Most teachers will say that they are creative every day, citing how they respond to the dynamics of groups and situations which arise. However, it is good to have a reminder about the deliberate use of strategies to promote creative teaching / learning; refreshing our memories, or even meeting new options to give a creative boost to our classroom. Here are five you can use right away:
1. Creative peer feedback
When visiting a school in the Scottish Highlands, I was really impressed with a feedback hot-seating activity.
The pupils had created their own Success Criteria for designing a den, after a morning of intensive work they were asked to form a group to do their hot seating. A pupil volunteered to show their work first; the rest of the group then offered comments and questions linked to the Success Criteria, based on Tickled Pink (good features) and Green for Growth (points to develop). They were able to ask open questions like “Can you explain why you would choose to use the materials in that way?”
The pupils were really engaged in the process and took complete ownership of it giving a greater depth of dialogue and thinking to peer feedback.
A dramatic inquiry-based approach to learning, this is a great way to immerse children in the classroom experience. The teacher plans the fictional context with tasks and activities to complete, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding and experience of the topic. Pupils are cast as experts in working for a client on a commission, and complete a variety of activities, such as pupils becoming a CSI team to solve the murder of Thomas Becket.
I have seen this used in a wide range of contexts, from a class taking on the design of a National Heritage site for a local attraction with Year 7, to helping the United Nations to solve the Syrian Crisis with Sixth Formers. This Dorothy Heathcote-invented strategy is a powerful medium in the classroom. Find out more at: www.mantleoftheexpert.com
All set for a very special delivery from our client @DragonsofWales for our Mantle of the Expert. The children will become experts at caring for and raising a baby dragon. #primaryrocks pic.twitter.com/5oG43Khhf0— Teacher Glitter (@Teacherglitter) August 9, 2018
Show your class a TED Talk on a topic which they can relate to. This stimulates curiosity and puts them in the Learning Pit (www.jamesnottingham.co.uk/learning-pit), ideal given that cognitive conflict is key to engagement. Work with the pupils to create the success criteria for an attention-grabbing TED talk. This will guide their work and give the opportunity to self or peer assess.
The pupils then get the opportunity to research and prepare their own presentation. Build in some drafting and peer feedback to produce the best possible piece of work; ask their partner to review the work using the criteria; give two stars and a wish to improve the work.
The next stage is time for the pupils to work to redraft and improve. Then they need to practise the delivery of the talk - keep it timed to help them. Giving an opportunity to try out their talk with their partner offers another opportunity to improve the work and model the ongoing learning process. You then need to give a sharing opportunity to reduce the number of competitors to five. This way, you can ask a ‘celebrity judge’ to come in, listen to the talks, and give feedback. Find out more at: https://www.ted.com/talks.
4. Gold fishing
One of my all-time favourites, this encourages a diverse range of contributions to a whole-class discussion. Split your class in half. Group A gets one argument to prepare from a set of resources; this contrasts with Group B, who get the opposing argument and resources. This works well with historical debates like “Field Marshal Haig deserved his title of Butcher of the Somme”.
The two groups get a set amount of time to prepare five key points, which will enable them to talk for two minutes (use a timing which is age-appropriate - this was for Year 9). Once they have had the preparation time, arrange two concentric circles of chairs in your classroom: the inner circle facing towards your classroom walls, the outer circle facing in.
Group A sit on the inner circle chairs, while Group B then sit on the outer circle chairs so that they are in pairs sitting opposite each other. Group A then have two minutes to talk and convince their partner that they have the ‘best’ argument. Group B must listen only. Group B then gets their two minutes to convince the A partner that they have the best argument. I then get the B group to move two chairs clockwise and repeat the process. This is repeated twice more. The pupils then must switch arguments using the same talk protocol. This time they get feedback from their partner on what they many have missed. This will be a very noisy section of the lesson.
I then ask the pupils to return the furniture to the original format and take their seats. The next step is to reflect on why I may have chosen this activity - they will come up with the need to listen effectively, developing their views and reasoning. They are then fully prepared to debate the questions as a class, and write up their judgement with quality reasoning.
