The “art of creative thinking” needs advocates. As the writers at Teach Thought suggest, teachers are the real driving force behind the creative thinking in our schools. So, if our schools are lagging behind, it is the teachers who must urge our students to be curious and seek new answers.
How can educators foster creativity in the classroom? This except from the article presents 30 ideas for teachers…
- Embrace creativity as part of learning. Create a classroom that recognizes creativity. You may want to design awards or bulletin boards to showcase different ways of solving a problem, or creative solutions to a real world scenario.
- Use the most effective strategies. Torrance performed an extensive meta-analysis that considered the most effective ways to teach creativity. He found that the most successful approaches used creative arts, media-oriented programs, or relied on the Osborn-Parnes training program. Programs that incorporated cognitive and emotional functioning were the most successful.
- Think of creativity as a skill. Much like resourcefulness and inventiveness it is less a trait and more a proficiency that can be taught. If we see it this way, our job as educators becomes to find ways to encourage its use and break it down into smaller skill sets. Psychologists tend to think of creativity as Big-C and Little C. Big C drives big societal ideas, like the Civil Rights movement or a new literary style. Little C is more of a working model of creativity that solves everyday problems. Both concepts can be included in our classrooms.
- Participate in or create a program to develop creative skills. Programs like Odyssey of the Mind and Thinkquest bring together students from around the world to design creative solutions and bring them to competition.
- Use emotional connections. Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner. In the “Odyssey angels” program students can devise a solution to help their local community, such as helping homeless youth. This topic is worthy of more discussion by itself. A blog post by fellow blogger Julie DeNeen gives some valuable information about this type of teaching.
Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner.
- Use a creativity model. The Osborne-Parnes model is oldest, widely accepted model. It is often used in education and business improvement. Each step involves a divergent thinking pattern to challenge ideas, and then convergent thinking to narrow down exploration. It has six steps:
- Mess-finding. Identify a goal or objective.
- Fact-finding. Gathering data.
- Problem-finding. Clarifying the problem
- Idea-finding. Generating ideas
- Solution-finding. Strengthening & evaluating ideas
- Acceptance-finding. Plan of action for Implementing ideas
- Consider how classroom assignments use divergent and convergent thinking. Standardized tests do a great job of measuring convergent thinking that includes analytical thinking or logical answers with one correct response. Divergent thinking considers how a learner can use different ways to approach a problem. It requires using association and multiplicity of thought. We should design assingments that consider both types of thinking models.
- Creativity flourishes in a “congenial environment”. Creative thinking needs to be shared and validated by others in a socially supportive atmosphere. Researcher Csikszentmihalyi (1996) coined this term, to explain the importance of reception from others. Others consider how to create communities that foster social creativity to solve problems.
- Be aware during discussions. You know that student who often asks the question that goes a bit outside the lecture? Well, engage him. Once a week, intentionally address those questions. Write them down on an assigned space in the board to go back to later. Validate their creativity.
- See creativity in a positive light. In his blog in Psychology Today, Eric Jaffe talks about research that suggests see creativity in a negative light. If we are teaching to creativity, we need to embrace it too. Reward students for thinking of problems in varied ways by recognizing their efforts.
- Try the Incubation Model. E. Paul Torrance designed this model. It involves 3 stages:
- Heightening Anticipation: Make connections between the classroom and student’s real lives. “Create the desire to know”.
- Deepen Expectations: Engage the curriculum in new ways. Brainstorm and create opportunities to solve a novel problem.
- Keep it going: Continue the thinking beyond the lesson or classroom. Find ways to extend learning opportunities at home or even the community.
- Use a cultural artifact. Research from experimental social psychology finds that artifacts can enhance insight problem solving. Consider using an ordinary object, such as a light bulb used in the study or a historical artifact to have students think about living in a particular time period.
- Establish expressive freedom. The classroom environment must be a place where students feel safe to share novel ideas. Allow for flexibility and create norms that foster creative approaches.
- Be familiar with standards. Knowing the standards inside and out helps find creative solutions in approaching a lesson. Teachers can adapt them and work within the current framework. Some topics allow for flexibility and use of creative approaches.
- Gather outside resources. There are some great resources to read related to creativity. The University of Georgia, provides an array of amazing resources related to how to foster creativity in practical ways. It also gives a list of programs and organizations that can help with the process.
- Allow room for mistakes. Sir Ken Robinson said it best when he said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
- Allow space for creativity. Design some classroom space for exploration, such as a thinking table, a drama stage, a drawing table, or a space for groups to discuss ideas.
- Give students time to ask questions. Organizations such as CCE (Creativity, Culture, Education) suggest teachers incorporate opportunities for students to ask questions. Intentionally design lessons that allow for wondering and exploration.
- Creativity builds confidence. Students take ownership of their own learning. Think of ways where students might design a project. For instance, for the history requirement, I suggested students of both fifth grade classes create an exhibition of their final projects. The students were so proud of their final work and learned from others presentations. Parents and community members were happy to see students take ownership of their learning.
- Encourage curiosity. Consider what is important to students. Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank. Find inspiration from their world. Creativity is intrinsic in nature. Try to step into their viewpoint to find what motivates them.
Student interest are a great place to start on what drives their own thinking tank. Find inspiration from their world.
- Structure is essential. Studies, such as a meta-analysis by Torrance suggest that creativity instruction is best with clear structure. For instance, consider the guidelines of the standard curriculum objectives and add these to the design. For example, reading considers communication, comprehension, listening, writing and reading.
