Teaching Creativity in School
Leif-Runar Forsth and Bodil Nordvik
Norwegian Institute of Creativity
1. LEARNING CREATIVITY
Everybody are creative. Creativity is an inborn qualification. But everybody can learn how to be more creative.
Torrance (1987) gives the results of 308 studies of trying to teach children and students creativity. In 70% of these cases the attempts were sucsessful. The education i fact increased the creativity.
The sucsess of the teaching depended on a number of factors. What methods were taught, what approaches were used etc. The success percent varied from 42 to 92% depending on the approach. Best results were achieved with CPS and related metods, but also other approaches gave good results.
This study does not only show that it is possible to increase the creativity by edecation. It also shows that not all attempts give the the wanted results. If we reverse the numbers. we find that the chance of not getting an increase vary from 8 til 58%, depending on the approach.
Probably, there exist no "best way" to teach creativity. There are a lot of good ways, and some not so good. Good ways to teach creativity depend on the actual culture of the country it is taught in. When teaching creativity in school, we must also take into account the actual school system of that country. E.g. what subject are taught at what levels, what methods of education are used etc.
The ways creativity are taught in schools in other countries can give valuable information, and much of the methods amd material can also be used sucsessfully in all countries. But not all.
And this is the problem, what can be used and what can not? And in what way should creativity be taught for this particular country or this particular school?
We dont know the ansver even for Norway, but we are trying to get it. In this paper we will present two ongoing Norwegian experiments of teaching creativity in school.
Both these schools run theire project in cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Creativity an the consulting company IPO A/S.
1.2 Raumyr Childrenschool in Kongsberg
This is a basic school for children from 7 to 13 years. In the Norwegian school system this is grade 1 to 6.
This school has decleared as its goal not only to teach, but to stimulate the development of the children in all ways. As a part of this, the teachers have initiated a two years project for strengthening the creativity of the children.
The goal is not only to become more creative but also to include these skills in the other subjects.
1.3 Nye Heltberg Gymnas in Oslo
This is a school from grade 10 to 12 which means students of the age 16 to 19 years.
This i a new private school that started this autumn. The goal of this school is to try other ways of teaching that puts more of the responsibility on the students for theire own learning and to stimulate them to search for knowledge by they own. To fascilitate such a prosess, the school started the teaching by two weeks of training in working methods, including creativity.
2. CREATIVE METHODS AND PRINCIPLES
The two projects are run in quite different ways and the subjects included in the creativity training and how this was done also differ. But the fundamental principles are much the same.
2.1 CPS and other methods
CPS is in self a very applyable method in its advantages are well documented. It is also a very good method for learning other methods of creative problem solving. By changig the order of the steps or the contents of each step, we can use CPS to learn most known methods of problem solving, creative and others.
Hence we used CPS as the basic method of creativ problem solving. We also showed how CPS with small changes can be turned into other methods as e.g. IPS or Synectisc.
Use of visionizing and imagination are importent for many aspects of human growth, including creativity. We also included training in such kind of methods.
2.2 The basic prinsiples of creativity
CPS and other methods are based on some basic prinsiples that can be taught as a part of these methods or alone.
Examples of such prinsiples are:
- Delay the judgments and comments
- Wait before you choose
- Identify the strong or positive parts
- Divergence before convergence
- Individual contributions put together to a whole
- Use of different channels of sensing (ear, eye, nose etc.)
- Separate the problemsolving process (eg.in facts and ideas)
We also taught such principles and theire practical application without going the way through a formal method of creativity.
2.3 Coupling to other subjects
Even if creativity played an important part both in the motivation of the participants and the education, it was more as a mean and not as the goal itself.
Because of this we made a considerable effort to combine the training in creativity with other fields of development and learning. This included building visions, coupling and applying CPS to other methods and subjects, training in communication, groupbuilding etc.
2.4 Building the organizational culture
Creativity and human beings develop best and fastest if the environmennt support the growth.
Because of this, considerably effort was put into the building of the organizational culture.
The environment migth be of more importance than the application of methods. But on the other hand, application of creative methods might often be a good way to develope the organizational culture.
3. RAUMYR - CREATIVE CHILDREN
3.1 Creative teachers make creative childrens
It is difficult to teach creativity if you are not creative yourself. In this way creativity does not differ from other subjects like mathematics, physics, russian, guitarplaying or golf.
