Ask Reading Kingdom: What are the top 5 ways teachers can encourage creativity in the classroom?

When the concept of teaching and fostering creativity was first raised by academics such as E. Paul Torrance, it aroused lots of criticism. Creativity was thought to be an immeasurable, natural ability. By contrast, Torrance called for explicit teaching of creativity saying it was skill-specific and required intentional instruction. His work was largely responsible for the development of gifted programs throughout the world. Over time, there has been an increasing acceptance of the value of fostering creativity for all learners. A 2003 TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on how our current school systems suppress creativity was extremely popular, garnering over 5 million viewers.

The development of an area as rich and complex as creativity naturally involves many components. But, if we are restricted to the top 5, the following would be the ones that seem to offer the most payoff.

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

  1. Expand educational content to include motivating areas. This involves making a significant place in the curriculum for activities such as creative arts, media-oriented programs and motor skills.
  2. Use the emotional connections that link us to others.Research suggests that the best creativity instruction ties in the emotions of the learner. For example, in the “Odyssey angels” program, students devise solutions to help their local community, such as helping homeless youth.
  3. Expand classroom assignments to use divergent thinking.Standardized tests typically measure convergent thinking that generally is answered with one correct response. Divergent thinking involves a person figuring out how to use different ways to approach a problem. Assignments should consider both types of thinking models.
  4. Establish an environment that encourages expressive freedom. Competition often rules the classroom as students push to get the best grades. For creativity to flourish, however, the classroom environment needs to be a place where students feel safe to share novel ideas.
  5. Allow room for mistakes. All too often, the classroom exchange is one where the teacher asks questions and only the “correct response” is deemed acceptable. Mistakes, though, are an essential part of learning. As Sir Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Teachers need to be trained in how to foster an acceptance of “wrong responses” and ways in which to use them to foster a student’s thinking. The implications for education are enormous when we move from using mistakes to lower grades to using them as a foundation for expanded learning.


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