Discover why embracing a Creative Education philosophy is crucial. Learn how it fosters innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in students.
What Is Creative Learning?
The quote above could never be more fitting than when referring to creativity in education as creative learning in schools represents an identifiable form of learning that involves creative expression in the framework of academic learning (Beghetto, 2021).
Creative learning is not memorising information. It is building knowledge and developing skills using creative techniques. Rather than prescribing how information should be absorbed, creative education guides the learner through the instruction process using creative methods. Moreover, it challenges the discernible, the conformist, and the expected.
To some degree, it is about breaking out of limitations (Elm Learning, 2021). Creative students thrive in school settings that recognises the need for the creative education process to unfold through the teaching method employed.
Creative learning and teaching should begin in preschool and through play-based learning as they are teachable skills. By implementing basic skills for every type of learner, this will provide for an inclusive school setting.
Why Is Creative Learning Important?
Creativity is freedom of expression. When children learn their academic subjects, they learn a specific way of solving things. With creative subjects there is no ‘right’ way, only the way an individual would like to do something.
The creative education process teaches them to view the world through different lenses, instead of the one single way that an academic education provides. It can also foster productivity and efficiency; when a student comes up with an idea, they are more likely to be able to find ways to work around impending barriers and achieve this idea because of learning to think ‘out of the box’ (Windebank, 2020).
The skill of creativity is the ability to think about a task or a problem in a new or different way, or the ability to use the imagination to generate new ideas. Creativity enables you to solve complex problems or find interesting ways to approach tasks.
Learners engage acutely with creative learning experiences (Elm Learning, 2021). Thus, this a shift from convergent thinking skills which is the process of locating tangible and familiar solutions to problems to divergent thinking which is the creative process of producing unique ideas and neoteric prospects.
The more that learners engage with the process, the longer they retain knowledge and develop their understanding which has the subsequent benefits (Elm Learning, 2021):
- Stimulates problem-solving. Creative learning experiences change the way learners approach problems. They become more ingenious and innovative, and they manage better when they do not know the answer. Creative learners start visualising alternatives or possibilities from different viewpoints.
- Develops critical thinking. Learners recommend innovative ideas and resolutions. Then, they review the progress of executing them and adapt the process for improvement.
- Promotes risk-taking. Creative learning exposes learners to failure. They have the opportunity to make decisions and, unavoidably, some of them will not lead to solutions. But learning creatively provides learners with a space where they feel secure in taking risks and seeing various outcomes. Getting comfortable with “failure” allows learners to take more risks with less fear.
- Builds a curious mindset. Creative learning solutions are unconventional. Progressive ways of learning make learners curious about the process and the topic and foster learning itself. Creative learning is a catalyst for curiosity and discussion and leads learners to thought-provoking insights.
- Increases confidence levels. Creative learning techniques build confidence and consequently learners are more likely to apply the lessons they learned.
What is creative about creative learning?
Creative learning pertains to the development of new and meaningful contributions to one’s own and others’ learning and lives. This conception of creative learning adheres to standard definitions of creativity (Plucker, Beghetto, & Dow, 2004; Runco & Jaeger, 2012 in Beghetto, 2021), which includes two basic criteria: it must be original (new, different, or unique) as defined within a particular context or situation, and it must be useful (meaningful, effectively meets task constraints, or adequately solves the problem at hand).
This is principally good news for teachers, as supporting creative learning is not about removing all restrictions, but rather it is about supporting students in coming up with new and different ways of meeting academic criteria and learning goals (Beghetto, 2019a, 2019b in Beghetto, 2021).
Within school settings and classrooms, the process of creative learning can span from smaller scale contributions to an individuals and others’ learning (e.g., a student sharing a distinctive way of thinking about a science problem) to larger scale and long-term influences that promote the learning and lives of people in and beyond the walls of the classroom, school and community (e.g., a group of students develop and implement a creative solution for addressing social exclusion in the lunchroom).
In this way, efforts aimed at supporting creative learning represents a generative form of positive education because it serves as a conduit for students to contribute to their own and others learning, life, and wellbeing (White & Kern, 2018 in Beghetto, 2021).
In this way, efforts aimed at supporting creative learning represent an important form of positive education (Beghetto, 2021), where students thinking can be ignited in contemporary and intrepid ways. Legacy projects represent an example of such efforts where the creativity in students is a stimulus for moving beyond the immediate environment.
Legacy projects refer to creative learning endeavours that provide creative students with opportunities to engage with uncertainty and attempt to develop sustainable solutions to complex and ill-defined problems (Beghetto, 2017c, 2018b in Beghetto, 2021). Beghetto (2021), provides a meaningful illustration where a project involves a blend between learning and creative expression with the aim of making a creative contribution.