- Observe a working model of creativity. Visit a creative classroom or watch a video about how a creative classroom works. The “Case for Creativity in School” is an excellent video that educators can watch to see how creativity might play out in a classroom. This school adopted a school-wide approach to recognize students.
- Consider the work of current experts in the field. Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally renowed creativity and innovation expert. His work is used to meet global challenges, renovating education, business, and government organizations to implement his strategies. His books and TED talks are great places to generate teaching ideas.
- Explore different cultures. Culture is an excellent vehicle for inspiring creative thinking. In Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans Dr. Kirpal Singh discusses how cultural contexts are central to creative endeavors. You can discuss how collaboration between cultures, such as in the space program, produces unique, novel ideas.
- Find ways to incorporate and integrate art, music and culture. A recent report prepared for the European commission considered that creativity is a central force that shapes our culture. With the changing times we live in, the report suggested that society is enriched by cultural-based creativity.
- Use a collaborative creative thinking model to solve classroom problems. For instance, read a paragraph and then have groups discuss a list of questions. Collaborative problem solving is catching on quickly. In fact, many business schools have implemented creative thinking models into their curriculum.
- Design multidisciplinary lessons when possible. When teaching geometry, I designed a lesson called, “Geometry through Art”. It included works of Art to show fifth graders their application to everyday geometric concepts. The result was astounding. I never thought that the subject matter would be so successful. I designed an entire unit that focused on how different concepts rely on geometry. I even asked the Art teacher to help reinforce those concepts in class.
- Tapping into multiple intelligences is key. Creativity requires us to use different parts of our brain. We often bridge connections between seemingly unrelated areas to make new concepts emerge. Allow students to use their strengths to find new ways of approaching a topic or solving a problem. You might be surprised with what they come up with.
- Understand that creativity is important to students’ future in the job market. Paul Collard for Creative Partnerships, discusses how 60% of English students will work in jobs that are not yet created. In today’s market, students must largely be innovative and create their own jobs. Collard suggests teachers focus on teaching particular skills or set of behaviors, rather than preparing students for specific careers.
- Teach creative skills explicitly. According to Collard, “Creative skills aren’t just about good ideas, they are about having the skills to make good ideas happen.” He suggests creative skills should include 5 major areas:
- Being disciplined or self-motivated.
- Giving responsibility to students. Have them develop their own projects.
Read the whole article at Teachthought.com, and explore a related post 11 Enemies of Creativity to see why the authors have named shame, ego, orthodoxy, politics, money, collaborators, family, addiction, education, deadlines and a lack of restrictions as the biggest barriers to ‘acts of creation’. Five ‘barriers’ stood out to me as of particular importance for educators and I have reproduced excepts from the Teach Thought article here…
The No. 1 cause of death for good ideas is to be smothered in the cradle by repression. There are enough critics, haters, and the merely indifferent out there in the external world. Often we fear these responses so much that we internalize them, and invoke them preemptively, even unconsciously. We fall victim to shame, guilt, negativity, low self-esteem, or just plain healthy tendencies of skepticism and self-doubt. The thing is, there’s a time for judgment, analysis, and editing — those are all key if you want to produce something good — but that time comes after you’ve given your ideas a chance to breathe. In the initial phase, the watchword is play: un-self-conscious, consequence-free, uninhibited play. Intellect, discretion, and second thoughts can all wait. Those can help you sculpt or prune what you’ve got (in a subtractive way, like a bonsai tree), but if you use them from the get-go, you won’t produce the raw materials you need.
The dynamic of creativity that takes place in groups provides a fascinating and mysterious object of study. Under ideal conditions, alchemy that produces more than the sum of its parts occurs. Some great creative minds simply work better in solitude. Then, too, there are extroverts who draw energy from group settings, and collapse into boredom if left to their own devices.
There is no room for creativity when dogma takes over. Inflexible, rigidly set ideas will stifle free expression every time. “It has to be this way,” one says. “Does it? Why, exactly? What if we tried this instead?” Many brilliant breakthroughs have come from that impulse. Yet it’s not merely the closed-mindedness of fixed belief that can hold us back: it’s also the convenience of habit, the laziness of stereotyped thinking. Stereotyping is something our brains do constantly, creating two-dimensional “thumbnails” as shortcuts to reduce complexity and make the world manageable. Defamiliarization, the act of looking at something as though for the first time, can bypass these filters and open up new possibilities.
This is the most salient reality of creative work as it operates in the real world. Getting things in on time, on budget, forces one to make things happen. Unreasonable levels of pressure, though, can backfire, leading to “writer’s block” and other forms of paralysis or even nervous breakdowns. On a related note, for those who’ve proven their creative chops, the world’s high expectations can seem weighty or even crippling…
Lack of restrictions:
The only thing worse than deadlines is no deadlines. A total lack of pressure leads to nothing much getting done; one can waffle endlessly and tinker infinitely, never finishing a project. Creativity is a game. It’s related to our faculties for problem solving. We look at a situation and think, playfully, what would be a clever, elegant way to solve this? The most radical revolutions in modern art would not have meant a thing if their proponents hadn’t been deeply trained in the old ways of doing things. They would have had nothing to react against. We need parameters within which we can be creative — not set in stone, but constituting a kind of scaffolding that gives us something to work with. Setting too many rules will kill creativity, but so will setting no rules at all.
Read the whole article at Teach Thought, and if you found these ideas interesting you might also enjoy my post, ‘How can you tell if your task is truly creative?‘ and this great TED Talk from David Kelley about the idea of “guided mastery” — it’s a practice that parents and educators can use to help kids find their creative confidence.