Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 11-15
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 11
The Unexpected and Education: Curriculums for Creativity
Romina Elisondo1, Danilo Donolo1, María Cristina Rinaudo2
1Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto y Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones
Científicas y Técnicas, Río Cuarto, Argentina
2Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, Río Cuarto, Argentina
Received October 29th, 2013; revised November 28th, 2013; accepted December 5th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Romina Elisondo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
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We propose ourselves to argue about the importance of creating unexpected contexts as a strategy to
promote creative processes in education. We have analyzed educational proposals by our team research
and specialists’ theoretical issues in the field of education and creativity. Our intention is to present theo-
retical and practical considerations about the role of the unexpected in the promotion of creativity in edu-
cational contexts. Learning activities, teachers, contexts, materials and teacher intervention are some of
the components of educational contexts that can be designed in an unexpected way to give place to situa-
tions for creativity.
Keywords: Creativity; Education; Unexpected Activities; Unexpected Teachers; University
Unexpected, Like the papers found in Cortazars drawer1.
For more than a decade, we have focused our attention on
creativity in educational contexts (Rinaudo & Donolo, 1999;
Rinaudo & Donolo, 2000). We have developed general consid-
erations about educational contexts features that offer situations
for creativity (Elisondo, Donolo, & Rinaudo, 2009a). We be-
lieve that the construction of creative educational contexts de-
pends on the perceptions and beliefs of the actors with respect
to their creativity, expressions and possibilities. We researched
on students and teachers’ perceptions (Elisondo, Donolo, &
Rinaudo, 2009b, 2011) and analyzed basic beliefs necessary for
the construction of educational creative contexts (Elisondo, Ri-
naudo, & Donolo, 2011; Elisondo, Donolo, & Rinaudo, 2012).
It is necessary to think about the relationship between crea-
tivity and education beyond the development of a series of
pedagogical techniques and creative students’ stimulation. We
understand that it is relevant to take along a global creative
perspective to think about educational transformations towards
creativity. We agree with Lin (2011) on the importance of inte-
grating perspectives related to creative teaching, teaching for
creativity and creative learning within a general educational
Curricular decisions are based on broad and radical concep-
tions of creativity (de la Herrán, 2013). In order to generate
creative contexts of learning, it is necessary to integrate the
proposals that refer to the parts of complex construct: creativity.
Generating creative contexts of learning is not to teach diver-
gent thinking techniques or art expression, but to articulate
these isolated actions in a general perspective, in an innovative
way of understanding education and the role of teachers, stu-
dents and parents in that new perspective. An integrated and
radical perspective involves “releasing a balloon so that it can
go up in the air (de la Herrán, 2013), letting it fly, do, grow,
learn and create. New interventions, new thoughts and contexts
are created for individuals in creative educational environments.
Socio-cultural perspectives of creativity comprehension and
education can help us construct such transformations (Glăveanu,
2013; Craft, 2013). New ways of looking at education, educa-
tional proposals as well as teachers and students’ actions are
essential to promote creative educational contexts. Understand-
ing creative processes as complex and dynamic socio-cultural
phenomena is the first basic conception that we must support to
transform educational contexts creatively. Creativity and edu-
cation are socio-cultural processes that are always developed in
interaction with others, with different languages and with al-
ready built and to-be-built artifacts.
We think that the situations for creativity in educational con-
texts can be generated inside and outside of the classrooms and
institutions. In a previous publication, we have outlined some
general characteristics of curricular designs, learning activities,
teacher interventions and educational contexts that would give
individuals more opportunities for creative processes (Elisondo,
Donolo, & Rinaudo, 2009a).
Extracurricular activities offer different opportunities to de-
velop creative processes (Csikszeenmihalyi, 1996; Davies et al.,
2013). In a study carried out at the National University of Rio
Cuarto, students state that research extracurricular activities and
teacher collaboration offer opportunities for learning and crea-
1Papeles Inesperados (Unexpected Papers), Julio Cortázar’s book (2009)
edited by Aurora Bernárdez and Carles Álvarez. ALFAGUARA Editorial.
Madrid. First pages available in: www.alf eros/libro/
(30-09-2 013).
tivity that are not always present in classroom contexts. Devel-
oping contact with significant people, learning theoretical and
practical knowledge, solving complex problems and articulat-
ing theory and practice are some of the actions facilitated by
participating in extracurricular projects (Elisondo, Donolo, &
Rinaudo, 2009c). The extracurricular activities in a biographi-
cal research about Argentinean people well known for their
production in different knowledge fields allow learning and
interaction with teachers and specialists that positively influ-
ence the development of creative processes (Elisondo, 2013).
