10 Tips for Promoting Creativity

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Michele Hill

Michele Rispo Hill works at Delsea Regional High School District of Wilmington University in the greater Philadelphia area in the U.S.A. She has been teaching for 25 years with a masters degree in School Leadership and also in Bilingual Studies. She has written articles for...
Read more about Michele Hill

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!

2 thoughts on “10 Tips for Promoting Creativity

  1. Problem-solving or being creative is my approach to teaching and learning too.  It is why I formed my consultancy Advocating Creativity (also “4c3d”*); it is my way of promoting creativity in education as well as being creative myself. Creativity is not just as a subject but a way of thinking, a way to improve learning.  Creativity is a way of changing “can’t do” to “how to do”. A way of doing what is needed and not just what is asked for. I see creativity as a way of making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen.

    Adopting a creative approach to learning is tremendously powerful if you see learning as a problem-solving activity.  Once you adopt this approach to learning and a creative mindset, then many more pieces of the learning jigsaw begin to fit together.   We find by adopting a problem-solving approach a landscape occurs in which theories can be seen for what they are, attempts to explain how learning takes place.

    More accurately by adopting a creative problem-solving approach we see the ways in which we attempt to explain why some people learn some things easier, better or even quicker than others. The danger is when we mandate or replicate ways of learning without applying a degree of creativity in supporting the process of adopting the practice. Adoption only is a form of pseudo-creativity for it is not a problem-solving approach but one of providing a ready solution to a problem.

    1. Absolutely spot on! Creativity is a way of thinking–and we must giver permission to teachers to cultivate in their classroom. Thanks for reading!

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