Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Beghetto’

Go and Be Creative

For more than a decade the “C’s” have been all the rage in education.   These are the 21st century skills we want for all our students.   The lists are slightly different, but almost every jurisdiction has them.  Ideas like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship and character are on many of the lists.  And the one that makes every list is creativity.  And for good reason.  Who is really against creativity?  Of all of these worthwhile “c’s”, I do find talking about, teaching, and even defining creativity to be the most challenging.  Reading Ronald Beghetto’s book Killing Ideas Softly?  The Promise and Perils of Creativity in the Classroom only further enforced the challenges I have with defining creativity.

I was told that I was a creative teacher and principal, and have also had others pay me the compliment over the last decade of being a creative superintendent.  I am flattered, but I am not exactly sure what they mean.  And I am not sure what I am doing to be creative.  And I am not sure when people compliment one’s creativity –  are they saying what you do is creative, or what you do allows others to be creative?   Beghetto describes creativity as involving “a combination of originality and appropriateness as defined within a particular social-cultural-historical context.”  It is a concept that I feel like I am pretty good at recognizing in a classroom, but still struggle to articulate.  If asked to describe what creativity looks like in a classroom, I could cite examples but not easily define.  And in our school contexts, we try to create conditions that allow teachers to be creative, and also students to be creative.   While I have spent my classroom time teaching academics, I most often still associate creativity with music, the visual and performing arts, sports and other non-academic pursuits.  

Here are some random thoughts I have around creativity in the classroom:

  • I think the refreshed curriculum in BC allows for more creativity from teachers and students.  And even if we do nothing else to promote creativity, just by opening up the curriculum we should have more creative actions.  I tested this idea out on Professor Yong Zhao, who has also written extensively on the topic, and he agreed that the curriculum in jurisdictions like BC and New Zealand lend themselves to greater creativity.
  • We often associate creativity with something most alive in our new teachers, but creativity is hard to do well in classrooms and it is more likely that seasoned teachers would be able to more easily do things like allow students to take control of their own learning, identify and incorporate student interests and encourage intrinsic engagement.  I see some newer teachers trying so hard to focus on creativity they do so in-place of core skills.  I like how Beghetto described it, “you have to learn to think inside the box before you can think outside of it.”
  • I wonder if classes that put aside time in their day or week for creative time are doing a service to the goal of creativity versus those who just look for moments in a class to capture the opportunities.  Again coming back to Beghetto, he argues that creativity and academic learning are complimentary and that “a common road-block for teachers who want to incorporate creativity and learning in their classrooms is to mistakenly believe that creativity and learning are in competition with each other.”  This makes me think that when we reserve time for creativity in our week, we position it as time separate from learning.
  • I know I have strong biases as well.  I think of visual and performing arts and other electives as naturally creative, but not so for academic areas like English, Social Studies, Science and Math.  Of course I know this to actually not be true as the most creative teachers I began my career with were in math (Fred Harwood) and in science (Doug Sheppard and Bill Lawrence).  It is hard to shake the learning vs. creativity belief.  And I also think we often afford far more opportunities for stronger students to be creative than weaker students – as we need the weaker students to focus on the basics.  Again, a bias that needs to change.

I have been somewhat immersed in reading about, thinking about and talking about creativity the last few months.   And it is one of these topics that the more I know the more I question.  Like with so much else right now in our COVID era, I think there are some really great options to embed creativity in the classroom.  Combine our open curriculum with changes in high school schedules that see longer classes and there are great opportunities.  And as I started this, there are few who would argue we should have less creativity in our schools, and on all the lists of skills from employers, creativity is always featured.

Beghetto’s full list of 15 instructional reminders around creativity include:

  1. Creativity is more than originality
  2. Creativity and academic learning are complimentary
  3. You have to learn to think inside the box before you can think outside the box
  4. Accomplished creators know when (and when not) to be creative
  5. Creativity can’t die, but it can be stifled
  6. Be  aware of the potential for creative mortification
  7. Accomplished creators turn mini insights into creative contributions
  8. Try to see beyond the how to the what
  9. Monitor mini-motivational messages of the classroom
  10. Approach teaching with the eye of Monet
  11. Hold your lesson plans lightly
  12. Establish routines that ensure that ideas will be revisited
  13. Teaching for creativity is more about “small wins” rather than radical curricular changes
  14. Plan for creativity
  15. Teach and live creatively

We all want creative students, and classes and schools that promote creativity.  Beyond the buzz word, it is hard work.



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