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Can Creativity be Taught?

Some people seem to be born creative. We're all familiar with stories of little prodigies who amaze the world with their artistic expression or musical ability. But is winning nature's talent lottery the only way to be creative? 

In an article detailing four myths about creativity, Mitch Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, says that artistic expression is only one type of creativity. "Scientists can be creative when they develop new theories. Doctors can be creative when they diagnose diseases. Entrepreneurs can be creative when they develop new products. Social workers can be creative when they suggest strategies for struggling families. Politicians can be creative when they develop new policies."

Expanding the definition of creativity helps us understand how creativity plays a part in all aspects of life. Businesses today value creativity in their employees and the world is full of people using creativity daily to invent things and solve problems. Resnick likes the phrase "creative thinking" rather than "creativity" as a way to help parents see creativity as something essential for their children's future as opposed to purely artistic creativity. 

Nurturing Creativity 

Nurturing creativity in young children can be as easy as encouraging their natural curiosity about the world. As children get older, teaching creativity involves showing them ways to express themselves through words, art, singing, dance and crafts. Teachers can help remove the obstacles that squelch children's innate curiosity and creativity. Resnick challenges teachers to think about teaching creativity as an organic, interactive process and to create a learning environment that helps students exercise their creativity. 

Resnick says that you can't teach creativity if that means creating a set of rules or instructions on how to be creative. But, he insists, you can nurture creativity. "All children are born with the capacity to be creative, but their creativity won't necessarily develop on its own. It needs to be nurtured, encouraged, [and] supported. The process is like that of a farmer or gardener taking care of plants by creating an environment in which the plants will flourish. Similarly, you can create a learning environment in which creativity will flourish." 

Ways to Increase Creativity 

In a Forbes post, author, entrepreneur and marketer Deep Patel outlines six proven ways to increase creativity. His recommendations include learning to play a musical instrument. A number of famous figures illustrate the connection between creativity and music training. Paul Allen, billionaire cofounder of Microsoft who began playing violin at age 7 and switched to guitar as a teenager, says, "music reinforces your confidence in the ability to create." 

Another proven way to get the creative juices flowing and clear cobwebs from the mind is to exercise. Being sedentary not only has physical drawbacks, but it also contributes to fatigue and mental "fog." A study published by the National Institutes of Health indicates that "physical activity is associated with improved affective experience and enhanced cognitive processing." 

Doing nothing can also help. With today's "always on" technology, it's important to unplug from taking in and processing the vast amount of information coming our way daily. Turning off technology and allowing the mind to rest before taking on a task can help increase creative capacity.

Teaching Creativity in the Classroom 

In 10 Ways to Teach Creativity in the Classroom on the TED-Ed blog, Laura McClure says "If ideas are butterflies, notebooks are nets. Professional artists, scientists and writers often carry small notebooks to capture imaginative ideas before they fly away." Teaching students to start an idea notebook can help them harness their own creative thoughts.

Research is often a springboard for creativity. Teaching students how to explore sources of information and showing them where to find other creative people can help them with problem-solving and inspiration.

Brainstorming sessions to come up with solutions to a common challenge are a great way to help students generate ideas and spark creativity. The TED blog offers tips on how to run a brainstorming session

When feeding the mind, it's a good idea to feed the body as well. Identifying healthy snacks can be a creative activity of its own. Helping students understand that problem-solving is a creative skill they need to use every day in practical ways, helps them understand how essential it is to exercise creativity and creative thinking. As Thomas A. Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." 

Develop and Lead a Culture of Learning 

Educators who want to help develop curricula and qualify for leadership roles can participate in programs like the online Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction (Ed.S. in C&I) degree program from the University of West Florida (UWF).

Learn more about the UWF Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction online program. 


Edutopia: 4 Myths About Creativity 

TED-Ed Blog: 10 Ways to Teach Creativity in the Classroom 

Forbes: 6 Proven Ways to Increase Your Creativity

TED Blog: How to Run a Brainstorm

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