Are we killing students’ creativity in school?
Ask any teacher about their ‘best’ students and surely they describe students who are dedicated, conscientious and diligent; all markers of compliance. In my 25 years as an educator, I don’t recall ever having a colleague describe one of their best students as a rule breaker who swims against the current.
That’s because school is an institution of compliance.
Think about it – students arrive at a pre-determined time, with a schedule of pre-determined classes. They are expected to attend classes with a teacher who creates the lesson and directs the activities of the students with a pre-determined outcome.
They have assigned seats and assigned groups. They must seek permission to go to the toilet or get a drink.
The entire day of a student is filled with numerous acts of compliance and few opportunities for creativity.
Sir Ken Robinson was right: we are killing students’ creativity in school. Watch what he has to say in the following video which has almost had 50 million views!
Finding Time For Creativity
With any type of organisation, there needs to be structure and accountability systems.
Schools are charged with the enormous task of educating young minds and ensuring that students graduate with the required skills that are deemed university and career ready – it’s no easy task!
Teachers lament that there is not enough time in the day to cover all of the required material or curriculum. This certainly creates the conundrum of finding time to encourage creativity among students, all the while meeting the rigorous demands and requirements of our local and national accountability systems.
So how can we maximize opportunities for creativity, while meeting the benchmarks of learning standards?
Integration of some of these ideas can help to create a culture of innovation and spark creativity with your students. Why not try the following?
My 10 tips for promoting creativity
1. Project Based Learning (PBL)
PBL activities are great ways to infuse creativity into any curriculum or class. Students are given a set list of requirements but can use a variety of ways to show mastery.
PBL or as those canny Finns say ‘Phenomenon Based Learning’ (PhenoBL) activities encourage students to think outside of the box, stretch and grow with new skills. They can integrate the newest technology and apps– or go old school and create things with their hands. There is something for everyone!
2. Genius Hour
Another project driven movement making waves is the Genius Hour inspired by Google. School leaders and staff are recognising that students are highly engaged when they are able to pursue learning that genuinely interests them.
Some schools are building in Genius Hours as a set class, while others are utiilizing unstructured time such as lunch or recess time to encourage students to try something new or delve deeper into something that interests them. To find out more take a look at the following video:
3. Create Opportunities for Creativity
Have students participate in activities or programmes that encourage creativity. There is no shortage of competitions or challenges that bring together students from around the world to promote creativity and design creative solutions. Students love to be part of something in and outside of their school.
4. Make Space for Creatives Spaces
Create space in your classroom or school for tinkering and exploring, such as: a challenge table, an impromptu stage or thematic nooks. Set spaces gives permission for students to explore and be creative.
5. Make Cultural Connections
Find ways to embed art, music and culture into the classroom and design multi-disciplinary lessons that connect the dots and encourage cross-curricular thinking and learning.
6. Embrace Failure
‘Failing forward‘ is a phrase making the rounds in education, and rightly so. People learn from failure and it’s no different for students. Create a culture of seeing failure as a learning tools. Heck, imagine if Thomas Edison gave up on creating the lightbulb because he failed countless times?
7. Whole Brain
Create lessons that require tapping into different parts of the brain. Using multiple intelligences develops connections and encourages creativity.
8. Create Time to Think
Give students time to think and ask questions. Develop a system for garnering questions that you may not have time to answer in class. Devote sometime to getting that information to the student outside of class. For example, try the Parking-Lot strategy.
Encourage other students to help answer any questions posed to promote their leadership skills.
9. Teach Creativity
Creativity just doesn’t happen – we need to teach students how to think creatively and help them develop skills that incorporate collaboration, responsibility, self-discipline and resilience.
10. Celebrate with Pomp and Circumstance
Think outside of the box and ditch the plain reward certificates. Do something unique to showcase the incredible efforts and masterpieces that your students create. You are not just recognising their creative projects, you are creating memories that build self-efficacy and instill confidence.
Schools need not be just a place of compliance, they should be model think tanks that encourage students to pursue passions and explore a variety of learning experiences. Student interest is a great place to begin cultivating creativity and innovation; let them find inspiration from the world around them, and in return, they can change the world!