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:


“”The most creative educational experience I had was in 5th grade in 1990.  My teacher, Mr. Sanders, was the most influential teacher I ever had because he challenged us all the time.  I remember drawing and writing hilarious stories. I wrote a term paper about sponges and starfish and learned the word “vigorously.” We learned the flow of blood through the heart, made paper airplanes to learn aerodynamics, and received extra credit for writing stories, drawing pictures, and making geometric shapes. His breath smelled like formaldehyde because we used to dissect all different kinds of animals, and I always thought he had eaten them.  He was hilarious and could tell amazing stories. His energy was contagious. He had a boisterous laugh. I felt free to be weird. It felt normal. It was my first real experiential learning experience, and I really think it helped with the creative confidence I have today”.

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 Supporting a Creative Environment in the Classroom Resources

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