If you’re a high school teacher, you know a large percentage of students in your classes are..
When it comes to teaching creatively we use both the heart and the mind in equal measure.
Creativity is something that can be taught and learned. That's good news, because in today's multimedia world creativity it's as important as problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.
Mia O'Brien, a lecturer at Queensland University, knows about the importance of teaching creatively. This excerpt is from her 2012 study Fostering a Creativity Mindset for Teaching (and Learning):
"In order for creativity to be a priority within schooling, we need teachers who understand the nature of creativity and appreciate its pedagogical value. However, creativity is not usually high on the list of reasons for choosing teaching."
What this tells us is that teachers have an interesting challenge with creativity. Not only must they inspire it in their learners, but they must also give themselves full permission to be creative as well. After all, teaching creatively means considering how creativity can apply to every responsibility a teacher has.
The Importance of Teaching Creatively
Creative teaching skills are about working towards the genesis of something unique, both within and outside of the learner. It's important to teach creatively for a few reasons:
- Creativity is the heart of the motivational classroom.
- It empowers students and teachers to express ideas and opinions in unique ways.
- Creative teaching leads to active learning.
"Something unique" means something personal and relevant to the student. It could be something small or something bigger. It could be an idea, a learning moment, an emotional experience, or any kind of creative revelation. The point is it's unique for the learner.
Constructing useful solutions and original products is only part of the outcome of teaching creatively. In order to be creative teachers, we focus more on inspiring our learners to be what they were meant to be.
8 Strategies for Creative Teaching
- Ignore Limitations
- Challenge Assumptions
- Define the Problem
- Give Them Time
- Be Human
- Assess Creatively
- Strengthen Connections
- Focus on Ownership
Use the following list of 8 guidelines for fostering creative teaching skills to guide you.
1. Ignore Limitations
Creativity is eternal and it has limitless potential, which means we are unlimited as creative people. As children, we have a confidence and fearlessness in creativity that we can lose over time. Unfortunately, many of us were raised with an awareness of what we couldn't do. As we became more socialized and aware of our limitations, we can become less creative as a result.
Your kids will all be different, but they were all meant to be great.
If creativity is within all of us—and it most certainly is—then we are also limitless. This applies to learners of all ages. We must find a way to give that mindset back to them. Of course, the intellectual risks our kids take creatively must also be sensible. Nevertheless, continue encouraging them to step outside their creative comfort zones.
2. Challenge Assumptions
Creative people question assumptions about many things. Instead of arguing for limitations, creative minds ask "how" or "why not?" Teachers are in a great position to show their learners how to do this. Granted, it doesn't mean turning every assumption on its head. Students must learn to pick their battles here.
3. Define the Problem
Albert Einstein was once asked what he'd do if given an hour to solve a problem. He claimed that he would spend most of that time thinking about the problem. This is what we teach with Solution Fluency, a practice through which anyone will benefit from defining a problem thoroughly.
Creatively defining a problem broadens both understanding and creative potential. In defining the problem, we exercise certain skills. Here are some of the creative thinking benefits we gain from it:
Restating or rephrasing the problem
- Gets you thinking from different perspectives, leading to more versatile solutions
- Reveals things about the problem that may not be obvious
- Can help in creating solutions for multiple problems
- Leads to hearing unique perspectives from others
- Helps learners understand how the problem may have originated
- Challenges learners to consider an issue in different ways
- Helps learners question assumptions that limit independent thought
- Teaches learners to decide for themselves what is right and true
Researching and gathering facts
- Provides opportunities for developing useful research and data analysis
- Allows learners to discover surprising things about a problem they didn’t know before
- Helps learners avoid making assumptions and forming opinions without ample information
- Gives learners time to think about why finding a solution to the problem is important
4. Give Them Time
Creativity takes time to appear and it's a growth process that is different for all of us. Any writer, artist, designer, inventor, or entrepreneur will tell you this. They will also tell you they failed many times before finding the right idea.
Creatively defining a problem broadens both understanding and creative potential.
Learners will need plenty of time to let their imaginations soar. In the course of their learning journeys they'll revise, revisit, and throw out ideas. They'll start over, get stuck, and get unstuck. No matter what, teaching creatively involves encouraging them every step of the way.
5. Be Human
It's okay to make mistakes in front of your learners. After all, if it's fine for them it's fine for you. There's no need to maintain an illusion of perfection as a teacher. In fact, showing things get messy sometimes lets them know it's okay to explore and experiment because that's what creativity is all about.
6. Assess Creatively
This is where ongoing formative assessment comes into play. By encouraging critical and analytical thinking in assessment activities, you allow your learners some room in testing to get creative. They need to know that these kinds of skills are truly valuable.
Using formative assessment effectively in our classrooms is one of the best ways we can help our students thrive. For our modern learners (or for any learner) formative assessment fits much better with student needs. It also better compliments the teaching and learning outcomes schools have in place.
7. Strengthen Connections
A solid PLN does wonders for teachers reaching for new ideas. You can connect to educators doing creative and innovative things in their own classrooms. Share and borrow ideas and become inspired by each other. It's what personal learning networks are for. Even if you don't use ideas right away, you can still collect them for later use. Employ some content curation tools like Evernote or Diigo for this.
8. Focus on Ownership
Learners must understand that teaching creatively includes taking responsibility for both success and failure. In lifelong learning, we own everything. We generate our ideas and make our own choices about what to do with them. Our learning paths are our own and must be self-directed. As such, our children will step into the dual role of facilitator/learner in these cases.
This is why we guide them early on to take ownership of their learning. We must also teach them that intellectual property is a crucial responsibility. As Global Digital Citizens they protect their own creative work and that of others. In this way, creativity takes on a sense of community.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 11, 2019, updated Dec 16, 2021