It is essential to create educational contexts in which creativ-
ity is the core of teaching and learning processes, contexts in
which diversity, originality and alternatives are possible so that
creativity group processes can be promoted and the possibilities
of establishing creative bonds, nets and societies can be ex-
panded. It is also of utmost importance to accept integrated,
radical and socio-cultural conceptions in the comprehension of
creativity in order to create educational contexts. Taking deci-
sions and taking on the risks that these conceptions bring about
are also important to transform education creatively.
The Unexpected in Creativity
Creativity, in its different stages and expressions, is related to
the unexpected, surprising and impressive. The creative proc-
esses add a series of stages that are developed in a recurrent and
complex way (Csikszeenmihalyi, 1996). Preparation (problem
delimitation, and the initial search for answers); incubation
(unconscious generation of possible solutions to the problem);
insight (conscious discovery of the solution to the problem),
verification (evaluation of solutions and verification of adapta-
tion) and elaboration (the transformation of ideas into products)
are the main elements of the creativity process. At different
stages of the process, ideas, images, knowledge, combinations
and unexpected products emerge.
Creativity cognitive researchers consider that insight (sudden
discovery of the solution to the problem), conceptual expansion
(expansion of conceptual frameworks to develop creative ideas),
recently activated knowledge (activated knowledge due to the
individual’s new experiences), conceptual combination (syn-
thesis of concepts previously divided) and mental images (valid
meaning patterns) are the main cognitive components of crea-
tive thinking (Ward, Smith, & Finke, 1999). Such cognitive
processes are combined in a complex way and, sometimes, un-
expectedly during the development of creativity (Smith, 2011).
It is almost impossible to anticipate the forms and peculiarities
of cognitive processes during creative production and thinking,
it is not easy to predict the unexpected multiple connections
that take place during creativity.
Resent research analyze the effect of unusual and unexpected
situations in creative processes from different perspectives. The
multicultural experiences and the exchange in unexpected con-
texts seem to be closely related to creative possibilities (Leung
y Chiu, 2008, 2010; Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, & Chiu, 2008;
Maddux & Galinsky, 2009; Maddux, Adam, & Galinsky, 2010).
Ritter, Rodica, Damian, Simonton, van Baaren, Strick, Derks &
Dijksterhuis (2012) conclude that unexpected situations, cre-
ated experimentally through virtual simulations, generate flexi-
ble cognitive processes and are related to creativity. In short,
some research on natural and artificial contexts shows that
creativity is related to the unusual and unexpected events and
The unexpected is also related to an important concept in or-
der to understand the initial stages of creative processes: mini
creativity. Mini-c is creativity that is inherent in all learning
process and is defined as new and personal interpretations
based on individuals’ actions, experiences and events (Beghetto
y Kaufman, 2007; Kaufman y Beghetto, 2009; Kaufman, Be-
ghetto, & Baer e Ivcevic, 2010). It is about new insight for
individuals, which generally takes place suddenly and unex-
pectedly. Individuals experience mini-creativities permanently
during the learning process. Assessment of mini creativity is
always subjective; insights are creative, original and new for
each individual when generated.
Craft’s studies on thinking possibilities also provide argu-
ments about the infinite and unexpected of thoughts and crea-
tivity (Craft, 2013). What if? is the question used in classes and
experimental situations to favor the emergence of unexpected
ideas, thoughts and expressions. Beghetto (2007, 2013a, 2013b)
also considers that the unexpected is the way to promote crea-
tivity in classes. The researcher assigns an outstanding value to
the unexpected questions and ideas that emerge during the ex-
change between the teachers and students in classes. The unex-
pected questions generate interesting micro moments in classes
to promote creativity, micro moments that must be recognized
and used by teachers.
Improvisation, which always adds unexpected elements, is an
important creative source (Lemons, 2005; Sawyer, 2004, 2006).
Improvisation assumes unexpected actions and creates new
actions, meanings and experiences. Close relations can be seen
between the unexpected, improvisation and creative processes.
The curricular decisions oriented to creativity must be taken
with some disciplined improvisation (Sawyer, 2004, 2011;
Beghetto & Kaufman, 2011), that is, allowing for some plan-
ning for spontaneity, freedom and the unexpected.
The emergence of ideas and mental images, their combina-
tion and amplification of knowledge diagrams are produced
suddenly, unexpectedly and surprisingly. This seems to be the
main characteristic of creative processes. At the same time,
these processes allow to create new problems and products that
are also unexpected and essential. All the creative process, from
the ideas emergence up to their transformation in products,
seems to take place unexpectedly and uncertainly even for the
own individual. Creative ideas and products are also unex-
pected for others, for members of specialized areas and for
society in general. This is why they initially cause rejection
uncertainty and incomprehension in general.
