We hear a lot these days about creativity. How important it is in the classroom, the community, and the workplace. Creativity, however, is one of those squishy skills, difficult to identify, teach, and assess. For teachers accustomed to delegating “creative” work to the arts, encouraging this kind of thinking in core subjects, like science, math, and history, can be a challenge.


The main roadblock to teaching creativity is the pedagogy of “correct” answers. There’s no point in being creative if there’s only one answer. That’s why project-and problem-based learning can encourage creativity. Creativity only blooms in messy, ill-defined situations where there are multiple options for success.


Creativity also demands a nurturing environment. Creative people are curious, often shy, thoughtful risk-takers. They make lots of mistakes. There is no creativity without failure, usually markedly more failure than success. A classroom focused as much as possible on learning, rather than on extrinsic rewards such as grades and one that provides students with options on content, process, and products can foster student creativity.


Can you teach creativity? Of course. Like any thinking skill, creativity can be modeled and assessed. Some components of creative thinking are:

  • Brainstorm
  • Taking risks
  • Using strategies such as drawing, freewriting, conversation, metaphorical thinking
  • Questioning assumptions
  • Redefining problems
  • Making connections across topics and subject areas
  • Embracing ambiguity
  • Delaying gratification


What does creativity look like in subject areas other than English, art, and music?

  • In science, students can sometimes devise their own experiments instead of following prescribed steps.
  • In mathematics, students can apply mathematical thinking to topics in the real world that, at first glance, seem unmathematical.
  • In history, students can make up stories about the past. No, not really! But, they can think of different perspectives through which to tell about and investigate historical events and people.

Working creatively can be frustrating, fun, and time-consuming. But the end result is ultimately satisfying, and certainly worth promoting in all classrooms.


Blog originally posted at http://www.clarity-innovations.com/about/blog/pgrant/creativity-out-arts-closet