Allowing Creativity to Flourish in the Classroom

Illustration by Kate Moore

Illustration by Kate Moore

When I was young, I didn’t think of myself as a creative person. I was a terrible drawer and was continually disappointed by my art class efforts. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized creativity wasn’t just about artistic prowess. There is creativity in how you solve a problem and in the types of questions you ask. There is creativity in how you express your ideas and how you get around roadblocks. Creativity is an important quality in and out of the art room and is worth encouraging in every class.

Sadly, much of our curriculum is focused on teaching our students particular facts and discrete skills in as efficient a way a possible. This makes sense in a lot of ways. Why wouldn’t we want our students to learn efficiently? Just as the fastest way to make a lot of identical cars is to have a bunch of people repeat the same, discrete task over and over again, so the fastest way to ensure an identical education for a lot of people is to have a bunch of teachers drill the same, discrete facts over and over again. Both systems are manageable, which means some standard of quality can be monitored and maintained.

The thing about an assembly line is that it’s better for the owner than for the worker. The worker is deskilled and only needs to perform a simple task. This makes it easy for the owner to replace the worker; there is no actual skill needed for the job. Similarly our educational models are better for the state than for the teacher and students. Making the curriculum easily testable is about making sure the state can quickly “see” how each school is doing — who is performing and who isn’t — but it deskills our teachers and takes away their ability to adjust to student needs. It can also squash the creative thinking of our students.

In an earlier post, we discussed how to put the focus on curiosity and inquiry even within standardized curriculums. Giving students choice and connecting ideas cross-departmentally will also encourage creativity. But if you don’t have time to rework your lesson plan or to get buy-in across different departments, we added Critical Thinking Templates to the Pear Deck for Google Slides Add-on to help make creative thinking a regular part of any type of lesson. You can add one of these templates to any lesson to prompt your students to flex their own thinking muscles. Checks-for-understanding are an important way to make sure your students aren’t getting lost, but asking these open-ended questions will help students learn to approach problems creatively.

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When you select one of these templates, you’ll see guiding instructions in the “Presenter Notes” area to help you know how to alter the slide and how to use it to prompt student thinking. You’ll find templates to encourage students to make connection across topics, to ask their own big questions, and to propose approaches to a problem.

Just as we’ve begun to realize that literacy shouldn’t be restrained to language class, so should creativity be let outside of the arts.

This week’s blog post was written by Pear Deck Chief Educator Michal Eynon-Lynch.