Support an Environment

for Creativity

Support an Environment for Creativity

Take a few minutes and think about YOUR most creative educational experience. Perhaps it was a high school photography class where your final project encapsulated the skills you were learning with whatever you could dream up in your mind. Or maybe it was a middle school English class where the teacher challenged you to be a better writer through her humor, playfulness, and ability to model mistakes.  What were some of the key characteristics of YOUR experience?

We asked seventy-five people to tell us about their most creative educational experience, and when we turned this into a word cloud, this is what we found:

“My first creative experience was in third grade.  My teacher, Ms. Smith, taught us about Apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s contribution to eradicating hate, violence, and racism in South Africa.  Within a week or two of learning about this, Nelson Mandela was freed after being imprisoned for 27 years.  All of us were excited about his freedom and received permission from the school to do a play/performance about his life.  Our class wrote and performed a skit, choreographed a dance performance, decorated the stage/scene, and read poetry. Ms. Smith used all of our creative strengths in meaningful ways and allowed us to use our creativity to educate our peers. Ms. Smith is still my favorite teacher and a good friend of mine.  We grew up in an impoverished and high crime community where most of us had never been exposed to anything outside of our neighborhood.  Ms. Smith was the teacher who took risks and pushed us to be our best creative selves”. 

There are two elements you need to consider to design a creative environment in the classroom:

(1) the physical structures and contents, and (2) the psychological attributes.

The Physical Environment

How do you design a physical learning environment to promote creative thinking skills? Davies et al. conducted a systematic literature review of 210 research papers to uncover the answer to this question and found that the physical environment should be open and spacious, encouraging teachers to set up a room that allows students the flexibility to move around. Additionally, numerous studies named benefits associated with different kinds of materials and resources that are provided for sparking creativity; one such benefit comes from taking students outdoors or to other locations (outside the classroom) to boost their creativity.  What might be all the things you could do in your classroom to make it a space that promotes creativity?

The Psychological Environment

When you thought about your most creative educational experience, it is likely you thought about your attitudes, feelings, and behaviors toward your classmates and teacher.  This is why the psychological environment is so critical to consider when you want to bring creativity into education.

Cropley summarized the findings of an extensive literature review that concentrated on creativity in the classroom, identifying nine principles that can be used to directly contribute to generating a creatively supportive climate. These principles were further investigated by Soh who developed an instrument called the Creativity Fostering Teacher Behavior Index.

These principles include the following:

  1. Independence: Developing the ability of students to think, and learn, independently;
  2. Integration: Teaching in a manner that is inclusive and encourages collaboration;
  3. Motivation: Understanding the roles of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and teaching accordingly;
  4. Judgment: Practicing delayed judgment to give students time to develop their thinking;
  5. Flexibility: Valuing and encouraging flexible thinking;
  6. Evaluation: Developing students’ abilities to evaluate their progress;
  7. Question: Valuing and encouraging students’ questions;
  8. Opportunities: Structuring learning in such a way as to provide students with ample opportunities to use different materials and techniques, and
  9. Frustration: Helping students develop the mental resilience to overcome frustrations and setbacks.

Learning environments that have been designed to support creative learning have been shown to increase academic achievement, motivation, confidence, resilience, and engagement, as well as improve school attendance. Click Here to Learn More

What do you do in your classroom to help develop a creative environment? We would love to know! We are working on our next book and would love to hear your strategies! To find out more please fill out the form below:

    Going Beyond Resources

    Creative learning environments in education—A systematic literature review by Davies et. al