Knowledge Bank - Creative Teaching & Learning

Creativity in the Classroom

What changes need to be made when the development of cognitive skills required for progressive learning reaches a standstill?

If teaching and learning concentrates too much on content and knowledge at the expense of higher-order cognitive skills, improvement in the classroom stagnates. What changes need to be made when the development of cognitive skills required for progressive learning reaches a standstill? To achieve a higher-order of thinking, the traditional, teacher-centred style of learning is not sufficient. Students need to be taught what to do with their knowledge in a creative way, and to be given the space and time learn in an active manner. In response to this, Creative Pedagogy transforms passive students who are reliant on their teachers, by creating the space for engaging and responsive learning.

Creative Pedagogy refers to the style of learning as one which “teaches learners how to learn creatively and become creators of themselves and creators of their future” (Aleinikov 2013). Students are situated as the directors of their own learning, taking responsibility for their education. Those who experience Creative Pedagogy think deeper about their work, for longer. Crucially, the learning process here isn’t viewed as the end of an instruction, but is instead  a vehicle for activating and engaging the mind. 

Creative Pedagogy also places importance on the role that the teacher plays in the student’s learning. Teachers are required to be informed about how to teach creatively, to consider alternate possibilities, and to understand problems in new and inventive ways. A creative pedagogy is recognised within a teacher’s ability to develop alternate methods of relaying information, in an effective manner. Continued professional development is essential in order for teachers to adopt the creative approaches necessary to enhance their lessons. The foundations of an engaging classroom are grounded in your own understanding of this style of learning.

The following teaching methods are drawn from the articles attached, and are designed to inspire creativity across the curriculum:

The Six Thinking Hats

Created by Edward De Bono in the 1970s, “The Six Thinking Hats” are a set of tools which promote lateral thinking. This teaching style involves solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious, and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only the step-by-strep logic. The hats separate thinking into six distinct categories. Each category is identified with an individual, coloured and metaphorical “thinking hat”. By figuratively switching between the hats, students are able to focus or redirect their current line of thought. The hats combine both rational and empirical thinking, allowing students to solve problems using a range of approaches. For example, the white hat involves objective, neutral thinking in terms of facts, numbers and information. Here, the child’s attention is focused directly on factual evidence. In contrast, the red hat deals with the emotional viewpoint, requiring students to understand the situation according to their own intuition. As a result of this, children are able to shift perspectives in order to see both sides of the argument. This process encourages critical thinking, meaning that students can analyse and form judgements which were previously not visible. By creating new ways of thinking, the hats remind students that there are multiple ways to approach a problem than the initial default mode, and encourage them to question their learning. The hats also move discussions away from the adversarial, towards a more collaborative approach. Even the quietest students are given the space to speak.

Thinking Hats

  • Blue: managing the thinking process.
  • White: information available and needed.
  • Red: intuition and feelings.
  • Yellow: benefits and value.
  • Black: caution, difficulties and weaknesses.
  • Green: alternatives and creative ideas.

The Mantle of the Expert

Developed over several decades by Dorothy Heathcote, this dramatic–inquiry approach requires that pupils and teacher interact as colleagues to create a learning community. Within this community, the class carry out their work as if they are an imagined group of experts. The use of imagination is essential to the symbolic and communicative tasks that arise from the work. Imagination allows both the teacher and the student to devise alternative modes of action, projects and solutions. The purpose of this approach is the same as any effective theatre event. It requires students to see the world afresh, rather than merely replaying and repeating. Because they behave ‘as if they are experts’, students adopt an approach which assumes real responsibility. For example, during science experiments, students are required to imagine themselves as real scientists. Gradually, the fictional context of the learning translates into real life, as the children take on some of the duties, problems and challenges that may be faced by professionals in the real world. Instead of considering the curriculum as a set of separate subjects, this creative approach combines teaching. Based on drama, classes develop various ways to understand alternative perspectives.

Imaginative Education

This model is based on engaging students’ imaginations, enabling a creative connection with the curriculum to be established. Kieran Eager offers theory and frameworks are based on the ideas of the socio-cultural Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, concerning the development of imagination and cognition. From this, the IE approach richly elaborates Vygostsky’s idea of “cognitive tools”, as a means through which to routinely engage the imaginations of students.
The tools involved in IE act as metaphoric extensions, helping students to think extensively. The cognitive tools range from the story form, to the sense of wonder. Teachers will use these tools to shape the content they teach. IE indicates which set of cognitive tools students most actively use at different stages, in order to present the curriculum as vividly meaningful. The tools are based on the changing sophistications of language use. As a child develops, different forms of language are internalised and the nature of their emotional and intellectual engagement changes accordingly. IE demonstrates how the cognitive tools of language form five distinctive kinds of understanding of the world:

One experiences the world in a physical, pre-linguistic way. Information is provided to the learner through the senses and emotions. The perception is based on sensation such as balance, movement, tension, pain and pleasure. The attention here is focused on the relationship between the physical body and the surroundings.
Cognitive tools: bodily senses, emotional responses and attachments, rhythm and musicality, gesture and communication, referencing, intentionality.

Understanding according to oral language. The experience is no longer limited to direct, physical factors. Use of language to discuss, represent, and understand.
Cognitive tools: story, metaphor, abstract, binary, opposites, rhyme, meter, pattern, humour, forming images, sense of mystery, games, drama and play.

A process of understanding through written language. At this stage, a realisation of independence from their surroundings appears. Students will relate readily to extremes of reality, associate with heroes and seek to make sense of the world in human terms.
Cognitive tools: sense of reality, extremes and limits of reality, association with heroes, wonder, humanizing of meaning, collections and hobbies, revolt and idealism, context.

Using the theoretic use of language to make sense of experience. This systematic approach focuses on connections. A recognition of the existing laws and theories that bring together, and help make sense of, what originally appeared to be disconnected details and experiences. 
Cognitive tools: drive for generality, processes, lure of certainty, general schemes and anomalies, flexibility of theory, search for authority and truth.

The use of reflexive language. A realization that there are limits to systematic thinking. An appreciation that theories, and even language, are too limited to capture everything that is important about the world. Recognition that the way we understand the world depends on our unique historical and cultural perspective.
Cognitive tools: limits of theory, reflexivity and identity, coalescence, particularity, radical epistemic doubt.

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