A group of fourth graders who learned about an endangered freshwater shrimp and then worked to restore the habitat by launching a project that spanned across multiple years and multiple networks of teachers, students, and external partners is an example of a legacy project (Beghetto, 2021). In this way, the process of creative learning includes both intra-psychological (individual) and inter-psychological (social) aspects (Beghetto, 2016 in Beghetto, 2021).
This type of learning undoubtedly has relevance to education as it allows for student engagement and contributes to their social-emotional learning of the students. For the duration of the legacy project students would need to communicate, collaborate, engage in critical thinking, review the changes that can be made, their roles as citizens and character. All these skills encompass 21st century learning and are skills that are required post schooling where students have to identify their niche in the world to become global citizens.
At the inter-psychological (or social) level, students have an opportunity to share and refine their conceptions with teachers and peers, making a creative contribution to the learning and lives of others; student inventors, authors, content creators, and members of community-based problem-solving teams are further examples of the inter-psychological level of creative contribution (Beghetto, 2016 in Beghetto, 2021). Beghetto (2021), provides a succinct example in terms of a student taking a biology exam:
- One question on the exam paper asks students to draw a plant cell and label its most important parts.
- If the student responds by drawing a picture of a flower behind the bars of a jail cell and labels the iron bars, lack of windows, and incarcerated plant, then it could be said that the student has offered an original or even humorous response, but not a creative one.
- For a response to be considered creative, it needs to be both original and meaningfully meet the task constraints.
- If the goal were to provide a funny response to the prompt, then perhaps it could be considered a creative response.
- But in this case, the task requires students to meet the task constraints by providing a scientifically accurate depiction of a plant cell.
- Learning tasks such as this offer little room for creative expression, because the goal is often to determine whether students can accurately reproduce what has been taught.
In addition, Beghetto (2021), affords an opposing example to the one offered above by considering a biology teacher who invites students to identify their own scientific question or problem, which is unique and interesting to them.
- The teacher asks them to design an inquiry-based project aimed at addressing the question or problem.
- Next, the teacher invites students to share their questions and project designs with each other.
- Although some of the questions students identify may have existing answers in the scientific literature, this type of task provides the openings necessary for creative learning to occur in the classroom.
- This is because students have an opportunity to identify their own questions to address, develop their own understanding of new and diverse ways of addressing those questions, and share and receive feedback on their unique ideas and insights.
- Providing students with semi-structured learning experiences that requires them to meet learning goals in new and distinctive ways helps to ensure that students are developing personally and academically meaningful understandings and provides them with an opportunity to potentially contribute to the understanding of their peers and teachers.
Below is a list of creative learning techniques (Elm Learning, 2021):
- Hypothetical scenarios
- Improvisation (with exercises or games)
- Brainstorming sessions and debates
Example of Creative Learning: Instructional Storytelling
Storytelling is a creative learning technique that makes information interesting. It takes the pressure out of the learning experience and improves learners’ attention. A question can be posed, ‘What defines a story as being extraordinary?
For instance, ruminate about an item that is of sentimental value to you. Perhaps a treasured object that was given to you by a family member. Do you remember the moment you received it and how you felt, with all the sensory details? Do you know why? The reason is because emotions are associated with information that power long-term memory. Long-term memory maximises learners’ attention! Emotions drive attention, and attention drives learning (Elm Learning, 2021).
Creative Learning vs Creative Teaching
In contrast to the teacher-focus of creative teaching, the idea of creative learning is learner-centred. It is interactive and encourages learners to experiment and explore possible learning approaches with an attitude of playfulness. The ultimate goal is to unleash an individual’s potential during the creative learning process (Banaji, 2011; SeftonGreen & Bresler, 2011 in Tsai, 2015).
What is Creative Teaching?
The act of teaching in a novel and useful way that promotes student growth related to the development of original thought and action. Creative teaching focuses both on the methods a teacher uses to deliver learning and the overall effect those methods have on students and the outcomes produced which is a condition of developing creative learning.
In the process of creative teaching, the teacher inspires learners’ interests in learning material, and then leads students to find the problem by themselves creatively, or present specific problems and ask learners to apply all categories of available resources to find the best satisfying solution creatively.
Teaching in a creative way refers to the teachers’ use of imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting, engaging, exciting and effective. Creative teaching is customisable depending on the teacher’s skills, experiences, and perspectives (What is Creative Teaching? 2023).
According to, NACCCE (1999, 102 in Tsai, 2015) views creative teaching from two perspectives: teaching creatively, which means teachers employ “imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting, exciting, and effective” and teaching for creativity, which is for the purpose of developing learners’ creative thinking. Creative teaching has been defined as “a unique, customized, and meaningful exchange of knowledge among all individuals in a learning context” (Rinkevich, 2011:219 in Tsai, 2015).