Creativity development processes are full of unexpected
components and situations. Notwithstanding, this does not
mean that the ideas and creative products emerge easily and by
chance. On the contrary, the unfolding of creative processes
implies effort, dedication and perseverance. The unexpected
components of creativity emerge thanks to the effort dedication
and perseverance of people and groups. The unexpected ideas
and products only emerge when theoretical and practical
knowledge on the fields is available and when people and
groups are devoted and think constantly about certain topics
and problems.
Creative processes have a lot of unexpected, uncertain and
unpredictable situations that give place to uncertainty, motiva-
tion, surprise and the desire to walk unexplored short cuts and
pathways. The curricular decisions acquire innovative charac-
teristics when the unexpected allows for new relations between
creativity and education. The proposals presented below are
Open Access
planning items for the unexpected; we do not wait for the un-
expected as Beghetto (2013a), but we take curricular decisions
and provoke unexpected situations deliberately. The unex-
pected is not only welcome (Rusell & Wyse, 2013), it is inten-
tionally built and proposed in educational contexts. Productions,
redefinitions and transformations of proposals are also unex-
pected, following our argument logic. Curricular planning of
unexpected activities, exchanges, materials and spaces enables
multiple paths to walk in search of thoughts, expressions and
creative productions.
Unexpected Proposals at the University
Adding unexpected elements to educational contexts gives
place to situations for creativity, that is, opportunities that can
be available for students and teachers to develop creative proc-
esses. Even though it is not possible to teach individuals to be
creative directly, it is feasible to create situations so that crea-
tivity can take place in educational contexts. We are interested
in sharing our initial unexpected proposals with students from
National University from Rio Cuarto. We have briefly de-
scribed activities that aim at creating significant experiences
and educational environments that promote creativity. The
proposals presented are innovations within specific frameworks
and private classes, maybe the integration of such activities in
more integrated planning contribute significantly in the con-
struction of wide creative contexts in higher education.
The Suitcase of Grandmother Cristina is an unexpected ac-
tivity that we developed with graduate and postgraduate stu-
dents (Elisondo, Rinaudo, & Donolo, 2011). The activity de-
sign was supported by theoretical considerations that hold the
integration of activities with strange, abnormal and out of con-
text objects, as teacher intervention to promote creativity. In
unexpected activities, the tasks, objects, students’ demands and
emerging results or products are unforeseeable. In The Suitcase
of Grandmother Cristina, students in groups were asked to
write a meaningful text and then interrelate at least three unex-
pected objects taken from the suitcase. In The Suitcase of
Grandmother Cristina, students could find the following ele-
ments: a toy shoe, an old metronome, a modern metronome, a
silicone mate and an object that creates holograms. The groups
created unexpected rich and diverse productions; participants’
fantasies, games, experiences and emotions were integrated in
the texts. Most groups commented on childhood experiences
related to games and imagination.
The Suitcase of Grandmother Cristina was an unexpected
activity for the contexts in which it was developed; university
classrooms that allowed individuals to recover childhood emo-
tional and playful experiences; create original productions and
relate the proposal to learning expected contexts (Elisondo &
Rinaudo y Donolo, 2011).
Unexpected teachers, who did not belong to our department,
were invited to the classes with university students of Counsel-
ing, Special Education and Initial education. From our point of
view and accepting a socio-cultural perspective of comprehen-
sion of creative processes, we understand that unexpected
teachers can make important contributions to students’ learning
process and creativity promotion. Unexpected teachers allowed
students to establish contact with other people, know different
points of view and unexpected knowledge according to the
educational programs established (Elisondo, Donolo, & Rinaudo,
We also offer students unexpected links so that they can surf
countless places on the web and find knowledge and unlimited
ideas; and can walk unexplored paths (Elisondo, Donolo, &
Rinaudo, 2013a). The links proposed show advances, develop-
ments and scientific and technological enigmas in different
knowledge fields. The inclusion of unexpected links in the
course syllabus, activities and evaluations is supported by con-
siderations related to knowledge fluency and dynamism and the
need to build strategies and procedures related to information
literacy. The provisional, dynamic and complex nature of
knowledge that is produced and communicate second by second
question us to create educational proposals in which students
recognize at least the importance and need to know how to
search, select, understand and produce information in different
formats and contexts. The links also open unexpected and end-
less paths to navigate while each link can take to a thousand
new pages which in turn provide with unlimited learning possi-
bilities. Regarding the course syllabus, the links move away
from what has been established in the programs and allow
building unexpected, original and new relations between pre-
scribed knowledge and knowledge that flows. Links give power,
while knowing is a valuable weapon to take decisions in every-
day life, social networks, academic education and future career.