To become more creative is to learn more ways of thinkning and more ways of behaving. The most difficult part is to change habits, and to change the habitual ways of thinking is one of the most difficult task to perform.
Because of this, the Raumyr project started by giving all the teachers a basic training in creativity. To give a good training was beyond the possibilities, but little is allways more than nothing. The training received til now is:
2 days basic training
All the teachers participated in a two days workshop. The most important subjects were:
- CPS and related methods
- CPS both as a group and an indivindual method
- Stimulating the brain
- What stimulates and what hinder creativity
- Some vision building
1 day training i process writing
All teachers have also received a one day training in process writing. In principle this folow this steps:
1. Creating ideas
2. First choise of what to write or to write about
3. Chose the order to present what was chosen
4. Make a first outline
5. Evaluate the first outline. Whats good? What should be changed? What should be kept? Do we need more ideas?
6. Now we might keep the first outline or make a new one
7. Write the first full presentation
8. Find what has been done good? What should be changed?
9. Go on working on the presentation.
The pupil may do all these steps by her self or migth receive help from the teachers or the other pupils on the differnt steps. The two important principles are:
1. Follow a step by step procedure
2. Identify the good parts and build on these
1 day in applied creativity
In this we found actual ways of teaching creativity to the children. This include both teaching methods and integrating creative principles in other subjects.
To expect teachers to be able to teach creativity after four days of training might seem ridiculous. The important thing to notice is that teachers allready teach creativity. Of curse they also teach anti-creativity. To be able to teach more creativity and less of the oposite, they have to be more able to identify what is what. Or in other words: They should do more of what they allready do that stimulates creativity and less of the other.
We will se some examples of what the teachers have allreday done at Raumyr.
3.2 Creative teachers thrives in a creative environment
An important aspect of the training of all the terachers is to stimulate the development of a more creative organzational culture. It is more difficult, but not impossible, for a teacher to teach more creative if the the other teachers or the administration is more of a hinderance than a stimulation.
In Raumyr the conditions are favorable for such a project. This school is known to have a good corporate culture. The turnover by the staff is very low. The management is also very concerned by the well being not only of the children, but also of the teachers. It is also an advantage that the management itself is very creative even befor receiving any formal training in this field.
The process before starting the actual program is also favourable. The teachers have by them selves decided they wanted to give creativity a high priority. This was the result of a six months prosess with little interference from the management.
The conditions at Raumyr are hence in many ways very favourable for a seccessfull introduction of more creative education.
3.3 Support by concultants
As a part of the project the teachers at Raumyr receive support from the concultants fra Norwegian Instutute of Creativity and IPO A/S.
The project is a cooperation between these concultants and the teachers and the management at Raumyr.
The plan is that we together not only shall succeed in the Raumyr project, but also that the results of this project shall form the bases of future education of creativity in Norwegian schools.
The final goal is to find ways to teach creativity to children this age and to develop teaching material that can support this teaching.
3.4 Teaching the children creativity
We shall now present some of the methods teachers at Raumyr use to help theire children to become more creative. First we give the principle and then an actual example of application of this.
Divergence followed by convergence.
Individual contibutions put together to the total solution.
One principle in other applications.
Assosiations and analogies
Bl°wing up ballons of different colours. Putting the ballons together to make a rainbow. Letting the rainbow symbolise that the rainbow is buildt from many snmall parts and tha every small part of the rainbow partisipates to make the whole. In the same way every one of the children participate to make the complete class.
Individual contributions put together to the total solution.
Learning about human beings.
All the children should cut out pictures showing different kind of people in different situations. The pictures were then glued to a big piece of paper.
Combining different ways of thinking.
From pictures to words.
From pictures to feelings.
From feelings to words.
Making a painting. Then look at the painting and noticing the feelings you get. Put words on the picture and the feelings. Write these down.
Divergence - convergence.
Write down everything they are able to think about connected to the forrest. Then go together two and two children. Telling the other what he or she has written. Getting response what the other liked.
Connecting mathemathics, art and creativity.
Cutting out symmetric snowflakes from white paper. Each choose some of his or her snowflakes and put together with the others snowflakes. Observate how many different ways a snowflake can be shaped and hence also the many ways of symmetry.
Many ways of looking and thinking even for the same problem.
Many ways og thinking put together are better than one alone.
Trying to solve a mathematical problem (specially selected by the teacher for this kind of working) first one by one. Then comming together in small groups to discuss how they look at the problem and how to approach it.