The difference between creative and academic education
Academic education involves the studying of certain subjects which are more analytical. Creative education is a way of teaching children to think independently and to use their imaginations. Subjects that are creative include drama, music, and art (Windebank, 2020).
Locating Creative Learning in Schools and Classrooms
Having delved into the question of what makes creative learning creative, focus can now be on locating the factors and conditions that can help support creative learning in schools and classrooms.
There are at least four interrelated components posited as being necessary for creative learning to occur in schools, classrooms, and beyond:
- academic subject matter, and
Creative learning in schools and classrooms occurs at the intersection of these four factors. Additionally, the classroom, school, and broader sociocultural contexts play a vital role in determining whether and how creative learning will be supported and expressed (Beghetto, 2021).
- The Role of Students in Creative Learning
Students, unquestionably, play a central role in creative learning. Creative learning in schools even at the individual level involves providing creative students with opportunities to test out and receive feedback on their personal understandings and insights to ensure that what they have learned fits within the broader academic subject area.
When this occurs, creative learning at the individual level represents a blend of individualistic and generally agreed upon academic knowledge (Beghetto, 2021).
In the context of creative learning, students need to be confident in their own ideas prior to being willing to share those ideas with others and test out their mini-creative ideas. However, valuing creativity and the willingness to take creative risks also appear to play key roles (Karwowski, Lebuda, & Beghetto, 2019 in Beghetto, 2021).
The same can be said for intellectual risk-taking, which refers to adaptive behaviours that puts a person at risk of making mistakes or failing (Beghetto, 2009 in Beghetto, 2021). With this being said, even if a student has confidence in their ideas, unless they identify with and view such ideas as worthwhile and are willing to take the risks of sharing those ideas with others, then they are not likely to make a creative contribution to their own and others learning (Beghetto, 2021).
Finally, even if students have confidence, value creativity, and are willing to take creative risks, unless they have the opportunities and social supports to do so then they will not be able to realise their creative learning potential. As such, teachers, peers, and others in the social classroom, school, and broader environments are important for bringing such potential to fruition (Beghetto, 2021).
2. The Role of Teachers in Creative Learning
In the field of education, teachers play a significant role in designing and managing the kinds of learning experiences that determine whether creativity will be supported or suppressed in the classroom.
Undeniably, unless teachers believe that they can support student creativity, have some idea of how to do so, and are willing to try then it is unlikely that students will have systematic opportunities to engage in creative learning (Beghetto, 2017b in Beghetto, 2021).; Davies et al., 2013 in Beghetto, 2021.; Gralewski & Karawoski, 2018 in Beghetto, 2021; Paek & Sumners, 2019 in Beghetto, 2021).
Creative workshops will provide teachers with tools on how to design lesson plans and further cement their role in creative teaching by creating activities that allow for maximum participation and that is fun for students!
The steps below outline the role of teachers in fostering creativity in students which will allow for positive student engagement and active learning:
1. An important first step in supporting the development of students’ creative potential is for teachers to recognise that supporting creative and academic learning can be compatible goals.
When teachers recognise that they can simultaneously support creative and academic learning then they are in a better position to plan for and respond to opportunities for students’ creative expression in their everyday lessons more productively (Beghetto, 2021).
2. Equipped with this recognition, the next step in supporting student creativity is for teachers to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for infusing creativity into their curriculum (Renzulli, 2017 in Beghetto, 2021).
This involves requiring students to produce their own problems to solve, their own ways of solving them, and their own way of demonstrating their understanding of key concepts and skills (Beghetto, 2021). The teaching method and teaching strategy employed is vital to the processing of students’ creative ideas.
3. Lastly, teachers need to be willing to take the instructional risks necessary to establish and pursue openings in their planned lessons. This is often easier said than done.
Certainly, even teachers who otherwise value creativity may be concerned that establishing apertures in their curriculum that require them to pursue unexpected student ideas will result in the lesson becoming too unfocused and into curricular chaos (Kennedy, 2005 in Beghetto, 2021). One way that teachers can start opening up their curriculum is to do so in small ways, starting with the way they plan lessons.
Lesson unplanning—the process of creating openings in the lesson by replacing predetermined features with to-be-determined aspects (Beghetto, 2017d in Beghetto, 2021) is an example of a small-step approach.
By starting small, teachers can gradually develop their confidence and willingness to establish lead-ins for creative learning in their curriculum while still providing a supportive and structured learning environment (Amabile & Kramer, 2011 in Beghetto, 2021) and reinforce teachers’ confidence in their ability to support creative learning in their classroom (Beghetto, 2021).
