Monday, August 11, 2014

Fostering Creativity In The Learning Process

Several months ago I was having a conversation with a colleague about creativity in learning. We debated back and forth about what creativity looked like and could you really teach creativity. All this stemmed from a comment I made about me not being creative. Sure, I’ve written books, I talk in front of teachers a lot and create professional development to deliver. But does that mean I am creative? 

As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, there are 2 things we can do. We can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process. Or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents. 

Fostering creativity in learning in the classroom doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. It can be as easy as moving desks around or giving students options for their learning. Here are 5 ways you can foster creativity in your classroom this school year. 

Make A Change In The Layout-Something simple like a change in the way a classroom is set up can spur creativity and innovation. If you are like me, you can think back to when you were in school and remember what your classrooms looked like. Teachers would take some time and make the bulletin boards nice, hang motivational posters on the walls, perhaps include a classroom library. But even with all that, the desks were set up the same. Equal number of rows, straight from the front to the back. Having desks in rows offers a fair amount of control over the learning environment but when we want to have students engage in creative thinking, rarely does that come in rows or even in desks. 

I was lucky. 

Being a science teacher I could have lab tables and that helped promote collaboration and brainstorming. If you can swap out your furniture for tables and chairs on wheels or are easy to move do it! If you are stuck with individual desks, allow students to move them around and huddle up. You can also create individual environments like a reading or art corner without busting your budget. A little change in how the classroom is organized can go a long way. 

Utilize Technology-I believe by now, we understand the power that technology can have in the learning process. Embracing technology and all it can do certainly can help students discover just how creative they can be. Instead of writing essays that live just on the teachers’ desk, write blog posts for the world to see. Instead of creating art projects that hang on the walls of the school, post them to the school webpage or a Tumblr or create a Twitter account to share them. 

I believe a large part of the creativity process is sharing. What if Shakespeare or Mozart or Michaelangelo hadn’t shared their works. Technology allows for simple and easy ways to express and share the work that students are doing and creating. 

Embrace Authentic-Based Learning-No matter if you call it problem-based learning or project-based learning, Socratic Method or the 5E Model, when you can bring authenticity into learning you can bring an element of creativity as well. Authenticity in learning brings those abstract, real-world situations to a level where our students can use their creative thinking deconstruct problems and use their creative process to find innovative solutions. 

Student Choice Is Key-Building off the use of authentic based learning, when you give students to the freedom to explore and create their own meaningful solutions, you are allowing them to explore their own creativity. Instead of outlining specific requirements for students to complete a project, allow them build/make/paint/compose/program/record their own solutions. 

Provide Time For Reflection And Feedback-What might be the most important part of the creative process, reflection and feedback need to be a valued part of any classroom. I remember pouring my heart and soul into projects when I was in school, only to get back a grade. No explanation, no feedback. Part of all of us becoming better at the things we want to be better at needs to involve some level of feedback and personal reflection. Provide time for students to talk to each other about their work and their thinking and make teacher and student conferencing a priority in your classroom. 

Infusing creativity in the classroom doesn’t have to be a complex proceed. Whether you do a complete classroom redesign or look to authentic-based learning or make a point to spend more time reflecting with your students, you are modeling that creativity and creative thinking are an important part of learning and showing students that their creative voices matter. 

photo credit: CRE@!V!TY - busy - via photopin cc
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