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How to Inspire Creativity in the Classroom

Drexel University School of Education

Having the opportunity to create a learning environment that encourages creative thinking, teachers are in a unique position to help students develop one of their most important life skills. Although creativity can seem to be an abstract or even mysterious concept at times, there is a growing science behind infusing classrooms with creativity and the benefits it yields to students in the classroom, as well as later in life. Read to learn more about the importance of creative learning environments and how teachers can learn to nurture creativity in a classroom environment.

What is a Creative Learning Environment?

A creative learning environment is one that encourages students to learn through trial and error, use their imagination, and to think critically to solve problems. By leveraging such learned skills as setting goals, sharing knowledge, and building relationships, a creative learning environment can help students practice and develop their own theories, and ideas, and set them in motion.

Why is it Important to Foster a Creative Learning Environment?

Helping students develop their creative capacities can have both direct and indirect benefits. Rather than feeling penalized or embarrassed for taking chances, students can feel comfortable trying new things and making mistakes inside a creative learning environment. As students are encouraged to pursue creative solutions to a problem, they can learn persistence in the process of continually trying a new approach to solve that problem. Additionally, students can also become better at:

  • Working as a team
  • Solving complex problems
  • Finding new ways to learn

Why Do Students Need to be Creative?

In the modern world, where entire industries are born and die every decade, there’s little doubt that creativity is an increasingly important asset. Creativity is a critical component for the type of divergent thinking necessary for innovation. Expanding their creative capacity can make students more adept at forming original ideas, as well as exercising their critical thinking skills. Creativity is also a life skill, which can help students unlock new avenues in their personal self-expression.

What is the Teacher's Role in Enhancing Creativity?

Controlling the classroom environment where students spend hours each day, teachers have ample opportunities to nurture and cultivate creativity. In practice, that usually means two things: serving as a role model for students, and finding ways to stimulate their creative thinking processes. Although creativity can develop outside of the classroom, teachers play an indispensable role in maintaining and encouraging its continuous development.

How to Promote Creativity Among Students and Foster a Creative Classroom Environment?

There’s no single recipe for developing creativity in students, but there are some simple things you can do to make your classroom a little more creative. Many of the most effective ways to encourage creativity in a classroom environment are simple augmentations to existing practices. Others are as simple as learning to identify opportunities to help students exercise their creativity. Here are a few different ways to help build a creative classroom:

Create a Flexible Classroom Layout

A classroom that provides options for learning can help to unlock a student’s creativity. For example, some students may enjoy reading at their desk, while others may want to sit in a comfy chair in another part of the room. You could also reorganize desks into pods or in a U-shape to make it easier for students to work together on projects. By making the classroom more versatile, can provide students with a creative learning environment.

Create a Library in your Classroom

Creating a classroom library is an excellent way to provide students with easy access to literature to help them fine tune their reading skills and spark creative ideas. A classroom library can also be an important resource for students who may not have books of their own or easy access to a public library. A teacher may choose books for the library that complement the creative learning activities in the class.

Open-Ended Assignments

Allow students to exercise their creative instincts by substituting assignments that have a single correct answer with those that offer multiple ways of discovering a solution.

Seek Alternatives to Rote Memorization

Deprioritize memorization-focused tasks and replace them with tasks that allow students to challenge assumptions. Try rewording assignments to promote creativity by adding phrases like “suppose” or “imagine.”

Exercise Patience

Don’t rush to demonstrate creative solutions for students. Instead, give them time to figure things out on their own.

Work in Groups

Two heads are better than one. Groups tend to find more creative solutions, as well as foster a sense of collaboration. This can provide a low-stakes environment to make students more comfortable exercising their creativity, and also cognizant of each member of the group’s individual strengths and how those strengths can be leveraged to solve a problem in a unique way.

Give Feedback

Giving creative feedback is one of the simpler ways to stimulate creative thinking, which can make it easy to overlook. Students with enormously creative solutions may not realize the value of their creativity unless a teacher articulates why their solutions are so effective. Peer feedback can also be useful and help students recognize the value of their creativity, too. Educators can set the guidelines for how students can offer constructive feedback in ways that will be well-received and helpful to their classmates.

Exercise Your Own Creativity

Teachers are better role models when they possess the qualities they aspire to instill in others. Sometimes building your own creativity is as simple as changing up daily routines, taking small risks, or building your own creative rituals.

Take Advantage of Curiosity

Students have countless curiosities about the world that they’re eager to explore. Leverage their intrinsic motivation to learn by giving them opportunities to choose their own topics while learning and sharing that knowledge with the class.

Teach When Creativity is Most Appropriate

When teaching creativity in early childhood classrooms, students may not understand the context where creativity is most valuable or appropriate. For instance, during the planning stages of a group project vs. during a standardized test. Help students to adapt to different learning styles and methods of communication / knowledge sharing.

Experiment with New Activities

Creative thinking classroom activities can be as simple as asking students to do free-write exercises, allowing them to explore their creativity and analytical skills. A good visual-based alternative is concept cartooning.

Utilize Free Tools

There are many free online tools that educators can access to help create activities for creativity in the classroom. Check out Drexel’s 10 Ways to Develop Creative Lesson Plans for ideas and inspiration. Online sites like Canva provide templates for worksheets and presentations that are free and easy to use. YouTube is also an excellent resource for videos on creative learning activities that teachers can use in their classes.

Talk to Fellow Educators

Veteran teachers and colleagues are another important resource for creative ideas. They can share ideas on how to promote creativity in the classroom based on their experiences. Fellow teaches can also serve as a sounding board to listen to a teacher’s idea on a creative classroom assignment and provide feedback and advice.

Discover More Ways to Inspire Creativity in Students with Drexel University's School of Education

Creativity is a critical life skill, and teachers can help their students to build it in the classroom and carry those lessons moving forward throughout their lives and careers. The science of creativity in classroom settings is both complex and evolving. If you’re interested in learning more about developing creativity in students, take a moment to learn more about Drexel University School of Education's MS in Creativity and Innovation, MS in Creative Education and Entrepreneurship and post-bachelor's certificate in Creativity and Innovation and how you can further your own learning as an educator.