5. Get your perspective specs on!
When working with pupils to get a deeper understanding of different historical viewpoints, these can be a great tool. Get your pupils to design and make some ‘perspective specs’ - genuinely outrageous glasses. Then model the process with them, looking at a source like Henry VIII’s court spending. Ask them to consider what it tells them about Henry VII and his style of government? Then, in pairs, put the specs on. Half the class are to be Henry VII, the other half Henry VIII. How would they view the source differently or the same?
The physical act of putting the specs on helps pupils to understand that perspective and interpretations of the same piece of evidence can be very different. This time to explore ideas in their pairs will give them confidence in feeding back ideas as a bigger group. I usually record their views in two columns on the board to gain a collaborative class view on perspective.
Technology has transformed the classroom over the past decade. Computers, smart boards and laser cutters - which were once few and far between - are now commonplace thanks to the £900m spent on education tech every year. These changes have gone a long way in creating a more engaging learning experience, but the next wave of developments will take things to the next level, by creating more sensory experiences that help educators convey concepts to students in new, hands-on ways. So what should your school be looking to invest in? Here are three top choices.
1. The power of virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) has the power to immerse users in a completely new environment. When applied to education, it can enable students to virtually visit a broad range of places and see theories conceptualised in a highly immersive way, all from their classroom. For example, VR headsets are being used by schools in Dubai to virtually transport students to Egypt, where they can measure the bases of pyramids.
With the appropriate financial investment, this technology could easily be instituted in the UK and used for the same purpose in a whole host of subjects. Students could take a virtual trip inside a live volcano for Geography, or go on a tour of the human heart when learning about its structure in Biology. Anything is possible, and everything will deliver a sensory, interactive and highly engaging learning opportunity.
2. The potential of smart materials
Over the next couple of years, we can expect to see intelligent surfaces and smart fabrics make their entrance onto the classroom stage. These will build on existing smartboard technology by turning any wall or tabletop into an interactive canvas for collaborative learning. For instance, it could be used in a Maths class to enable students to work together on a problem, facilitating not only academic development but also social skills.
3. The use of 3D printing
3D printing provides numerous possibilities for creating tailored, multi-dimensional learning tools that can bring experiences normally only accessible outside the classroom inside its walls. For instance, it would be financially and logistically impossible for most students studying Ancient Egypt to travel to Cairo to see the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. However, with 3D printing they could not only print a replica - bringing them face-to-face with the history they’re studying - but also handle the object, which is impossible with real artefacts.
As 3D printing technology improves, so does the level of engagement it can deliver. It used to only be possible to print in one or two colours, but new models can now create full-colour designs. For colourful objects, like our Tutankhamen example, these advanced capabilities make all the difference in creating a more realistic and visually engaging copy.
Designing a complex 3D model using CAD or CAM may be beyond the capabilities of certain age groups. However, many 3D printing companies produce scanners that enable users to create designs by scanning existing objects and converting them into printable files, as well as offering pre-made printable designs. This means that students could, for instance, download and print molecule parts, recreating the type of experience they could have at a science museum.
The value of virtual reality headsets, smart materials and 3D printers for facilitating learning across all subjects by providing more creative educational experiences is clear. With this in mind, it’s vital that schools and their governing bodies direct the £129 billion expected to be spent on edtech globally by 2020 into these avenues so that pupils can have the best learning experiences possible.
Whatever young people's educational journeys, as individuals they all have unique personal characteristics just like their physical fingerprints and DNA sequences. An exciting paradigm shift is taking place in education as approaches to teaching and learning become increasingly creative and student-centred, enabling all learners to develop and blossom in their own, special ways.
Just as forensic investigators can identify an individual using DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) to create a genetic profile - a set of numeric values that is exclusive to that person - educators can understand their students by the acid test of their academic attainment and exam outcomes. But looking at test scores is just one part of a child’s personal and social DNA. There are other enlightening elements of the learner’s profile to take into account, such as each individual’s disposition, passions, interests, talents and values. These may not shape league tables, but teaching to this profile can better prepare learners for the modern world.
Education is on the move
As Albert Einstein said, “The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Sir Ken Robinson is acutely aware of changes needed and the importance of motivation that is conducive to every single young citizen flourishing. As he says:
“Human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they're not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
Character development and values
For some time, concern has been growing about whether the education of the current emerging generation of citizens is sufficiently fit for purpose. This is especially bearing in mind the state of the health and wellbeing of so many young people, degradation of the environment, the world they are inheriting, the pace at which various aspects of daily life are evolving, and the qualities needed for the new world of work.