3. The Role of Academic Subject Matter in Creative Learning
Creativity requires a blend of originality and meaningfully meeting criteria or task constraints. In most cases, academic learning activities can be thought of as having four components (Beghetto, 2018b in Beghetto, 2021):
- The what: What students do in the activity (e.g., the problem to solve, the issue to be addressed, the challenge to be resolved, or the task to be completed).
- The how: How students complete the activity (e.g., the procedure used to solve a problem, the approach used to address an issue, the steps followed to resolve a challenge, or the process used to complete a task).
- The criteria for success: The criteria used to determine whether students successfully completed the activity (e.g., the goals, guidelines, non-negotiables, or agreed-upon indicators of success).
- The outcome: The outcome resulting from engagement with the activity (e.g., the solution to a problem, the products generated from completing a task, the result of resolving an issue or challenge, or any other demonstrated or experienced consequence of engaging in a learning activity).
Educators can use one or more of the above components (i.e., what, how, criteria, and outcome) to design creative learning activities that blend academic subject matter with opportunities for creative expression. The degrees of freedom for doing so will vary based on the subject area, topics within subject areas, and teachers’ willingness to establish openings in their lessons (Beghetto, 2021).
4. The Role of Uncertainty in Creative Learning
Without uncertainty, there is no creative learning. This is because uncertainty establishes the conditions necessary for new thought and action (Beghetto, 2019a in Beghetto, 2021). If students (and teachers) already know what to do and how to do it, then they are rehearsing or reinforcing knowledge and skills (Beghetto, 2021).
Sometimes, teachers attempt to remove vagueness from learning activities by predefining all four aspects of a learning activity. This is fathomable as teachers may feel that initiating or allowing for uncertainty to be incorporated into the activity may result in curricular chaos, resulting in their own (and their students) frustration and confusion (Kennedy, 2015).
Consequently, most teachers learn to plan (or select pre-planned) lessons that provide students with a fixed problem or task to solve, which has a predetermined process or procedure for solving it, an already established criteria for determining successful performance, and a clearly defined outcome (Beghetto, 2021).
Teachers still have the professional responsibility to outline the criteria or non-negotiables, monitor student progress, and ensure that they are providing necessary and timely instructional supports. This can be achieved by allowing students to determine how they meet those criteria.
In this way, the role that uncertainty plays in creative learning can be thought of as a gamut from small openings allowing students to define some element of a learning activity (e.g., the what, the how, the outcomes) to larger openings where students have much more autonomy in defining elements and even the criteria for success, such as a legacy project whereby they try to make positive and lasting contributions to their schools, communities and beyond (Beghetto, 2021).
How will creative education benefit children in the future?
The argument against creative education expresses that by spending time on subjects such as music, children will spend less time on the core subjects. Hence, schools often think that this is negative for a child’s learning as academic subjects are usually at the core of the education curriculum (Windebank, 2020).
However, creative education holds benefits mainly with creative thinking (a way of thinking which is imaginative and independent). This independence is now tremendously valued in the modern world. By studying creative subjects more children will be taught how to become more creative and will be able to help increase growth (Windebank, 2020).
In a 21st-century world, independence and innovation are becoming increasingly necessary. Without creative education, there will be a scarcity of creative thinkers for the future, and this is a crucial area that employers are now looking for.
Academic education is still valuable and provides key life skills, but it is important to realise that creative education has similar impacts and provides essential skills that contrast to those we gain in our academic studies (Windebank, 2020).
During the school day, students should have access to quality education which facilitates creativity in education, and this can be achieved by providing students with unconventional learning materials.
The type of education that students are offered in pre-school and primary school sets the tone for their future education. The entire curriculum and teaching model should promote creative teaching and learning and education programs that promote education through creativity which is advantageous to students as the end result of education is to create individuals that can function in the world of work.
In summation, creative learning represents a generative and positive educational experience, which not only contributes to the knowledge development of individual students but can also result in creative social contributions to students’ peers, teachers, and beyond.
It thereby represents an important form of positive education that compliments related efforts aimed at building on the strengths that already exist. Furthermore, it is representative of an expansion of prototypical learning efforts because it not only focuses on academic learning but also uses it as a vehicle for creative expression and the potential creative contribution to the learning and lives of others (Beghetto, 2021).
Subsequently, it is imperative that the school’s education model supports this type of learning and teaching. The quality of education that students receive is fundamental to their holistic learning experience. Education through creativity is then impactful in 21st century teaching and learning where innovative education systems hold the key in developing students who are critical thinkers and problem solvers.
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