Saturday, August 13, 2011

Teaching Creativity

Many of you may have seen the TED talk from 2006 where Ken Robinson discusses how schools kill creativity. A recent study seems to support his assertion. I have seen several articles this week about a 2010 study of 300,000 creativity tests (dating as far back as the 1970's) and the troubling results found by Kyung Hee Kim, a reasearcher at the College of William and Mary. Basically, since 1990, children have become less creative: less able to come up with unusual ideas, less imaginative, less humorous, and less able to elaborate on ideas.

Many people believe that this is a result of the high-stakes testing atmosphere prevalent in today's schools. Because of No Child Left Behind, educators are teaching to the test. And the test doesn't give you bonus points for a creative answer. The answers are right if you say what is expected, and wrong otherwise. There is no room for creativity.

I am fortunate enough to teach in a school system that values creativity. Creativity and curiosity are two of the core attitudes we try to build in our students. I teach at a high school that requires students to take some sort of fine art in both ninth and tenth grade. I know how lucky I am - many schools no longer have arts classes in this age of proration and funding cuts. But creativity should not be relegated to the arts curriculum. I believe that teachers in every subject should be teaching creativity. But how?

Use of digital media - the creativity study showed that one of the few areas where children were becoming more creative is in the use of digital media. We live in a digital world, that is only becoming more so, and the sooner educators embrace technology, the better able we will be to reach our students and prepare them for the future.

Teach deep, not shallow - yes, you have to cover all of that information for state testing. But in at least a few topics, go deep. Have the students understand all of the aspects of a problem. Have them brainstorm for solutions. Give them the opportunity to be creative problem solvers.

Use some self-fulfilling prophesy - humans are innately creative. Let your students know that they are creative beings. Reward creative solutions, even when it's not the solution you were looking for. Or ask for creative solutions in addition to the 'correct' answer.

Give some creative freedom - offer the kids freedom to design their own assignments or projects - if the sky is the limit, how far will they reach?

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