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Creativity, an Essential 21st Century Skill

Creativity is a key educational goal and essential 21st century skill. In recent years both educational and other social institutions have emphasized the importance of preparing students for a future that will demand complex problem solving and creative thinking. The type of thinking and working that will be needed is not the industrial behaviours and skills that our traditional school system was designed for and, in many cases, still promotes.

Sir Ken Robinson in his clip ‘Can Creativity be taught?’ states that “the very future of our civilization hinges upon the creative capabilities of young people and that one of the most important things we can do in schools is foster creativity”. He defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value”. Originality is seen as the most important aspect of creativity because something must be novel or unique in some way to be considered creative. If originality is not present then the process, product, or idea in question is common. The idea that creativity adds value is also included in most definitions. This value could come in the form of developing effective product design, innovation or stirring an emotional response. The value can also mean different things to different people.

Often we think of creativity as being capable in the arts for, example a great painter, performer or musician. However Robinson suggests that creativity is something that anyone can cultivate. Researcher Dr. Carol Dweck supports this position in her work in coining the terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’. She suggests that when students have a growth mindset that allows them to believe they are creative, and practice creativity, they can be creative. Dweck states “It turns out, if you believe your brain can grow, you behave differently and with practice, neural networks grow new connections and strengthen existing ones”.  Hence, a growth mindset cultivates a culture of creativity where ideas are valued and mistakes can be celebrated. Our teaching and learning environment therefore seeks to foster an atmosphere of collaboration where learners are allowed to take sensible risks, make mistakes and adopt a growth mindset.

Creativity requires a learning environment that fosters a sense of community and the values of the community influence the behaviours of the members. Teachers and students influence each other towards the support or constraint of creativity. Students in creativity-supporting atmospheres have been shown to have a “stronger senses of personal success, stronger reasoning ability, increased levels of confidence, increased resilience, increased motivation and engagement, and enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills”. One of the key roles of a teacher is fostering the creative potential of students by enabling them, not just instructing them. Teachers at Christian College strive to foster this creativity by giving students rich opportunities in their learning environments to explore technologies, engage in play, be immersed in a design process, inquire and investigate.

One such example of this is provided by Year Two students engaged in a design challenge to contribute flowers to a wreath, consisting of the colours of the East Timor flag, celebrating Christian College’s 15 year relationship with our friends in Timor Leste. Initially the students were immersed in the history of East Timor’s Independence Day, to give context to the challenge, then were given their brief which was:

  1. Design and create a flower that contributes to the black section of the flag.
  2. Use only 2 materials
  3. Create a 3 dimensional flower.

Using this criteria students created an amazingly diverse range of flowers whilst being supported by their teachers who allowed them to unleash their creativity.

Ann-Marree Weigl
Junior School – Belmont, Head of Campus



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