Friday, January 01, 2016

Fostering creativity in the classoom

n 2013, Adobe conducted a survey entitled “State of Creativity in Education: An Adobe Survey” with over a thousand educators representing thirteen countries in the Asia Pacific area. The infographic below includes some of the data from that survey. I am sure these responses would hold true for any area of the world. The statistic that struck my eye was that 85% of the respondents felt that technology and digital tools play an important role in this process.
How do you begin to foster creativity in your students? One way is to help students “think outside the box”. This kind of thinking is called divergent thinking.


In his Edutopia article, entitled “Fuel Creativity with Divergent Thinking“, Stacey Goodman, a high school art teacher,  defines divergent thinking as “referring to the way the mind generates ideas beyond proscribed expectations and rote thinking”.
Goodman goes on to provide ideas for setting up the classroom for encouraging student creativity. Some of his ideas include…
  • Instead of giving the students a problem to solve (when using the problem based learning approach), have them create the problem questions based on their own knowledge and passions.
  • Have students take turns being the guest DJ and play their favorite music in class while other students are working. His expectation is the rest of the students in the class should defer judgement on the music choice, which opens up the learning environment for the inclusion of other influences and ideas. Since the students soon realize they are not immediately judged, it opens them up to offering alternative thoughts and ideas in class.
  • Stacey has students hold back on expressing their likes and dislikes for two minutes, and then ask probing questions as opposed to just saying “I don’t agree” or “I don’t like that”. Again, this method creates a safe environment for students to express their opinions.
  • There are exercises in Goodman’s class which encourage students to play and experiment. Then they are encouraged to reflect and try again. He tries to help them learn not to be afraid to fail.
  • Stacey includes art-related ideas in this process, since he is an art teacher. However, these strategies are easily adapted for use in any classroom. For example, he has students looking at ordinary objects and renaming or re-imaginging the function of the object to be something totally different from its current one. (This particular strategy makes me think of Andrew Clements book “Frindle”, in which a fifth-grade boy renames a pen to frindle and the ensuing chaos that occurs!)


Kristen Hicks, in an article in Edudemic entitled “Why Creativity in the Classroom Matters More Than Ever“, provides five ways to bring creativity into the classroom.
  1. Allow students the freedom to create their assessments using a a tool of their choice, whether it be a comic strip, a video, a podcast, or a world in Minecraft.
  2. Provide “genius” time during the day when students can work individually or collaborate to build, code, create, produce, or simply investigate a topic they want to learn more about.
  3. Try to use technology across the content areas, in ways it might not have been before. She suggests using Google Maps alongside a novel as one idea.
  4. Think about the use of common sites and social channels in new ways. Have students create a TED-like talk about a chapter in their textbook, have them draw an XKCD-like comic, or have them create a Facebook page for an historical figure or character in a book or movie.
  5. Hicks suggests that use of the Socratic seminar method can lead to the same results as Goodman’s do above– critical listening, good questioning, and respecting the opinions of others — and enhance the offering of creative ideas and thoughts by students.


Prasanna Bhardi also suggests additional ways, in an article entitled “How to Promote Creativity in Your Classroom“, to cultivate creativity in the classroom.
  • Bhardi utilizes content that cause students to become emotional and content she knows they are passionate about.
  • She reiterates, as Goodman and Hicks note, the classroom environment plays a crucial role in cultivating creativity and confidence in students.
  • Bhardi suggests trying different models that tie together real-life, novel issues, and to spread the learning to home, too.
  • She encourages a risk-taking approach by accepting the mistakes students make while trying new things
  • As also outlined by Hicks, Bhardi recommends the inclusion of collaborative activities and think-tank sessions to encourage active engagement.


There are tons of great quotes about creativity you can find to put up in the classroom and share with students. You can have students use the quotes to create original posters like the ones below.

How do you foster creativity in your classroom? Share with us on Twitter! #kathyschrock