We want our children to develop basic literacy and numerical skills. We want them to develop a broad basis of knowledge in the sciences and the arts. We want them to develop analytical skills and good judgment. We want them to develop social and physical skills. Oh yes, we also want them to have creative skills.
When schools were called to action in the European Union’s “year of creativity” many schools focused on painting pictures, singing songs and staging shows. Of course the arts are creative. But what a shame to limit the creativity of our young people to just the arts. It is time to broaden the scope of creativity in schools and indeed in the education system.
Researchers have long since established that creative competencies are teachable and learnable. We are now living in times where more and more people are recognizing the immense value of creativity at the workplace and in life.
In the process of integrating creativity in education in practice, educators are faced with a number of key challenges:
How can we teach our own subject matter more creatively?
No mean feat. Teachers are called to go beyond the classic lecturing/examining mode to devise new ways of teaching, using tools that are different from those that they themselves experienced in their own formal learning.
How can we best teach creative method?
Creative methods take challenges that have many solutions (like most real life challenges), help define them in new ways and help invent imaginative solutions to resolve them. Creative Problem Solving, Six Thinking Hats, TRIZ, Synectics are but some of the methods available today. Schools should consider formally teaching such programs while at the same time promoting team collaboration and even doing so in partnership with companies, public organizations, communities, NGOs to help solve real world problems.
How can we develop our students’ creative skills?
Although some issues with definition and measurement of creative competencies remain, we know that it is possible and desirable to improve young people’s skills of idea fluency, flexibility, association, synthesis, as well as their critical evaluative skills. Creative competencies are probably best developed in tandem with creative problem solving methodologies.
How do we make our schools more creative?
We now know enough about organizational structures and cultures that further innovation. It is time to consciously promote innovation by fostering the systems and climates that favor creativity. A good place to begin is to mobilize teachers to creatively confront the specific challenges of their school, in addition to creatively teaching their own subject matter.
How do we make our educational system more creative?
While there are are many challenges in formalizing creative ways of teaching school subjects and in the teaching of creativity itself (methods and skills), such formalization should come high on the agenda of any educational establishment – school, community, region, state or country.
How might we best use new technology in our teaching?
As cyberspace evolves, educational institutions must ensure they are up-to-date with the technical and social aspects of new technologies so as to exploit them to further learning.
What’s stopping us?
Everybody can make a long list of creativity killers – risk aversion, fear of failure, absence of precise metrics, vested interests in the status quo, inappropriate organizational structures and more. Sometimes a reaction to what seems as a challenge to the image of the teacher as sole bearer of wisdom. Since creativity requires extended moments of non judgmental thinking, teachers who have been trained (and are expected) to judge, need to get used to deferring judgment until it is time for those extended moments of critical reasoning. Not always so easy.
After generations of learning by rote and critical thinking, bringing creativity to schools is no mean feat because it requires significant changes in mindsets and attitudes. Education changemakers need plenty of inspiration and much courage to move ahead on creativity, but the time for it is ripe, very ripe.
Note: the title, Creativity in the 21st Century Classroom, is taken from a workshop designed and facilitated by Donna Luther and Siri Lynn offered by the Creative Education Foundation at the Creative Problem Solving Institute in 2011 and 2012.
image credit: ideaguides.com
Dimis Michaelides, Managing Director at Performa Consulting, is global business consultant and keynote speaker on The Art of Innovation. His book, The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations, was published in 2007.