What, why and hows for creativity

As a part of my Major Project for the MA Service Design program at University of Arts London, I am focusing on fostering creative education practices in the school curriculum.

In this post, I would like to talk about 2 things:

1. What is “creativity” and what is my understanding of this term?

2. What role can I as a Service Designer play in creative education

As I indulged in the research phase, I started to read about various research papers explaining the need for ”creativity” in schools. There are various pedagogies promoting creative teaching methods and how the current design of the classroom does not encourage “creativity” but is rather more authoritative.

To kickstart the project, I reached out to a number of stakeholders who have the exact same feeling as me — “we need to teach more creativity”. This included some researchers, parents, teachers, etc.

And here is what I heard

The teachers need to take up the role of enabler.(designer)

As a teacher, it is all about trying to react to the needs in front of me. (Art teacher)

For me all children are equally intelligent and equally smart because everyone has the same sized brains and it is just preoccupied with different things. And if a child is not performing, is because the school is not asking the right questions to that child in which their brain is preoccupied with.(parent)

Make learning come alive through artefacts — is an added advantage for the students and leaves a lasting impression.(parent)

The most important part about creativity is get people to think about what you are learning and being able to reflect upon it.(researcher)

There is a new need for learning life skills which has come out very vividly during the pandemic.(teacher)

The term “creativity” has varied definitions — and hence it sometimes gets difficult to measure it. It’s like “measuring the wind with a ruler”. (researcher)

Overall, I understood that creativity in itself is a broad subject. Most famously associated with art, drama, dance, and music. But in reality, it is far more nuanced. Teaching creativity needs to go further than direct instruction; it needs to be a relational kind of teaching in which the teacher mentors, encourages and inspires the student. To teach creativity we need creative teaching, and creative teachers.

By this I don't men to say that teachers are less creative, Infact teaching is in itself a creative undertaking that requires real commitment and expertise. But the gap that I see is that teachers need the see the confidence in their students, they need to believe that their students can learn the same things with their new methods and with that their students can acquire the creativity they need and become great in their chosen fields.

If we have the evidence to show that there is a very strong link between creative ways of engaging with the world forms of healthy cognitive development then there will be a much stronger foundation.(researcher)

For me, creativity is just a way of thinking and acting differently from the way we are normally encouraged to think and act.

In simple terms, every subject can be creative! This doesn’t mean the entire curriculum needs to be rewritten, instead, it could be something as simple as using clay to create shapes or playing word-search bingo as a spelling activity or probably interlink the subjects so that they are more relatble like the color wheel from art class and refraction from physics. Subjects like maths and science which are more defined can have areas where creativity can be embedded into the topic to encourage a greater depth of understanding with students.

To understand that, I wanted to understand why people think creativity is important.

A collage of what I have heard and read about creativity

From this, it was pretty much clear that a classroom environment is one of the most important places to start encouraging and nurturing creativity in young people.

Research shows that children are the most creative between the age of 5 to 9 years and then it slowly subsides with age. Only if we could keep with the creative mindsets as they grow, would it make a difference with how they see the world?

Research also suggests that creativity rises when socially engaged, so what better than a classroom environment.

As I read, I realized that there are several pedagogies that focus upon creativity. You can find some case studies here.

However, what is missing is the process of implementation. Where schools and teachers understand the importance of bringing a shift in the ways children learn things, they do not know how to bring that change.

My block.

When I noted down my findings, I released that I was merely stating the obvious. There is already a vast amount of information in various forms that suggests why this is important. So I fell into the spiral of where I can bring a change, what was my opportunity in this big system.

To understand this, I first reflected upon the tools that I learned in all of my design and experience and education and how it has helped me problem solve.

Team collaboration — One of the most important things that I have learned is that group work encourages us to reckon with other people’s ideas and ways of working. It also helps build relationships and manage expectations. You also get to explore each other’s strengths and build upon their weaknesses. Basically, if you are put in a room with people with different choices and thoughts, then you have no other option but to be creative in your approach to solve the problem.

Can we encourage more team-building activities in the classroom so that children get more comfortable working collaboratively to problem solve?

Self-reflection — Feedback and reflection are the 2 most important things that I have learned throughout my design career. Feedback made me stronger towards criticism and self-reflection helped me think of the problem and the process in my way. Thinking in a reflective way helps learners process what they have experienced and turn it into learning they can identify to modify their understanding of the world based on what they have experienced or discovered.

How to encourage children to reflect upon their learnings on a daily basis and make it into a ritual?

Imagination and brainstorming — Quick ideation techniques are like kick-starting your brains. It is the best way to engage people and get their attention, often leading to discussions. Since there are no rules for ideation, it is one of the best ways to embrace creativity. As Einstein famously said: “ imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world”

Can we build s safe space for children to voice out their ideas and also ask questions?

As a next step, I would like to narrow down my focus area and try to map where creative opportunities lie during a regular school day for any child.

Stay tuned for new updates on the project and feel free to connect with me, in case you have some ideas or a conversation.



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