Creativity in the 21st Century Classroom

Creativity in the 21st Century Classroom Creativity issues in education

We want our children to develop basic literacy and numerical skills. We want them to develop a broad basis of knowledge in the sciences and the arts. We want them to develop analytical skills and good judgment. We want them to develop social and physical skills. Oh yes, we also want them to have creative skills.

When schools were called to action in the European Union’s “year of creativity” many schools focused on painting pictures, singing songs and staging shows. Of course the arts are creative. But what a shame to limit the creativity of our young people to just the arts. It is time to broaden the scope of creativity in schools and indeed in the education system.

Researchers have long since established that creative competencies are teachable and learnable. We are now living in times where more and more people are recognizing the immense value of creativity at the workplace and in life.

In the process of integrating creativity in education in practice, educators are faced with a number of key challenges:

How can we teach our own subject matter more creatively?

No mean feat. Teachers are called to go beyond the classic lecturing/examining mode to devise new ways of teaching, using tools that are different from those that they themselves experienced in their own formal learning.

How can we best teach creative method?

Creative methods take challenges that have many solutions (like most real life challenges), help define them in new ways and help invent imaginative solutions to resolve them. Creative Problem Solving, Six Thinking Hats, TRIZ, Synectics are but some of the methods available today. Schools should consider formally teaching such programs while at the same time promoting team collaboration and even doing so in partnership with companies, public organizations, communities, NGOs to help solve real world problems.

How can we develop our students’ creative skills?

Although some issues with definition and measurement of creative competencies remain, we know that it is possible and desirable to improve young people’s skills of idea fluency, flexibility, association, synthesis, as well as their critical evaluative skills. Creative competencies are probably best developed in tandem with creative problem solving methodologies.

How do we make our schools more creative?

We now know enough about organizational structures and cultures that further innovation. It is time to consciously promote innovation by fostering the systems and climates that favor creativity. A good place to begin is to mobilize teachers to creatively confront the specific challenges of their school, in addition to creatively teaching their own subject matter.

How do we make our educational system more creative?

While there are are many challenges in formalizing creative ways of teaching school subjects and in the teaching of creativity itself (methods and skills), such formalization should come high on the agenda of any educational establishment – school, community, region, state or country.

How might we best use new technology in our teaching?

As cyberspace evolves, educational institutions must ensure they are up-to-date with the technical and social aspects of new technologies so as to exploit them to further learning.

What’s stopping us?

Everybody can make a long list of creativity killers – risk aversion, fear of failure, absence of precise metrics, vested interests in the status quo, inappropriate organizational structures and more. Sometimes a reaction to what seems as a challenge to the image of the teacher as sole bearer of wisdom. Since creativity requires extended moments of non judgmental thinking, teachers who have been trained (and are expected) to judge, need to get used to deferring judgment until it is time for those extended moments of critical reasoning. Not always so easy.

After generations of learning by rote and critical thinking, bringing creativity to schools is no mean feat because it requires significant changes in mindsets and attitudes. Education changemakers need plenty of inspiration and much courage to move ahead on creativity, but the time for it is ripe, very ripe.

Note: the title, Creativity in the 21st Century Classroom, is taken from a workshop designed and facilitated by Donna Luther and Siri Lynn offered by the Creative Education Foundation at the Creative Problem Solving Institute in 2011 and 2012.

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Creativity isn't what it used to beDimis Michaelides, Managing Director at Performa Consulting, is  global business consultant and keynote speaker on The Art of Innovation.  His book, The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations, was published in 2007.

Dimis Michaelides

I'm Dimis Michaelides, keynote speaker and author on innovation, creativity and leadership. I have extensive international experience as a business executive and as a speaker in corporate and public events. I also offer workshops and change management consulting for private businesses, NGOs and public organizations. Experiences with me are out-of-the-ordinary, designed to have a lasting and practical impact. I blend subject-matter expertise with each individual client's needs, participants' energy and ... a touch of magic! I do not say I am internationally acclaimed, entertaining, amazing, motivational or inspirational. My clients do. Contact me at to book a keynote or a workshop. Or for a conversation on your innovation journey or next event.​​




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No Comments

  1. Brian Waala on August 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for your insightful article. One thing I’d add is that the over-emphasis on team-playing and collaborative work often kills true creativity. While they are essential for operations, when it comes to research and creativity, the best work is done in solitude and quiet. And our school systems seem systematically adverse to providing that kind of environment.

