Several Ways A Teacher Can Promote Creativity

The concept of teaching creativity has been around for quite some time.

Academics such as E. Paul Torrance, dedicated an entire lifetime to the advancement of creativity in education. Torrance faced much opposition in his day about the nature of creativity. Creativity was considered to be an immeasurable, natural ability. Torrance called for explicit teaching of creativity. He advocated that it was skill-specific, requiring intentional instruction. His life’s work ultimately led to the development of the Torrance tests and gifted programs throughout the world.

In recent times, there has been a shift towards the increased acceptance of valuing creativity for all learners. A 2003 TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson discussing this subject reached over 5 million viewers. It discusses how our current school systems suppress creativity. He proposes that our current model leaves little room for divergent thinking.

Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.

It relies on teaching to the correct answer. An innovative thinking model is needed. Robinson recently tweeted an article about a new study that suggested 80% of educators surveyed preferred creativity to be included as part of learning standards.

In the same way, David Hughes, founder of Decision Labs and professor at UNC Chapel Hill, argues that innovation is an essential skill for our global economy. In talking about creativity in schools he says, much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems.

Most of the practice of creative methods is being done outside the traditional educational institutions by consulting firms and by persons in companies who have been trained in creative problem solving methods. In universities not much has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist J. P. Guilford in his inaugural address as president of the American Psychological Association stated that education’s neglect of the subject of creativity was appalling.

Adding to this sequence of events is the fact that textbooks are at least three years out of date when they are published and . . . educational systems were the slowest adopters of innovation. Thus, we see that educational institutions need a strong dose of creative problem solving.

What are some ways then, as educators, that we promote creativity in our classrooms?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 postby fellow blogger Julie DeNeen gives some valuable information about this type of teaching.
  4. 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. Promote creativity by validating students’ creative thinking.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 promote creativity.

If our schools are lagging behind, we must be the creative minds that urge our students to be curious and seek new answers.

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