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How Can We Ignite Creativity in Education?

creativity (noun)

  • the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
  • synonyms: inventiveness, imagination, innovation, innovativeness, originality, individuality; artistry, inspiration, vision; enterprise, initiative, resourcefulness

What is creativity?

  • It is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. – Creativity at Work
  • Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. – California State University
  • It is defined as the process of having original ideas that have value. – Ken Robinson
  • Creativity is in everything – not JUST Arts but also Maths, Science, English…
  • It is a process that often involves trial & error. It is evolving. It is the determination to try again and again.

Why do we want to nurture creativity?

According to a recent Adobe creativity study, 88% of U.S. professionals believe that creativity should be built into standard curricula. Companies are looking for more than graduates who can do specific tasks, they want employees who can also think differently and innovate. To be successful, students need an education that emphasizes creative thinking, communication and teamwork. And as Sir Ken Robinson concludes in this next video “Creativity is not an option, it’s an absolute necessity.” – Adobe

  • Creativity & Problem-Solving are at the top of the list of skills that universities and employers seek
  • A 2010 survey of over 1,500 executives found that creativity is valued as the most important business skill in the modern world – Edudemic
  • Creativity will help to make change and make the world better
Image Source: Moco-Choco

Nurturing Creativity

From cardboard and duct tape to ABS polycarbonate, it took 5,127 prototypes and 15 years to get it right. And, even then there was more work to be done. My first vacuum, DC01, went to market in 1993. We’re up to DC35 now, having improved with each iteration. More efficiency, faster motors, new materials. – James Dyson on Wired

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

How can we nurture creativity?

  • make mistakes and embrace failure
  • promote divergent thinking
  • encourage risk taking
  • no “right” or “wrong” answers
  • instead of “direct instruction”, provide encouragement, opportunity, and coaching
  • offer group work as the sharing ideas can spark more ideas
  • do project-based learning
  • provide clear explanations of the focus or need
  • don’t always give grades as this can lead to a “right” or “wrong” approach mindset
  • create choices for students to tailor their learning
  • add constraints – e.g. you can only use these materials and nothing else
  • offer students real world problems to solve
  • provide opportunities to watch creativity in action
  • D.I.R.T – dedicated improvement reflection time

What’s D.I.R.T.?

Image Source: TES
  • Students are given a piece of work to complete.
  • Once completed, the teacher/peer/student will evaluate the work and provide feedback.
  • The student will review the feedback and make improvements.

How can parents help?

  • Encourage children to talk about their work. Ask ‘Why’? questions without aggression.
  • Change routines – drive a different way to school, try different foods, introduce novelty.
  • Try things out – scuba diving, music, making things. Creativity can come in different forms.
  • Encourage sleep – dreams help us solve problems we’re stuck on.
  • Embrace failure – if children are too afraid to fail, they will never try anything new. Being creative is about trying new things.

Relaxation & Creativity: The Science of Sleeping on It – Big Think

  • Dreaming as an integral part of the creative process – it’s not just about the problems of everyday life, it’s about solving them.
  • “A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” – John Steinbeck
  • Dreaming allows us to think in a different biological state. When we dream, the brain is busy rearranging beliefs, playing out hypothetical scenarios and solving problems.

Sleep Inspires Insight – Nature

  • Subjects performed a cognitive task requiring the learning of stimulus-response sequences, in which they improved gradually by increasing response speed across task blocks.
  • The task was designed so that they could improve abruptly after gaining insight into a hidden abstract rule underlying all sequences.
  • Some subjects worked without sleep, others were given a chance to sleep.
  • Subjects that slept were more likely to figure out the hidden rule compared to those that did not sleep.

By restructuring new memory representations, sleep facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behaviour.

The “Committee of Sleep”: A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving – Dreaming

  • The study used dreams to solve everyday problems.
  • Subjects picked a problem to work on. They reviewed the problem in this minds before falling asleep.
  • Half the subjects dreamed about their problem. Some of those dreamed of a solution for the problem.

CreativityResources for Developing Creativity

  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques – from the linear to the intuitive, this comprehensive handbook details ingenious creative-thinking techniques for approaching problems in unconventional ways. Through fun and thought-provoking exercises, you’ll learn how to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different. Hundreds of hints, tricks, tips, tales, and puzzles that will open your mind to a world of innovative solutions to everyday and not-so-everyday problems.
  • ThinkPak – Use SCAMPER:
    • Substitute something
    • Combine it with something else
    • Adapt something to it
    • Modify or Magnify it
    • Put it to some other use
    • Eliminate something
    • Reverse or Rearrange it
  • How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day – drawing on Da Vinci’s notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, this book introduces the seven Da Vincian principles which are hailed as the essential elements of genius. Discover an exhilarating new way of thinking.
  • The Really Useful Creativity Book – provides approaches and ideas that will enable children to develop their creativity.
  • Design Cards – see image below…

* These are my notes (with personal annotations) from a workshop we had at school on Using Real World Problems to Develop Creativity.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “How Can We Ignite Creativity in Education?

  1. Great article, thank you! Creativity is the wonderful ability to perceive the world in all its glory. This is the determination to try on my mistakes over and over again, this is what I need to learn, first, not afraid to try and leave the comfort zone. I recently wrote a paper on this topic using a service that I found on this resource For me, this is also a kind of creativity. The main thing is to develop and not standstill.


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