  2. Big D on August 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Dimis, your blog is very topical. However, as a high school instructor about to start my 36th year in the classroom, I can assure you that every teacher, pre-school to college, knows how to nurture and teach creativity–divergent thinking and problem solving. “What’s stopping us” you ask in your blog. There are two primary factors. One is NCLB–high stakes testing preparation is taking class time away from developing students’ creativity.The other factor which precludes ongoing development of a student’s creativity is the shocking, yet indisputable fact, that more than 20% of the students in America live in poverty. Food, shelter, and safety (Maslov’s Hierarchy)needs have to be met for these children before any significant learning, much less creativity development, can occur.
    I am glad that the business world is becoming aware of this, and I would hope that the business community would help educators shed more light on these two roadblocks to creativity.

  3. Dimis Michaelides on August 18, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Good point Brian Waala. Solitary and team work are both crucial in generating creative ideas and promoting innovation. Helping students appreciate the benefits and drawbacks of each should certainly be on the agenda.

  4. Dimis Michaelides on August 18, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Big D,

    You are of course right in citing social factors, principally poverty, as obstacles to personal creative development of young people.

    I am not sure all teachers already appreciate and teach creativity – perhaps they do this more in the US than elsewhere.

    I know little of NCLB but understand how national curricula and regulations can stifle creativity in the classroom. In advancing creativity in schools, the institutional and regulatory environment is very important. Issues to resolve include whether creativity metrics are useful on an individual and organizational level and how we might formalize the teaching of creativity and include evaluation and assessment methods or not.

  5. Arthur Chris on August 20, 2012 at 9:19 am

    As a long-time educator, I believe American schools did develop creativity well as witnessed by the number of entrepreneurs and inventors that were developed during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Then we became infatuated with testing. The more we test, the more the creative pursuits are left behind. The more we stress test scores, the less creative our kids become. It does not take creativity to score well on tests. Tests have correct and incorrect answers; whereas, creativity promotes the idea of thinking differently than others. Creative answers do not match up with the “correct” answers as others see it; therefore, they cannot be tested. Americans are infatuated with our test scores and how we compare with other countries; however, American children have always ranked low on these comparison tests, but conversely, have always ranked high on adult success measures of creativity such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, entrepreneurship, etc. In these creative measures, Americans have always been a leader. This will change if we continue to be infatuated with high test scores and developing children who mark the “correct” answers instead of thinking differently and finding the “right” answers for the context of our current and future world.

    • Dimis Michaelides on August 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Thank you for your comment. The infatuation with testing is indeed a feature of school systems all over. You are right in saying that testing by itself can act as a block to genuinely furthering creativity in schools. I do not mean to say that metrics are useless – indeed it is useful for all of us to measure the before and after of a learning venture – but metrics should be the last priority of educators intent on advancing creativity.

  6. Hierarchy on August 21, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Awesome article!! Because it helps in developing the creative classrooms, which makes students to develop their creativity.

  7. Evelin on August 29, 2012 at 5:59 am

    I think the topic is important and your article shares some interesting insights. Most of it has been said hundreds of times though… What amazes me is how comments become a part of the process of writing something. People just bring so much to the discussions. I would call it creative collaborative writing… Thank you!

  8. Paul Brennan on February 11, 2013 at 12:37 am
  9. Peggy Savarese on February 11, 2013 at 10:00 am

    “In the process of integrating creativity in education in practice, educators are faced with a number of key challenges:”, I find this to be true, in school we are inspired to finding innovative ways to stimulate creative thinking. However, in the workplace at school we need to meet the expectations of parents and school boards concerning tests, results and exams. So my comment is not so much a comment but more of a question, have teachers here found ways to stimulate creativity in their lessons and still meet the requirements of curricula and exams? I would be interested in finding out! A student teacher, interested and looking for more inspiration…

  10. Lanre sulyman on July 24, 2013 at 8:12 am

    An interesting article.Creativity and innovation are cognitive processes that require stimulative actions to bring it about in learners.It should be adopted by all. The actions revolves around demonstrative,questioning and collaborative approaches to issues in education.

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