Conscientiousness, creativity and an online educational future

Read an interesting article – Science Points to the Single Most Valuable Personality Trait.

In essence it highlights research that supports how beneficial being conscientious is in many spheres of life.

Research is pointing to conscientiousness as the one-trait-to-rule-them-all in terms of future success, both career-wise and personal.

People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer – and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

It all sounds great until you get further through the article and read…

Teachers rewarded repressed drones, according to Bowles and Gintis; they found that the students with the highest GPA’s were the ones who scored lowest on measures of creativity and independence, and the highest on measures of punctuality, delay of gratification, predictability, and dependability.

So who is Bowles and Gintis you ask (if, like me, you have never heard of them)?

Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis wrote a book entitled “SCHOOLING IN Capitalist America” in 1976.

The educational system selects for and rewards certain personality traits. They cite a study that shows that in predicting a students’ GPA, personality traits are almost as important as cognitive skills. Some of the highly rewarded traits are dependability, perseverance, consistency, following orders, punctuality, and deferring gratification. Traits that have a negative association with GPA are creativity, aggressiveness, and independence. So, schools promote individuals with the personality traits most associated with “good workers.”

Ref: What do schools produce? Review by Sarah Knopp

However, even if we don’t accept such a damning view of the educational system, it does allude to the fact that;

  1. conformity is more comfortable in collective arrangements (such as home, school, work and society),
  2. diversity can cause conflict,
  3. and getting employment is a key function (if not the only one) of successful education.

My evidence:

  1. Diversity (such as in the forms of independence and creativity) can cause conflict:
    Having spent over 20 years providing workplace professional development – conflict resolution is always being high on the list of desired training programs and the majority of my consulting work is assisting groups to work together.
  2. Schools are continually exhorted to get school-leavers workplace ready:
    (Having sat for a decade on the governing council of WA’s largest VET provider, government – state and federal, as well as industry bodies have been consistent in their persistence that students be more workplace ready.
    Plus the new funding model supports training in areas of anticipated areas of workplace shortage – so its all about getting a job at the end of the educational process
    VET in Schools: Creating Opportunities)


If jobs are ceasing to exist and others coming-into-existence as new technology changes the way things can be done, then it makes sense that independencecreativity and being able to think for oneself (hopefully critically) is a way forward for individuals, education and society.  Then the challenge seems to be how to be conscientious and creative and independent whilst at the same time being ‘safe’ for those around us.


How do we encourage educators to adopt methodologies that support such learning?

Perhaps Wendy Drexler’s approach to a networked student model for constructing personal learning environments might be one answer.

Drexler, Wendy, 2010. The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2010, 26(3), 369-385.


Thanks to: HOW TO – Apply Block Quote Format in a Blog Post