Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Mar 09, 2011

Being creative is more than just being artistic - it also refers to being able to create something original and useful. Many schools don't actively encourage students' creativity, due in part to the cookie-cutter nature of state education standards. However, some innovative educational approaches may be changing the landscape - read on to learn more.

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Sir Ken Robinson education TED Talk creativity school reform

Creativity Is Power

Despite cuts in schools' art programs, there are many other ways to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate creativity, but it does require a school-wide effort. Sir Ken Robinson, an advocate of creativity in schools, claimed in a 2006 TED talk that the current education system separates many people from their natural talents. He proposes systemic reforms that allow students to realize and embrace those talents.

For example, since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, schools have trained students to be excellent test takers, a process that consists mostly of linear thinking (memorizing facts, following instructions, and selecting one correct answer). Fortunately, there is a much-needed pedagogical shift taking place in many states known as Common Core Standards (CCS), and components of this program emphasize creative thinking.

For example, in the modeling component of the CCS high school math curriculum, students use statistical principles to creatively solve real-world issues, like calculating supply distribution during a city-wide emergency. Schools that genuinely and diligently spark students' creativity are promoting the growth of future problem-solvers and critical-thinkers.

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21st Century Skills

There are several approaches that educators can take to embrace and endorse creativity. They can implement classroom activities that promote 21st-century skills, such as collaboration, diversity, interdisciplinary exchange, and technology proficiency. A teaching methodology that appreciates and enhances student creativity is Project-Based Learning, which consists of meaningful projects that require team work, inquiry, research, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Many school districts are implementing this approach across curricula, and its success stems from engaging students and celebrating wrong answers in an effort to encourage higher thinking skills.

The Whole Child

Another methodology that embraces creativity is the 'holistic' approach. This method emphasizes the 'whole child' and focuses on students' spiritual, emotional, social, physical, and creative education. Each student's innate strengths and abilities are encouraged, and the curricula often emphasize creative thinking and problem solving. For example, educators can allow students to demonstrate their creativity by presenting them with open-ended questions about real-life scenarios. Similarly, a group of students might collaboratively design a community service project. These types of creative activities encourage students to think critically and come up with possible solutions they can apply in the real world.

Sir Ken Robinson education TED Talk creativity school reform

Want to learn more about school reform and other classroom topics? Check out these ten top education blogs on policy and best practices.

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