Application of criterias for choise
Finding names of as many vegatables as possible. On which ones can we eat the leaves?
Divergence - convergence
Application of criterias of choice
Example: (6. grade)
Trip to the mountains. Collecting small things (stones, grass , leaves, sticks etc.) to glue on a paper to illustrate the trip and the mountains.
Doing a kind of CPS without knowing.
Example (1-6. grade, but done in different ways for each age.)
Making or playing the play: THE STORM
The scene: a terrible storm has hit our village. Everything has blown down. The story follows the principle of CPS.
- The storm has blown down my home.
- It has blown down my home too.
- The whole town has been destroyed.
(And so on)
- It is raining and we have no cover.
- How can we protect us selves against the rain?
- In what ways can we keep dry and warm?
- In what ways can we protect against the wild animals?
(And so on)
- Let us build a fence.
- The smith an the carpenter can get together and make weapons.
- We may help each other to build new houses.
(and so on)
In this way me might build in the principles from even a method as CPS in a simple game or a play.
Application of CPS.
The children in 6. grade are allowed to use the air-raid shelter at the school for theire own purpose. They get the material to refit and paint the rooms but they have to do the work themselves. They are presented the task in this way:
- 30 pupils in 6.grade have to do the work
- There are 3 big rooms and 2 toilets.
- The smaller children shall also be able to use the rooms.
- You have 5000 kroner for the refitting and decorations.
(and so on)
THe problems are here to find what to do and how to do it.
IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS
The pupils have to find the ideas and to work these out to soutions.
They in advance know who gives the accept and the criterias they have been able to think of in advance.
The Sivil Defence have the formal descision right. They only accept bright, not too special colours.
The principal also have to accept the final solution.
PLAN OF ACTION
This should be made by the pupils.
The pupils have to do the work.
All the teachers are now making a one hour session for his or her class, to use creative methods in new ways in the ordinary teaching. An example is to use part of the CPS to analyse a story in the reading book.
The pupils then get the questions:
- What are facts revealed in this story?
- What problems do you see? (A story with problems is chosen for this exercise).
- What ideas do you have for what to do?
- What would you actually have done? And how?
Such exercises also teach the pupils to use the methods of creativity for ordinary everyday problems.
3.5 Results from Raumyr
This is a project that will go one for two years. We will try to evaluate the changes in the organizational culture as a result of the project. We will also eveluate the results for the children. Have they become more creative as a result of this project or not?
We do not have many results so far. The project is still at the beginning.
But allready now we might conclude that it is in fact possible to increase the the teaching of creativity in this kind of school by small means and a limited amount of work.
This because the teachers allready know many ways to teach creativity. They only need to be more aware of what they do that stimulate the creativity and what does not.
To be able to teach more advanced methods of creativity, more training is necessary.
4. NYE HELTBERG GYMNAS - A CULTURE IS FORMED
From the point of view of our organizational scientists, this was an unique chance to influence the development of the building of an organizational culture.
The school is quite new. Everybody came here with the expectation that this should be a new kind of school. And all the students seemed to have the nervousness and the exitement that follows beginning at a new school, meeting new challenges and, not at least, new friends.
4.1 A new school - a new approach
The first day, after the prncipals welcome speach, they met us. Our job was to build an optimal climate for learning and personal growth, to teach them better ways of working and better ways of studying.
The course was sheduled for two weeks. The second week they gradually started to have other subjects with theire ordinary teachers.
The main subjects i our course were:
- Project work
- Group working
- Creative problem solving, individually and in groups
- Fast reading
- Study techniques
- Descision processes
- Organizatinal climate and culture
4.2 Building a culture
The most important part of the history of an organizations culture is usually the formation.
We started by building grpups. The student were talking together two and two and in grpups of six. The tasks were specially designed for group building and for learning to know others and themselves.
The first three days they mostly worked with other students from theire own class. Later we put the six-groups together so that only two persons from the same class participated in the same group. During the course everybody had been working together with students from all the five other classes.
Wery early we started to build the vision for the new school. First each student made his or her own vision. Then they came together in goups of six to make a vision for this little group. After this, this 6-groups came together to make the vision for the whole class. The vision was made by pictures, but after it was formed, they also formulated it with words.
At least all the six classes came together and descided the vision for the whole school. The vision was described by the words (put together this way):
TEAM SPIRIT STRETCHING
When the collective vision were made, they went on to finding out what their own vision for theire own lives were. And also for the part of life concerning the school.
