A Case FOR Creativity

Dear Students,

What have you heard about creativity? When I was your age, I thought it meant someone could draw or paint really well. I thought it only had something to do with arts and crafts.

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh

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That’s not always true! One of the first concepts I was introduced to in a course I took this semester involved the standard definition of creativity. According to Beghetto and Kaufman (2013), the standard definition of “creativity involves the combination of originality and task appropriateness” (p.12). Nowhere in that definition does it say arts and crafts are a must for creativity.

First, it should be original. This can include ideas, process of completion, or any number of things. Second, it should be appropriate to the task at hand. Are you accomplishing the goal you need to accomplish no matter which way you took to get there?

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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In the classroom, we are required to be task appropriate no matter what. Teachers are required to teach you certain skills, but we often have leeway over how that content is taught. If we can, we try to incorporate ways for you to successfully connect with the content in a creative way. These could include projects, games, books, group tasks, or something else we plan (or in some cases, something we think of spontaneously).

The key here is for you to connect with your content. Make it meaningful. Make it memorable. Offer you an experience that you will remember. On our part and yours, “creativity requires work, effort, and risk” (Beghetto & Kaufman, 2013, p. 14). Teachers often look for ways to bring their content to life in the classroom. To be fair, how many of you really want to learn about commas? Seriously… However, creativity and content can work together, “such that teaching for creativity helps meet content standards goals and teaching detailed content knowledge can reinforce and enhance student creativity” (Baer & Garrett, 2010, p. 7).

“Sometimes it’s right to do the wrong thing.”
― Finian Whish

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Maybe before looking at the right way to answer the question, your teacher asks for all the wrong answers first. Maybe instead of asking you to write a paragraph summarizing what you just read, your teacher gives you Play-Doh to create your summary. When teachers allow you to create, they are inspiring you to show your knowledge in a meaningful way. “Being actively engaged with the content to be learned means being actively engaged cognitively, of course” (Baer & Garrett, 2010, p. 9). The more you know, the more you can do with what you know, and the more confident you’ll feel about it.

When using creativity and content in tandem, teachers are also fostering critical thinking skills. In the classroom, you’re expected to learn specific skills; there is an end goal with a direct concept or answer. Fairweather and Crammond (2010) used an example from math where you could think “of all the possible ways to reach ten” (p. 123). While brainstorming, you might consider addition of previously-learned whole number sets. However, if you start thinking creatively, you may decide to subtract numbers to equal ten, use fractions or decimals, divide, or even multiply. “Approaching the objective this way involves critical thinking because the students [you] must come up with an exact, correct answer — ten” (Fairweather & Crammond, 2010, p. 123).

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
― Pablo Picasso

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Without the content knowledge, however, you may think of so many possibilities to reach ten. In my classroom, we have Writer’s Block, where you’re (hopefully) encouraged to step out of your comfort zone and embrace our content. Through our class game, I want to help you become autonomous learners who take risks for creativity in order to show your thinking and learning. I want you to be creative, critical thinkers in class. I’m here for you as you learn.

Thank you for being here for me, too.

Your teacher,
Mrs. Houser

References

Baer, J., & Garrett, T. (2010). Teaching for creativity in an era of content standards and accountability.  In R. A. Beghetto & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), Nurturing creativity in the classroom (pp. 6 – 23). Cambridge University Press. 

Beghetto, R. A., & Kaufman, J. C. (February 2013). Fundamentals of creativity. Educational Leadership, 70(5), 10–15.

Fairweather, E., & Crammond, B. (2010). Infusing creative and critical thinking into the curriculum together. In R. A. Beghetto & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), Nurturing creativity in the classroom (pp. 113-141). Cambridge University Press.

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