In 2017, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust held a series of roundtable discussions with a large cross-section of people from politics, education and the youth sector in the UK to address the significance of character development, viewed as an important yet often overlooked part of education today. Countless stakeholders involved in how children are growing up consider that young people need to be better equipped with the tools and skills that enable them to live positive lives. Assisting them in developing strong character traits will support improved academic attainment, employment prospects, workplace productivity and individuals’ contributions to society.
Following this roundtable, in July 2018 a white paper was published: The Opportunities and Challenges offered by Character Education. The first recommendation is that the Department for Education takes the lead in establishing a clear definition for character development and that it should then be applied across Government and communicated effectively to education, business, community and youth-sector organisations.
It is proposed that character development is defined as: when people align their actions with their considered values.
Values define who we are
Just as a DNA profile is extracted from a piece of evidence from the subject, so several aspects of someone’s makeup can be discerned from personally chosen values. This is because our values help to identify what we hold dear, what we consider important, what motivates us and what we prioritise. Together with our beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive our thinking, decision-making and behaviour.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun”
Since character development is key to young citizens flourishing, maximising their potential and living healthy, fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose, what is important now is that time is invested in it as an integral part of each child’s education.
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education and Citizenship are stepping stones in the right direction but, fundamental to all this progress is quality, systematic values education. To provide clarity and properly reflect each young person’s uniqueness, all learners need regular opportunities to explore and apply values so as to establish for themselves a foundation of ones that feel right and that will be their daily reference points, particularly as they navigate the plethora of challenges they currently face and that they will encounter as their lives and the future unfold.
Educators have the opportunity to creatively embed an awareness of values and their influence on life at home, in school and in wider contexts. In doing so, they will witness the delight shown by the children as they apply the empowering competencies gained and draw on newly acquired capacities that express their own uniqueness. The stimulating process excites curiosity and engenders a general improvement in wellbeing and an eagerness to learn. The exhilarating feeling of authenticity rises as the participants build up their confidence and learn to align their deliberations, choices and actions with their own, personally selected values.
The ambition of every leader in education is to meaningfully improve our students’ outcomes. This is particularly important at a time when school budgets are under increasing pressure, meaning we often have to support teaching and learning using the resources we already have.
However, the answer is deceptively simple - and most school leaders are aware of it, but may not know how to harness its power. While extra funding is always welcome, the solution to improving teaching and learning may well lie in a change of attitude... and a dose of extra creativity.
By developing students’ learning habits and thinking skills, school leaders can essentially help them think better. This establishes a foundation for better learning and helps deliver improved outcomes in the long term.
Metacognition, or ‘thinking about thinking’, has been shown to be a key factor in increasing a student’s potential.
At the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), we believe that the best way to transform life chances is to actively shape the minds, attitudes and habits of young people using a framework of cognitive education.
Some of the ideas underlying this framework date back thousands of years - Aristotle once said that “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” But the application to multi-academy trusts is new. Our approach enables students to consciously recognise their own habits, strengths, and areas for development, and actively seek to improve themselves - thereby creating transformational change.
One of the key ways in which we foster this is by encouraging close collaboration between Primary and Secondary schools.
A recent successful example was when Year 10 students from The Victory Academy and Year 5 students from Cedar Children’s Academy worked together to create a storybook called The 6 Seeds of Cedar.
Inspired by Dr Seuss, with original characters brought to life in beautiful illustrations, the book is a resource designed to promote student engagement and critical thinking across all TSAT schools. It unites creativity with cognitive techniques, to instil positive habits of mind.
The “6 Seeds” represent six key critical thinking skills: persisting, managing impulsivity, listening with understanding and empathy, questioning and posing problems, applying past knowledge to new situations, and taking responsible risks.
For two hours each week, the Year 5 students were introduced to the more advanced learning habits of the Year 10s - or, as they refer to them, “Victory Virtues”. Having older role models in these lessons was inspirational for the Cedar students, who could learn from those who are further along their thinking skills journey.