We also worked with CPS and other methods to find ways to reach the goals. Both the individual and for the whole school.
In this way we combined learning of methods by showing how these methods could be applied for theire own problems.
3.3 Learning to work
When we started we promised them to teach them things that could make them capable of getting better results even if they only worked half the time as they used to do.
We did exetensively trainind in problemsolving methods, and probably every student are now able to use CPS individually for theire homeweork. They also learned to combine CPS with brainmapping methods and with visualization.
We taugth them how to use visualizing methods to remember better and to think faster.
3.4 Some results are allready good
We had an extensive evaluation by the students at the end of the course. It came out that they mostly were very satisfied with what they have learned. And we were surprised of how much even the youngest students have picked up.
To evaluate the results we have to wait and see what happens. A new evaluation is planned to take place about six months after the course.
But we allready have some clues that make us satisfied so far. Not scientific proofs, but at least nice proofs.
Allready after two days the students had started to organize groups to clean up the school, doing reapair and painting. A lot of student activities started to take place immedeately.
One girl told us that before the problem with writing essays were to find something to write. But now the problem was that she had to much to write about.
A boy told us that now lerning had become fun again.
Parents have asked what we have done to theire children. Now they spent hours on theire homwork and they never had before. A mother told that her son had started at this school after we had been there and that he had never felt so wellcome in a class before.
Another indication is that even at the time when the course went on, other students started to enroll for the next year.
Still another indication is that between 50 and 75% of the students participated in the OSLO mini-Marathon together with their principal. One of the parents asked what we had done with her son. He had never participated in any sport before, and now he did the mini-Marathon.
We dont know what will happen from now. The good start is not a guaranty for that everything will be fine in the future. Much are done by the two first weeks, but it is also important what happens next. The most important question is what the teachers will do.
5. A MORE CREATIVE SCHOOL
These two experiments will give important information on how creativity can be taught in school. Even if we dont have much results yet, we allready have some ideas on what can be done.
5.1 Teachers must be more creative
To teach creativity, the teachers must be creative too. Even if it is important to master creative methods, it seems to be even more important, what happens in the other subljects.
It is therefore important that the teachers now what hinder and what stimulates creativity.
5.2 The teachers must have the possibility
We cannot expect teachers to be creative if the climate they work in is strongly anticreative. It is important, and probably necessary, to do something with the organizational cultures in the schools.
It is necessary that the teaching is fitted to the students. But it is as important that it also is fitted to the teachers. Teachers, not only the pupils, are also individual, unique human beeings that function best if they are allowed to teach in the ways that fit them best.
5.3 Ways of teaching and teaching material
A lot of experimenting is necessary to find better ways of teaching creativity. And even more, to let the children keep theire creativity, so they do not have to be taught so much creativity later on.
Teaching creativity is fascilitated by having proper teaching material. Work should also be put into making better material for these kind of education.
5.4 Use what allready are
As the experiences at Raumyr shows, one of the best ways to teach creativity is to use what is allready there.
In other words:
- Do more what you are doing that stimulates creativity
- Do less of what hinders creativity
Much existing material are wery well fitted to be used in more creative eduction.
5.5 Learning to teach creativity
Even if creativity can be taught in many ways without any previous training, this is only a part of the truth.
Much can be done with little training, but to master the creative methods above the elementary level takes some time. Some teachers that have heard what we have done, have asked us to give them some hours briefing so they can teach this to the students. We have started to suggest that we instead send one who can give them some hours briefing in Chineese som they can go on teacing Chineese. This will probably be more easy in this case.
How much training is necessary to teach creativity in a proper way? We dont know. But the training we require before sertifying a teacher of creativity at the Norwegin Institute of Creativity can give an indication. Eigth hundred hours of training (participating in workshops and running workshops) and 4-5000 pages of reading. This is for being sertified to run the basic two er three days workshop. To do more advanced things we require more training.
This is to give a warning. Creativity in school can very easily become one of all the other trips in education. The in-trip of the year, that every teacher following the fashion, are into.
For really giving the children the possibility to become more creative, and by this mature more wholely as human beings, creativity must be taken more seriously than that.
Torrance, E.Paul: TEACHING FOR CREATIVITY ,In Frontiers of Creativity Research (Ed.Scott Isaksen), Bearly Limited, New York,,1987