Looking deeper into creativity

It’s been a great journey with the PLP ConnectU group from Australia so far.  We are developing a unit in order to explore “What is Creativity” with students. Kynan Robinson, who has been studying creativity for some time now,  shared some readings with us recently and I’ve finally had a chance to do some reading and thinking.

Some of the things that have jumped out at me from the readings he shared are:

To foster creativity, children should possess a specialised knowledge of the relevant area, think divergently as well as convergently, have the capacity to analyse and synthesise the problem, and be able to enact self-planning and evaluation strategies (Cropley & Urban 2000).

The following was from a study around problem-solving with technology construction:

It is important that students have sufficient background in the topic and also in the methods of construction. Preliminary classes that deal with an investigation of the topic and allow students to use a variety of construction techniques are crucial for full development of the task. Specific teaching may be required. After the introduction to the task, the students need an incubation period so that their ideas can be fully developed. (ALISTAIR WEBSTER ET AL., 2006)

Useful tips for teachers:  (from John Munro)

  • Teachers can use tasks and challenges that can be processed in multiple ways and that are open-ended, that foster a questioning attitude, that stimulate broad and open perceptions. Conditions that foster a high level of autonomy, self initiative, spontaneity and experimentation during learning and that reduce the pressure for formal achievement are useful.
  • Students need to be encouraged to think about the topic in more divergent oriented ways. Subject area knowledge needs to be taught in ways that allow more open-ended thinking. The teaching can include use questioning to explore topics and problem solving.
  • Creative thinking is much more likely when there is the opportunity for aspects of self directed and managed learning.
  • Encouraging an attitude towards learning to modify one’s thinking during learning and learning how to use the errors made during learning
  • Valuing intuitive, ‘non conformist’ and original interpretations of ideas is useful. Students need to see that their original ideas are accepted and valued, even if they assist only in leading to other ideas.

I think our group is on the right track in that we’ve discussed trying to include higher level thinking skills such as analysis and synthesis.  I’m wondering how can we provide the incubation time necessary and also ensure that students have  good deal of background knowledge about the topic?  I can see how Kynan and Kristen will be doing that with their gaming unit, but I’m wondering how we’ll do that we our very broad question, “What is creativity?” How can our learning activities focus on gathering some of that background knowledge? What background knowledge is necessary to have?


  1. Excellent post Brenda – What is creativity? always a difficult question.
    I believe the answer is centered around original thought.
    I especially like this line . ” I’m wondering how can we provide the incubation time necessary and also ensure that students have good deal of background knowledge about the topic? ”
    Time is such an important aspect when requiring creative thought and how we provide for it is a key question educational institutions need to be considering.


    • Incubation time seems to be an issue in many classrooms – the crowded curriculum seems to be a hindrance everywhere! I always felt lucky to be a primary teacher because with emerging literacy and math skills I think it’s much easier to integrate a large part of your program cross-curricularly. Not so easy when in older grades subject areas are compartmentalized.

      In Ontario, our Ministry encourages our teachers of 7 and 8th grade to take a cross-curricular rather than a specialist approach. This always brings up the discussion around the importance of content experts and I don’t have the answer for that one. The readings you provided to our group about creativity indicate that one needs to have a rich background knowledge in order to get creative….so perhaps that supports the idea of teachers as content experts?


  2. Thinking about the concept of ‘valuing errors’ to modify one’s thing during learning. Do we need to create opportunities to acknowledge and reward errors that lead to new thought? Thank you for contionuing to propel my own thinking and teaching!


    • Our creativity group definitely thinks so, Heidi! We are thinking that reflection is a big part of both learning and creativity and we feel that learners will benefit by reflecting on both the errors and the successes. Sounds like it’s also beneficial to have them be able to adjust both their process and product as they go, based on that feedback.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment…you’ve got me thinking about designing some prompts that might help with this! 🙂


      • I think the challenge with reflection, is giving time to go back to initial thoughts and ideas and change them. So often we provide feedback to be applied to the next challenge/activity rather than the one in process. Practically speaking, continuous reflection maybe happens best in student outputs for Writing, however, in math, science, social studies, how often do we give time to ‘idea, reflection, refinement, reflection, output’? I don’t think we give enough reflection time in content areas that are non-Writing specific and that is our challenge.


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