The younger pupils were not the only ones to grow and benefit from the experience, as the Year 10 students were able to further their understanding of the Victory Virtues by taking on the responsibility of sharing knowledge with a younger audience. Both groups of students emerged proud of and empowered by the finished book.
This collaboration between students of different ages has offered a brilliant opportunity for improving students’ critical thinking skills, using a more creative approach to making the most of the resources we already have.
It has also demonstrated the growing understanding of the cognitive processes involved in learning, and the value of applying neuroscience to our approaches to teaching and learning.
The challenge for school leaders has always been how to make metacognition and neuroscience work consistently at a whole-school level, to generate the impact we know it can have. The 6 Seeds project has done just that.
The book will now be part of the framework for future curricula at Cedar, and its authors will impart their knowledge of the 6 Seeds to their fellow pupils. These 6 Seeds will be planted in Reception, and through lessons tailored to different ages throughout students’ academic careers, pupils will head to Secondary school reflective about their own habits of mind and prepared for what is to come.
Fostering creativity in students has dominated discussion in education since the turn of the century. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) lists creativity as one of its 4Cs alongside critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. In 2016, the World Economic Forum released its top ten list of desired skills for 2020, including creativity among them. Professor Michael Fullan includes creativity as one of his 6Cs, and describes it as the need for students to possess creativity and imagination.
Despite these attempts at defining creativity in education, a challenge remains: explaining what creativity looks like within the traditional school culture. Too often, ‘creativity’ gets confined to a single course - such as art - or an individual unit, project, or activity. However, Professor Fullan defines creativity not only as “the opportunity to pursue novel ideas”, but also as “economic and social entrepreneurialism” and “leadership for action.” He argues that students need the opportunity to use their imaginations, engage in problem-solving, and have the opportunity to learn through play. Therefore, when schools provide these conditions, students have a chance to develop their creative skills.
As an app, Book Creator does not create these conditions any more than a paintbrush or crayon creates a masterpiece. And yet, when placed into the hands of students who are given the opportunity to imagine, explore, problem-solve, and create, it removes the technical limitations from a student’s imagination. Not only does Book Creator provide students with the capacity to work in text, drawing, photos, video, and audio, but it also encourages them to embed and incorporate content created in any number of tools. The open-ended, multimedia capacity of Book Creator then supports the conditions in which the creative process can occur.
Book Creator is an open-ended, creative and cross-curricular app that empowers students and teachers to create multimedia ebooks. Available on iPad and Chromebook, Creator launched in 2011 and has gone on to be one of the most popular apps in education, winning the 2015 Bett Award for Best Educational App, and 2018 American Association of School Librarians Best Website for Teaching and Learning.
Returning to Fullan’s notion - that creativity not only results in a product, but also entrepreneurialism and leadership - how might educators allow students to harness the power of digital tools such as Book Creator to design a creative solution to a community challenge, or take action as a leader in the classroom? Multimedia tools encourage students to share their thinking and demonstrate their understanding in varied and previously unimaginable ways. The challenge then lies in how skilled educators might design new learning experiences that foster the creative process.
There’s been a growing number of headlines pointing out the sharp decline in Music provision in school. Rocksteady Music School, however, is completely bucking the trend with its disruptive approach of teaching children to play in bands from the outset.
Art has the benefit of being not only enjoyable and relaxing, but of encouraging personal reflection, expression and growth. With this in mind, how can we nurture creativity across the curriculum using artistic methods? You may be surprised where and how often art can be made a feature of a lesson. Here are some school crafting ideas that allow children to enjoy all of the benefits of arts and crafts.
A while ago, in the 2016/17 edition of the IMS Guide (both this and the new edition are available here!), I wrote of my approach to getting children interested in Coding / Computer Science, beyond the usual hour a week lesson which most schools timetable for. My approach was very much focused around encouraging children’s existing hobbies and talents, and finding ways to incorporate Computing into those interests.
Project-based learning (PBL) changes how we look at education and the best ways to engage young people in learning. Learning is all around. It is in books, in classrooms, outdoors, at home, in museums and workplaces; everywhere all the time. We learn through reading, listening, engaging, but mostly by doing. When we apply what we learn to something tangible - something interesting to us - we remember it. We want to learn more about it, and learn more about things around it.