Creativity and Learning: what is the connection?

12 September

Creativity, UK education expert and Goods Shed expert-in-residence Paul Collard believes, is the skill crucial for everything the modern world expects of you.

“Creativity makes it possible for us to play with ideas, quickly and flexibly adapt to changed circumstances, take time to consider what to do next, resist temptations, stay focused, and meet novel, unanticipated challenges,” Mr Collard said.

Mr Collard’s work for Creativity, Culture and Education, an international foundation dedicated to unlocking the creativity of children, and the British Government’s flagship creative learning programme Creative Partnerships, is concerned with preparing young people for life and work in an increasingly uncertain and rapidly changing economic and social environment.

“Creativity, it is argued, can help learners not only survive, but to thrive.  Central to these ideas is the understanding that creativity encompasses a set of mental attributes which enable young people to succeed both in school and as adults.”

 

Paul Collard and primary school students during a FORM Creative Learning workshop at The Goods Shed in 2016. Image by Lamis Sabra.

Paul Collard and primary school students during a FORM Creative Learning workshop at The Goods Shed in 2016. Image by Lamis Sabra.

 

Drawing on international research, CCE has defined creativity as the Five Habits of Mind.

The Five Habits of Mind.

1. Inquisitive

Wondering and Questioning

Exploring and Investigating

Challenging assumptions

     2. Persistent

Tolerating uncertainty

Sticking with difficulty

Daring to be different

    3. Imaginative

Playing with possibilities

Making connections

Using intuition

        4. Disciplined

Crafting and Improving

Developing techniques

Reflecting critically

5. Collaborative

Cooperating appropriately

Giving and receiving feedback

Sharing the ‘product’.

Creative Learning workshops facilitated by Paul Collard at The Goods Shed in 2016. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor

Creative Learning workshops facilitated by Paul Collard at The Goods Shed in 2016. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor.

 

What learning environments are conducive to the development of creativity skills?

Mr Collard and CCE have researched the learning environment in which creativity appears to thrive. Evaluations of CCE’s international programmes in England, such as Cambridge University’s The Impact of Creative Partnerships on the Well-Being of Children and Young People, show that a student educated in a context in which they are an essential learning resource, and where mobility, emotion, team working and risk are central to the learning experience, is a student who is ‘high functioning’.  “In this form of education, the whole child is engaged in the learning experience, not only aspects of their mental processes. In other words, they are physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually engaged.These practices are effective because they directly impact on the students’ sense of competency, autonomy and relatedness,” Mr Collard said.

 

Participant feedback - Creative Learning workshops with Paul Collard at The Goods Shed. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor.

Participant feedback – Creative Learning workshops with Paul Collard at The Goods Shed. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor.

 

The ‘high functioning classroom’ provides a learning environment in which the teacher, rather than directing children to prepared answers, sets challenges which encourage pupils to discover the answers for themselves. It allows for a way of learning where time is used flexibly, where the classroom is more of a workshop than a lecture theatre and where the interaction of pupils is central to the learning process. Most importantly, it ensures that the questions and interest of pupils is allowed to shape the learning which ensures that where possible the learning is illustrated by their own knowledge and experience. It ensures that learning is visible, not just to the teacher, but the wider community and recognises the role of emotion in class.

Figure 1: Characteristic features of the ‘high functioning classroom’.Image courtesy of Paul Collard.

Figure 1: Characteristic features of the ‘high functioning classroom’.Image courtesy of Paul Collard.

 

What is the connection with learning through the arts?

The arts incorporate with ease many elements of the ‘high functioning’ classroom.

  • Art immediately introduces emotion into an activity.
  • Many physical classroom activities are derived from dance and theatre techniques.
  • Children and young people who are given challenges in which they translate their understanding into artistic forms can make manifest their learning through painting, drawing or composing.
  • Story-telling and performance provide the opportunity for children and young people to share their own experiences and perceptions.
  • The artistic output is usually shared beyond the classroom with the rest of the school, the pupils’ families and the wider community, ensuring that their learning is highly visible.
  • Time is used more flexibly to ensure that the time available is flexed to meet the needs of the activity, rather than the other way around.
  • The activities connect with the world outside with the child’s inside, hence making the activities feel authentic.
  • There is a lot of group work and collaboration in arts practices, requiring pupils to develop their social skills
  • Reflection is ongoing and considers both what learning is taking place and why the learning process was effective.

The arts provide a framework which ensures that the pupils are physically, socially, emotionally and intellectual engaged, hence providing the learning environment known to develop creativity and enhance executive functions of the brain.

 

Learning through play. Creative Learning workshops with Paul Collard at The Goods Shed in 2016. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor.

Learning through play. Creative Learning workshops with Paul Collard at The Goods Shed in 2016. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor.