The following excerpts are reposted from:
"The Creativity Imperative" by Jessica Roake for Education Update, October 2013
Success in the modern world demands innovation, complex problem solving, and new ways of understanding: it requires creativity. Leaders in nearly every profession list creativity as the most valuable asset in their field, but also complain about the lack of creativity in America's young workforce. In response, states including California and Massachusetts have developed creativity and innovation education indexes to measure how schools are fostering creativity, and the education community has contributed innovative pedagogy on the importance of creativity.
"Creative" is often the adjective that teachers assign to students who seem daydreamy, distracted, or disruptive: traditionally negative attributes in the classroom. Yet, studies consistently show that daydreamers score higher on tests of creativity and distracted students are seven times more likely to be "eminent creative achievers," according to researchers Shelley Carson, Jordan Peterson, and Kathleen Smith.
Even when "creative" is not used as a negative signifier by teachers, it remains a challenging concept. According to Susan Brookhart, author of How to Assess Higher Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom, "Many teachers want their students to be creative but are not entirely sure what to look for. Too often, creativity ends up meaning the report cover was nicely colored or something like that."
So What Is Creativity?
One of the trickiest aspects of successfully integrating creativity into one's teaching is defining it in practical terms. Thomas Crowley, who teaches at San Diego's Francis Parker School, says, "Creativity is a process of problem solving that leads to the aesthetic. Creative thinking is the ability to innovate pre-existing ideas and understandings in a novel, sometimes inventive, way."
Anthony Cody, a longtime Oakland, Calif., science teacher and consultant, adds, "Creative thinking is when, rather than simply following directions, we think for ourselves and come up with new ways to look at problems. It means we are bringing our personal insights and experiences to bear, and actively investigating, rather than just following predetermined steps. It means using ideas or metaphors from other disciplines and thinking about things in new ways."
Although a surprising number of teachers believe that creativity is innate, "the good news," Ashley Merryman, coauthor of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, notes, "is that creativity is a skill that can be taught."
Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom
There are innumerable ways to create new and vibrant understandings for students through creative activities and approaches to subject matter. Among them:
- Brainstorming in any subject: The purpose of brainstorming is to generate ideas. Not judge them.
- Changing the environment: Setting up space for exploration in the classroom - whether through manipulatives centers, discussion corners, drama stages, or art tables - promotes creativity and revives tired minds.
- Exposing students to new cultures: This not only broadens students' perspectives, but it also shows them that there is more than one way to approach a situation and find solutions.
- Thinking Visually: Organizing, interpreting, and synthesizing knowledge visually helps students see connections and process ideas in new ways.
- Encouraging creative synthesis in project-based learning: As an example, after Crowley teaches his students about 20th century warfare and shares examples of artistic responses to war, he asks them to produce an art piece, in any medium, that addresses one of the major themes of modern war. In addition to demonstrating their critical understanding of historical conflicts, the project requires the students to explore their own perspective (students can memorialize, glorify, or criticize warfare) creatively. Projects are accompanied by artistic statements that explain their intent and process, and the students view and critique one another's work in a culminating gallery event.
- Using technology: There are many apps (photo editing, sketching, painting, etc.) that encourage the kind of divergent thinking skills that creative learners need to assemble information differently.
- Drawing connections: Free yourself from rigid subject-matter borders and encourage students to forge unexpected connections. Shawn Cornally, instructor at Solon High School and the Big Ideas School in Iowa, describes this in action. "It's like a student who thinks to use a mathematical n-gram statistic to compare works of Shakespeare for uses of a specific kind of irony."
For anyone looking to bring more than a dash of creativity into their classrooms or if parents are interested in learning about in-depth professional and educational artistic experiences for their children, ArtsErie offers artist in residence services for schools and community organizations.
Take a look at some of the work the artists and teachers at Union City Elementary are doing with this semester's residency: