Creativity is ageless. Therefore, strategies for encouraging students to explore their creative ideas can be used at every grade and ability level. Some concepts are more suited to younger students, and some to older students. For the most part, however, every strategy can be modified to meet the needs of all students. Here are some tips:
Ways to Nurture and Support Creativity
- Create a safe environment.Principal and author Heather Clayton explains the importance of setting the stage for creativity in the classroom. “These are classrooms where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and where teachers accept unlikely answers.” If students are confident that their creative ideas will be embraced and not criticized, they will be willing to share even the unexpected creative idea.
- Ask good questions.When presenting materials and concepts required by a standards-based curriculum, teachers often ask “knowledge” and “comprehension” questions, based on Bloom’s taxonomy. At the early elementary level, these are called “right-there questions” because the answers are usually found right there in the book. Although these questions are essential to gauge students’ foundational understanding of materials, they call for little to no creativity.
Creativity in students is revealed when teachers start asking more complex questions, such as What would happen if…? These questions cannot be found in the book and most of what students offer cannot be considered right or wrong. Instead, they are conversation starters, giving students permission to discuss and support their ideas.
When students are comfortable with the what-if questions, other more complex ideas will emerge, answering questions like:
- What conclusions can we draw from…?
- What is your opinion about…?
- Can you prove it? How?
- How could you adapt or change it for another use or concept?
- Can you predict the outcome?
- How would you plan or organize this differently?
Such questions encourage students to think in ways that go beyond just knowing or even understanding. They naturally force students to think beyond the book.
- Give students plenty of opportunities to explore what matters to them.Students take ownership and demonstrate their own creative interests when given time and materials to explore what they love. Even in a strict, standards-based curriculum, teachers can often find ways for students to choose from a variety of final products or learning processes to master the concept or skill.
- Make working collaboratively a priority in the classroom.While it is important to hold students accountable individually, and accurately assess knowledge and ability, creativity thrives when students work in groups.
According to Clayton, when students work in diverse groups that include different ethnicities as well as various learning styles and cognitive strengths, “students benefit from seeing the creativity of their peers and can look at existing knowledge and assumptions in different ways as a result of hearing the reasoning and ideas of others.”
- Provide feedback and encourage reflection.The idea of providing feedback implies criticizing and revealing weaknesses, which seems counter to the concept of promoting creativity in a safe environment. Honest critique, however, can be a powerful motivator for students who know the purpose of the feedback.
Students develop an understanding of the authentic nature of creativity when they reflect on their work by answering questions like Is your work unique? Would you change anything? What would you change or improve? By asking them to reflect on the process, you are encouraging them to look forward to future projects, using what they learned to improve their craft.
Experienced, dedicated teachers know the importance of understanding their students, discovering what motivates them and encouraging them to be uniquely creative.
Edutopia contributor Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell states, “Creativity is a force that nurtures human development, innovation, and an aesthetic appreciation of the world around us.”
The Master of Education, Curriculum & Instruction – Concentration in Special Education in Gifted Education online program offered by the University of Louisiana Monroe equips experienced teachers with the skills and strategies “to design appropriate learning and performance modifications that enhance creativity … in academic instruction for gifted individuals.”