Students’ confidence in their creative abilities

It is important that educators understand how young people think about their own creative capabilities in order to foster students’ skills in this area.

A new research paper, Creative self-beliefs among children and adolescents, published in the Australian Journal of Education, seeks to understand more about young people’s confidence in their creative abilities, as well as their beliefs about whether these abilities are fixed or malleable.

Dr Paul Ginns is Associate Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Sydney and the lead author of this paper. He says the overall goal was to test a model of young people’s creative self-beliefs, drawing on valid and reliable self-report measures of these self-beliefs.

‘In our opinion, the field of educational research was lacking suitable measures of these self-beliefs for children and adolescents. They are available for adults and there's a decent amount of research in that, but not so much for children and adolescents in educational settings,’ he tells Teacher.

‘And we thought, well, that is quite a limitation holding back research and evaluation on creativity in educational settings. So, testing whether these measures held up against commonly used measurement standards was therefore an important question that we wanted to answer.’

Exploring a multidimensional model

The study explores a multidimensional model of young people’s creative self-beliefs that comprises creative self-efficacy, growth-creative mindsets, and fixed-creative mindsets.

Ginns says self-efficacy is a general term essentially meaning situation-specific self-confidence. ‘Self-efficacy has been recognised for many decades now as a very important source of motivation, including in educational settings. In creativity research, that's important. Do people believe that they have the capability to be creative?’ he says.

‘People who hold fixed-creative mindsets tend to believe creative skills are unchangeable and creativity is the province of geniuses. So, “I'm just not a very creative person” – that’s the kind of self-talk that someone might engage in. Compare that to people holding growth-creative mindsets, they're more likely to believe that creativity is trainable.’

To do this study, data were collected from 2,980 Australian students attending 11 primary schools (655 students) and 11 high schools (2,325 students). The average age was 12.86 years, 69% of respondents were male and 22% came from a non-English speaking background. The students completed the survey individually during normally scheduled classes on either personal computers or tablets.

The findings

Ginns says the findings can be categorised into 3 key areas. First, the researchers were successful in adapting existing scales to measure creative self-beliefs for use with children and adolescents. ‘Our overall goal was, can we test a model of creative self-beliefs using measures that are appropriate for children and adolescents? And I would say we were successful in doing that.’

Secondly, to further test the validity of the model and the scales in it, they asked students to self-report on 2 aspects of their personality: conscientiousness and openness to experience.

‘Conscientiousness is very well recognised as an important personality factor for life in general. It’s very often predictive of people's achievement, people's school engagement, so a range of different factors,’ Ginns says. ‘There's another broad personality factor which is very important in creativity research – openness to experience – and some have referred to this as the core of the creative personality. So, people who are more open to experiences tend to be more oriented towards creative pursuits and creative work.’

The results show that both creative self-efficacy and growth-creative mindsets were positively and substantially correlated with openness to experience. As expected, fixed-creative mindsets was negatively correlated with growth-creative mindsets, creative self-efficacy and openness to experience.

The third major set of findings focus on what’s called ‘measurement invariance’.

‘By invariance I mean, are there key aspects of the model, such as correlations between the factors, that are roughly the same across different demographic groups? Those might include gender, age, language background and school type, primary versus secondary.’ Ginns shares.

‘When we establish measurement invariance, we can be confident about combining results across such groups or comparing them in the knowledge that they won't be some lurking comparing apples with oranges problem that would invalidate our conclusions.’

Young people and their creative capabilities

Overall, the results indicate that students do have a clear sense of their beliefs about themselves in terms of creativity.

‘So, whether they're generally confident about being creative, as well as the extent to which they believe their creative capabilities can change…I'd say we now do have pretty clear evidence with a large sample of Australian students that in a very real sense these students do hold these beliefs – and we can measure these particular notions or constructs,’ Ginns says.

In terms of how the specific sample thought about themselves, Ginns says we can also look at the average responses to these scales to gain some insights.

‘For example, on average, students tended to describe themselves as having relatively high levels of creative self-efficacy. The mean score was 3.66 out of 5 and so that's on the positive side. They tended to have relatively high levels of growth-creative mindsets (3.82 out of 5) and lower levels of fixed-creative mindsets (2.54 out of 5).’

How this research informs teaching and learning

Ginns says this research informs educators by providing them with a set of valid, reliable and easy-to-use measures of how students themselves think about their creativity.

‘I’m really proud of these findings in giving a set of tools, a set of resources to Australian educators so that they can get a sense of how students themselves are thinking about these,’ he says.

‘Given that we've established measurement invariance across a range of demographic factors, we can be confident that scales can be used across a range of settings. So primary versus secondary at a fundamental level, but also Australia is a very diverse society and so we want to be sure that we can use these measures across a range of different demographics.

‘With an increasing focus on general capabilities like critical and creative thinking in the Australian curriculum, creativity is a growing focus for Australian schools. There's a wide range of teaching strategies and curricula focusing on creativity, but how will teachers know if these are having an effect on how students view their own capabilities? I would see these measures as playing a very straightforward role in that sort of evaluation,’ he says.

To read more about the methods used in this study and its findings, you can access the full article published in the Australian Journal of Education, which is freely available.


Ginns, P., Martin, A. J., Freebody, K., Anderson, M., & O’Connor, P. (2023). Creative self-beliefs among children and adolescents. Australian Journal of Education, 0(0).

Think about the students you work with. How do they see their own creative capabilities? Is this something you explicitly ask them about? What impact does this have on their work in the classroom?

When designing lessons that focus on students using their creative skills, how do you try to ensure that it is making a difference in terms of how students themselves think about their own creativity?