Educators, business leaders, and policymakers all recognize the importance of creativity in the 21st century. In the past, creativity was most often associated with the arts, but now it is recognized as essential to all disciplines and important to solving pressing problems. You’ve probably heard your administrators and other school leaders talk about creativity. But what might this look like in your classroom?
As teachers, you have the opportunity to create favorable conditions that can unleash and develop the creative potential of students. Thoughtful decisions about the physical classroom set-up, as well as the learning environment, can establish your classroom as a place where creativity flourishes. According to E. Paul Torrance, author of The Creativity Man, “The classroom stimulates certain types of creative thinking. Children should learn early that creative ideas are shared and enjoyed by the group.” A well-designed classroom environment can cultivate creativity and make the difference for students who don’t think of themselves as creative.
When launching the creative classroom, consider the characteristics of a learning environment that supports creativity:
- Emphasize intrinsic motivation
- Design open-ended learning activities
- Encourage a variety of collaboration methods (for example, brainstorming, peer-to-peer, and mentoring)
- Allow time and space for experimentation
- Allow time for creative thinking
- Reduce consequences for failure and allow mistakes
- Place value on creative processes and efforts
- Ensure the availability of tools and support
- Encourage student questioning
- Encourage sensible risks
- Imagine other viewpoints and question assumptions
- Think about the thinking process
It’s also important to consider some common classroom practices that suppress creativity and actively inhibit creative thinking. Some efforts have been made to identify factors that constitute barriers to creative classroom behavior.
|Classroom practices that inhibit creative thinking:||A creative environment:|
|An overemphasis on factual knowledge, recall, and reproduction to the neglect of problem solving, creative thinking, and decision making.|
|Procedural learning activities with restricted choices|
|A regimented schedule or excessive structure|
|Teacher-centric instructional design|
|An overemphasis on content evaluation with high-stakes consequences for failure|
|Competition and frequent failures|
Creativity requires openness and boundaries, restrictions and experimentation, routines and surprise. Achieving an appropriate balance in these contradictions is necessary for creating a flexible classroom environment that promotes creativity. Often, the classroom space can play a role in achieving this balance.
When launching your creative classroom, ask yourself the following questions that may be used to determine the creative potential of a classroom space:
Evaluating the Creative Classroom
- Are there zones of privacy that are connected to the activity throughout the larger space?
- Is the furniture comfortable and easy to move and rearrange to accommodate a variety of activities, both independent and in small groups?
- Is there an emphasis on shared areas, with more whole-group and small-group space to create a sense of community?
- Is the classroom organized and free of clutter?
- Do the students know routines to move around the classroom safely, easily, and responsibly?
- Is student work in progress, as well as final work, displayed in the room?
Reflect on your current teaching practices and your physical classroom setup, and consider how you might incorporate additional opportunities for creativity. You might want to begin by selecting 1-2 ideas and then building on them as the year progresses. By investigating the kinds of environments that foster creative thinking, and the instructional strategies that help students develop the skills they need to be creative, you’re one step closer to developing a plan to support your students’ creativity.