Creativity in the Classroom!

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Aug2014 15

Grace Young leads the Communications for Enabling Enterprise. Here she explores the importance of teaching creativity and effective ways to measure progress.

‘They’re such a creative type’ is a phrase that most of us will be familiar with. At school ‘they’ might be the ones who enjoy art lessons. At university ‘they’ might be the ones who take humanities or arts subjects. In the workplace ‘they’ might be the ones in the media or arts industries.

While it might seem easy to agree with these stereotypes, I would argue that creativity is not just a trait that certain people possess. Creativity is an important skill that can be developed in school. It has real life application and can help students become successful individuals.

What is Creativity?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines creativity as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.’

Creativity is an essential part of human development: how babies and young children interact and learn about the world. When looking at the behaviour of young children, we can’t help but notice how creative they are. Asking questions, fantasising and exploring are all creative expressions.

While we all possess high levels of creativity as young children, this is not necessarily maintained. Internal factors such as individuals’ personality type and their cognitive ability can alter how creative they are. External factors such as the environment one grows up in or the demands of life can also have an impact on our creative potential.

For me, this decrease in creative thinking is a concern. I see it as a crucial skill and something that can and should be developed in young people.

Why Teach Creativity?

In 2010, Ofsted produced a report entitled Learning: Creative Approaches to Raise Standards. This surveyed 44 schools from a broad geographical and socio-economic range that used creativity in their curriculum. It found that:

‘There was a perceptible and positive impact on pupils’ personal development, and on their preparation for life beyond school…schools in challenging circumstances demonstrated particularly marked improvements in pupils achievements’

Furthermore, the educationalist Ken Robinson says: ‘Creativity is essential to the success and fulfilment of young people, to the vitality of our communities and to the long-term health of the economy.’

He argues that encouraging students to think differently, be open minded and inquisitive is beneficial for society. We do not yet know the problems we will face in the future, and it is the younger generation that will need to come up with innovative solutions to address them.

Since working at Enabling Enterprise I have seen some excellent creative projects in action. One project lets Year 3 students explore environmentalism by creating their own eco-friendly toy. Another sees Year 8 students design and create their own society on the Moon.

The results are hugely encouraging, it is great to see students generate new ideas, learn how to share these effectively, before working together to make their ideas into something tangible. The end product is a great way to show the skills student’s have developed along the way.

How to Measure Creative Thinking?

Just as we measure student’s progression in curriculum subjects, if developing creativity is so important, surely we should measure progress in this too?

During my time at Enabling Enterprise, we have been developing a skills assessment framework that tracks student’s progress in the eight skills that we see as essential for success.These include teamwork, leadership, problem solving, and of course, creativity.

When measuring creativity, initially it is about students being confident in using their imaginations to create new ideas. For example, a Year 2 students should know that imagination means to make things up, pretend and come up with something new.

Over time, the focus is on the students building a range of strategies that support their creative thinking. Such as by Year 6 they should be able to use resources, such as other people or stimuli to help spark their imaginations.

Ultimately, by the time they leave school students should be confident when presented with the need to create new ideas or innovations, knowing a range of strategies and tools they can use to develop their ideas.

So, Let’s Get Creative

Having seen many creative projects in primary and secondary schools I can see how engaged and excited students are about their learning. And by measuring their progress you can see the real impact it has.

So, teaching creativity is more than just spotting the ‘creative types’, it is about giving young people a skill that can develop and will help them in the future.

Top Tips for teaching creativity

1. Create a simulation in your classroom, such as a crime scene or a jungle. Encourage students to get into character to unleash their creative potential.
2. Encourage different styles of learning, such as kinaesthetic, visual, and verbal to spark creative ideas.
3. Model creative thinking and behaviour by using role play and drama.
4. Praise children who provide unexpected answers.

If you’d like to find out more about creative and enterprising projects for your classroom, contact us.

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