The notion of creative teaching and teaching for creativity has been discussed widely in the field of teaching and learning. For creative teaching it is necessary to engage teachers to make learning more interesting and effective and using imaginative approaches in the classroom. Creativity is often paid lip service, but in reality, most schools are currently experiencing a “creativity gap”—with significantly more creative activity occurring outside of school. Numerous psychologists argue that creativity is not just an enrichment or add-on in the classroom: It is a definable, measurable, set of psychological skills that enhance learning and will be necessary in the 21st-century workforce.
Why schools need to prioritize creativity
A well-accepted definition of creativity is the generation of a new product that’s both novel and appropriate in a particular scenario. There isn’t just one way for a person to “be creative,” or one set of characteristics that will differentiate “the” creative person. Instead, many experts think of creativity as a set of skills and attitudes that anyone is capable of: tolerating ambiguity, redefining old problems, finding new problems to solve, taking sensible risks, and following an inner passion. Many experts in psychology and education argue that creativity skills are psychological skills needed for success in school and in the future workforce. As such, schools have a duty to teach them and value them. It is found that over 1,500 executives valued creativity as the most crucial business skill in the modern world. In a knowledge economy where rote tasks can be completed by machines, and almost all information is available with one click, students need to be ready to learn independently, and constantly adapt, innovate, and creatively problem-solve in the workplace. Creativity also directly enhances learning by increasing motivation, deepening understanding, and promoting joy. Intrinsic motivation is essential to the creative process—and relies on students pursuing meaningful goals. Creativity in the Classroom, the strategies that support creativity are—solving problems, exploring multiple options, and learning inquiry—also support depth of understanding.
Develop students’ creativity in the classroom
Creativity requires a safe environment in which to play, exercise autonomy, and take risks. As teachers, it’s up to us to establish this kind of supportive classroom. Here are some suggestions from psychologists and educators for how to develop and nurture your students’ creativity:
- Create a compassionate, accepting environment. Since being creative requires going out on a limb, students need to trust that they can make a mistake in front of you.
- Be present with students’ ideas. Have more off-the-cuff conversations with students. Find out what their passion areas are, and build those into your approach.
- Encourage autonomy. Don’t let yourself be the arbiter of what “good” work is. Instead, give feedback that encourages self-assessment and independence.
- Re-word assignments to promote creative thinking. Try adding words like “create,” “design,” “invent,” “imagine,” “suppose,” to your assignments. Adding instructions such as “Come up with as many solutions as possible” or “Be creative!” can increase creative performance.
- Give students direct feedback on their creativity. Lots of students don’t realize how creative they are, or get feedback to help them incorporate “creative” into their self-concept. Explore the idea of “creative competence” alongside the traditional academic competencies in literacy and mathematics. When we evaluate something, we value it! Creating a self-concept that includes creativity.
- Help students know when it’s appropriate to be creative. For example, help them see the contexts when creativity is more or less helpful—in a low-stakes group project versus a standardized state assessment.
- Use creative instructional strategies, models, and methods as much as possible in a variety of domains. Model creativity for students in the way you speak and the way you act. For example, you could say “I thought about 3 ways to introduce this lesson. I’m going to show you 2, then you come up with a third,” or show them a personal project you’ve been working on.
- Channel the creativity impulses in “misbehavior.” For students who are often disturbances, see if you notice any creativity in their behavior. Perhaps that originality could be channeled in other ways?
- Protect and support your students’ intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation fuels creativity. Several studies have shown that relying on rewards and incentives in the classroom can undermine intrinsic motivation to complete a task—an effect called “overjustification.” To avoid this, Beth Hennessey, a professor of Psychology at Wellesley College, suggests that educators try to limit competitions and comparison with others, focusing instead on self-improvement. Experiment with monitoring students less as they work, and provide opportunities for them to pursue their passion when you can.
- Make it clear to students that creativity requires effort. The creative process is not a simple “aha” that strikes without warning. Tell students that truly creative people must imagine, and struggle, and re-imagine while working on a project.
- Explicitly discuss creativity myths and stereotypes with your students. Help them understand what creativity is and is not, and how to recognize it in the world around them.
- Experiment with activities where students can practice creative thinking. Many teachers have suggestions for creative activities they’ve tried as warm-ups or quick breaks. “Droodles,” or visual riddles, are simple line drawings that can have a wide range of different interpretations, and can stimulate divergent thinking. “Quick writes” and “free writes” can help students to let go of their internal censor. As part of reviewing material, you could have kids use concept cartooning, or draw/design/paint visual metaphors to capture the essence of complex academic information.
Teachers: Develop and nurture your own creativity
As creativity scholars Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire write in their book …….. Wired to create:“Creativity isn’t just about innovating or making art—it’s about living creatively. We can approach any situation in life with a creative spirit.” Teaching is, through and through, a creative profession. Teachers who can model creative ways of thinking, playfully engage with content, and express their ideas, will beget creative students. Students need to see teachers who have passions, whether it’s drawing, mathematics, painting, biology, music, politics, or theater. That contagion of passion and positive emotion is a hotbed for creative thought. Creative teachers may also be happier teachers. One study in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that engaging in a creative activity—doodling, playing a musical instrument, knitting, and designing— just once a day can lead you into a more positive state of mind. This positive state of mind will sustain you, and spread to your students.
Here are some ways teachers can develop and nurture their own creativity:
- Be aware of your own limiting misconceptions about creativity.
- Experiment with new ways of teaching in the classroom
- Take a risk to express your creative side.
- Treat lesson planning as the creative exercise it is.
- Develop personal creative rituals.
- Try meditation practices that encourage creative thought,
- Seek solitude.
- Travel: One study found that cross-cultural experiences can increase measures of creative thinking.
- Switch up your daily routines.
- Embrace ambiguity. “Ambiguity tolerance” is a key component of creativity.
A sound understanding of the role of primary creativity plays in learning and teaching will help teachers become creative and develops creativity in their students as well.
(The author is teacher presently posted at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own) [email protected]