Purdue University Graduate School

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Finding meaning: Creativity in instructional design

posted on 2024-04-27, 23:45 authored by Carolina Cuesta HincapieCarolina Cuesta Hincapie

Creativity is often discussed as the representation of the highest human creation. It is essential to human development, innovation, and societal progress. It has been conceptualized as essential in various disciplines, from engineering to design. However, due to its complexity, creativity has been approached differently by different authors in different disciplines.

Instructional design is the systematic process of creating learning experiences that are effective and appropriate. Limited research has been conducted to describe what creativity means in instructional design and how to include creativity in instructional design education, in addition to which learning techniques or activities use instructional designers that can foster creative thinking. This dissertation consists of three research studies that explore the meaning and perception of creativity in instructional design and instructional designers and how they include creativity in their everyday practice.

The first study of this dissertation examines the extent to which creativity has been intentionally addressed in instructional design core courses. This multiple case study examines the degree to which one online instructional design master's degree program and its course designers incorporate elements (intentionally or unintentionally) that could foster students' creativity and creative thinking. Results indicated that core courses included learning activities and instructional strategies with the potential to foster creativity. However, explicit references mentioning creativity or being creative were scarce.

The second study explores the perception of creativity and creativity in instructional design through the lens of six academic experts in the field of instructional design, using a phenomenographic approach. Results showed four distinctive categories of experiencing creativity and creativity in instructional design. These categories of descriptions formed an outcome space with two main approaches: “Understanding of Creativity,” in which 1) Creativity is a human skill that requires intentionality, and “Perceptions of Creativity in instructional design” where 2) Creativity is a fundamental element in instructional design but is not acknowledged, 3) Creativity is related to the development of the designer's character and, 4) Creativity as a pedagogical and conceptual challenge to include ID education. Additionally, participants discussed their approaches to including creativity in their teaching.

The third study used a participatory design approach to co-create what creativity means and looks like for instructional designers. Participants included instructional designers and faculty from instructional design programs. No single definition resulted from the activities; rather, multiple themes arose throughout, adding to what is known about instructional designers' competencies related to creativity and adding a new dimension to the research about creativity in the instructional design field. Findings evidence the need for instructional designers to acknowledge the creative process better rather than focus exclusively or primarily on processes and products. Additionally, it highlights the intricated relationship between creativity and instructional design and the importance of adding creativity into instructional design education, developing creative self-efficacy in instructional designers, and exploring the role of creative thinking in the work of instructional designers.

Taken together, these three qualitative studies explored and described creativity in instructional design in different phases. The results revealed that creativity is a complex concept for instructional designers to conceptualize and define. However, it is beneficial to discuss it in different contexts, such as academia and the workplace.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Curriculum and Instruction

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marisa Exter

Additional Committee Member 2

Timothy Newby

Additional Committee Member 3

Robin Adams

Additional Committee Member 4

Vlad Glaveanu

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