Our proposals include visits to unexpected places such as
virtual libraries (Elisondo, Donolo, & Rinaudo, 2013b). Maybe,
it would seem that libraries cannot be considered unexpected
places in higher education, however, and according to students’
comments, not only traditional but also virtual libraries are not
places of frequent visit during higher education. Going to the
library is an unexpected invitation for many students that we
have interacted. In both virtual and traditional libraries, students
encounter interesting treasures, unexplored paths, knowledge,
original ideas, alternative perspectives and things to read, do
and question. The planned visits to unexpected places where to
do unexpected actions is for us a curricular decision oriented to
creativity promotion in higher education. The unexpected links
and the visits to virtual libraries are activities that allow to ar-
ticulate initial proposals of information literacy, science com-
munication and creativity at the university.
When we were unexpectedly proposed to teach Creativity,
subject of the first year of Initial Education at the National
University of Rio Cuarto, we considered that we should provide
educational contexts where learning unexpected experiences
could be built (Elisondo & Donolo y Rinaudo, 2013c). Some
curricular decisions were taken, the activities, contents, teachers
and evaluations acquired some unexpected characteristics. We
designed many opportunities to do, that is to say, different
learning activities that allowed building knowledge, integrating
ideas and curricular contents among students. Our syllabus was
made with expected and unexpected contents that included
different perspectives in the research field of creativity and
multiple possibilities for teaching practices. Results were also
unexpected; students built educational resources, didactic units,
objects, ties and emotions that surprised us. Students’ produc-
tions stood out because of their originality and theoretical
soundness regarding argument. In evaluations, teachers and
students recovered the value of significant experiences in
building creative contexts of teaching and learning processes.
The unexpected creates an innovative, different and dynamic
context in which it is possible to develop ideas, create products
and interact with others in different ways. The unexpected
opens possibilities also unexpected to learn in a different way in
Open Access 13
higher education contexts.
The proposals described are backed up by supported theo-
retical curricular decisions; we do not do what first comes to
our mind to create the unexpected but we plan in detail and
based on theoretical considerations about education and crea-
tivity. The results observed in students’ productions and inter-
pretations are favorable and encouraging. Students say they
find opportunities in the unexpected proposals to think, feel,
develop ideas, create products and continue learning. It proba-
bly seems a contradiction to talk about an unexpected curricu-
lum, since the curricular notion refers necessarily to the plan-
ning of expected events.
However, we believe that taking curricular decisions to plan
the unexpected is an interesting way to create innovative con-
texts in the teaching and learning processes.
Final Considerations
The unexpected includes new ways of thinking educational
contexts. It goes against monotonous activities, doing the same
thing and always obtaining the same results. The unexpected
characterizes the creative processes, redefines, transforms and
makes them singular and complex. Proposing educational con-
texts using unexpected components may be a new way to break
established practice and allow space for, improvisation and
creativity. The unexpected creates opportunities not only for
students but also for teachers. Building new ways of teaching
that move beyond predictable and expected tasks may enrich
teaching practice and professional development
Curricular decisions that include unexpected components
may allow teaching and learning contexts in which knowledge,
emotions and significance tie with others and with cultural
artifacts. Technology information and communication, for ex-
ample, offer numerous unexpected opportunities to learn and
create. Knowledge that is built can be unexpected and, in many
cases, undisciplined.
Besides introducing some particular proposals, our intention
is to think the unexpected in a general way as a strategy to cre-
ate new learning contexts focused on creativity. Each teacher
interacting with students will build particular proposals and
experiences as unexpected components. We consider that the
unexpected provides interesting aspects to think about wide
educational proposals that go beyond the regular tasks and
planning of some teachers. Broadly speaking, the unexpected
offers elements to think about innovative educational contexts,
in which the didactic triangle can be seen from a different per-
spective that can recognize teachers and students’ potential and
at the same time, recognize the dynamic and complex nature of
curricular contents. It is essential to foster thinking and learning
possibilities from the construction of significant interactions
with others and cultural tool, socio-cultural diagrams on educa-
tion and creativity provide interesting analytical frameworks in
this sense.
Considering education from another perspective also implies
unexpected and unpredictable risks that not all teachers are
willing to run. After all, creativity, as Sternberg (2006) says, is
a decision. Generating creative educational contexts also in-
volves decisions and risks.
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