Saturday, April 8, 2017

Creating the Optimal Conditions for Creativity to Flourish

I think I must have decided to focus on presentations on creativity at NESA as I went to another 4 hour workshop led by Garfield Gini-Newman from the University of Toronto and the Critical Thinking Consortium.  Garfield is the author of the book Creating Thinking Classrooms.

At the start of this workshop I was introduced to a new word - creatical which means critical creativity.  Garfield pointed out that to  innovate you need a deep understanding - innovation requires that students use knowledge in new ways and in authentic contexts. You cannot innovate in an area you know nothing about. Creativity can also encourage social entrepreneurism - students can explore ways to solve problems or develop products that have value in their community (locally, internationally globally). It's good for students to explore challenges without limits or boundaries.

We were shown some diagrams (I tried to reproduce them below) and asked about our ideas of critical thinking and creativity - are they separate - overlapping - or is one a subset of the other (and if so which one)?

Barriers to creativity
  • A belief that standardized assessments do not align to creativity - teachers believe they have to teach content through transmission.
  • Creativity is seen at odds with the need to cover the curriculum.
  • Misunderstanding of what defines creativity - it is in fact profoundly purposeful as it is always driven by a goal or purpose.
  • Perception of creativity as the generation of novel ideas without judgement. However creativity always involves judgement and criteria is central to the creative process.
Creativity requires
  • Something is produced - a person cannot be creative if they have never created something
  • The creation is novel (it can do something in a different way)
  • The creation adds value, has significance or solves a problem
5 Keys to creating optimal conditions for creativity
  • Quality thinking - we must pay attention to the community of learners and thinkers, we have to creative opportunity for creativity, we have to teach intellectual tools for quality thinking. We must teach kids that there is not a “right” answer - there are different answers - we need to create the climate. You need to create a safe environment where students can take chances and know they can throw out ideas. Tools needed for quality thinking include:
    • Background knowledge - this is not prior knowledge - it’s the knowledge needed to engage with the challenge.  Students still need content.  Innovation builds upon this.
    • Criteria for judgement of what makes a good idea, what is useful and which ideas have the most merit.
    • Critical thinking vocabulary - this is not the language of the subject.  It’s words like assess, evaluate, appreciate etc.
    • Thinking strategies - information is not enough.  It needs to be organized, and managed to make sense.
    • Habits of mind - 19 habits - we don’t teach lessons on this, they are habitual.  Curiosity, open-minded, perseverance, risk taking.
  • Opportunity - how we frame our questions and the power of constraints. If there are no constraints or too many constraints both can cut off creativity. Try to find an authentic audience and an authentic task. Design thinking starts with empathy for audience.
  • Fluency - Generate lots of ideas. 
  • Verification - provide clear criteria for quality (success, qualitative not descriptive)
  • Time - you have to allow time for creativity

Photo: My daughter with Rodin's Thinker in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow


  1. As always, an inspirational post. As I prep for a PYP workshop on creativity, I am appreciative of your concise overview. I love 'creatical' - I hope you don't mind if I share this (and your post) at the workshop. I am unable to see the diagrams. Is it possible to check the links?

    1. Thank you! I'm happy for you to share this post if it is useful. The diagram shows up when I'm on my laptop, but when I tested it on my phone it just shows as blank. I will try to re-upload the image.