly share his findings on “how to better support students, faculty and staff who may have innovative ideas to create evidence-based programs and effective strategies to help nurture creativity. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Dr. Scott Furtwengler holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from University of Houston. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.