• Kevin Cordi

Creativity in the Classroom: Shifting the Shape of Pedagogy


Although creativity is often linked to the arts, it is important to remember you can be artistic when creating your own curriculum. It is not regulated to an art classroom, in fact, it bridges all disciplines.


photo by Annie Spratt, unsplash site

“Before coming up with a rationale for arts integration, ask yourself, “What do the arts mean in my life?” Considering some recent experiences might help you here. Think about the last play or concert you attended or a recent experience onstage or playing a musical instrument. Picture a painting or poster on your walls or the last time you worked on a mural or collage. Now write 10 words that describe what your own particular experience with art means to you. Or, better yet, sketch a symbol capturing that experience’s meaning. At the same time, how your understanding of the experience is shaped by the very act of representing it visually.”

Donahue, Stuart, (2010) p. 3.


photo by Meryn-Chan from unsplash site

Ten Steps to Remember in Designing Creative Teaching and Learning

We need to feel free to let go of what we know.

Sometimes we don’t engage new ways of teaching because we don’t feel familiar with the method of delivery. For example, some people are reluctant to dive into digital tools because they don’t feel comfortable with the technical process. Learning is a collaborative journey partnered with our students.

Creativity for instruction is planned.

Method of delivery deserves as much time as it takes to learn the content. Students today are engaged in multiple ways of learning. We need to think in which way we can present to appeal to the changing multimodal student? Using artistic methods is a way to meet this need. After all, “at it’s core, art is creative expression, and art making is the process of that expression—the inquiry and engagement, research and experimentation, trial and error, risk-taking, reflection and reevaluation, and growth and discovery, (Donahue, (2010) p. 21).”

In order to achieve these goals, we cannot “wing it.” This is not to say there is not a degree of improvisation in creation, but as instructors we must prepare the planned space for the improvisation to happen.

Learning can be represented beyond tests, quizzes, or even talk. There are many ways to experience learning from a text.

Consider what is involved when we teach from a text. The act of reading is the “reader’s evocation of the text as imagined, visualized, and experienced” (Wilhelm, 1995, p. 120.) Considering this, why not lift the words off the page? Could the students create a drama, build a radio play or write from a different point of view to help enhance their understanding? Too often students feel disconnected to what they learn. Could students interview authorities in the field? Could they represent this learning by creating a digital video, staging a reenactment, and/or drawing a collaborative visual that questions what they learned?

Note: It is important to remember that learning can also be non-linear. Could the Depression be depicted as digital flashbacks or montages? Could the learning start from an end point building with significance for learning?

photo by Sharon Pittaway, from unsplash site

Start small, grow tall.

Educators can seem burdened by immense projects. The simple advice is to start with ‘bursts of creative projects’ and build from there. It takes time to learn to begin to rethink and re-evaluate. Concentrate on small steps. However, be reflective as you change. It will help with further development.

  1. Learning can be an experience as opposed to an assignment.

Here are some ways to enliven the experience. (This is based on the essay “Making our learning through the arts visible” by Stephanie Violent Juno.)

· Collect artifacts of the process, not the final product.

· Guide a short reflection conversation with your students about their learning.

· Take time to reflect on student learning.

· Choose an upcoming opportunity to make your student learning visible.

· Choose a form for your making learning visible.

· Keep the focus on learning.

· Find a making learning visible partner.

We can imagine what we can’t see yet.

When given the permission (some classes this is not granted) to experiment, students can envision possibility. However, we need to routinize the imagination in our classroom.

“Routinizing imagination is not the work only of heroes—the geniuses, the luminaires, the elect. The work belongs to every one of us. Nor can this work come merely in response to crisis. It must come every day. What’s most revelatory about the study of imagination is, indeed, the everydayness of it. Imagination can be embodied in its most developed forms by a great figure or in great history-bending acts. But we believe that enduring, systematic change comes when everyone of us develops, in an abundant bloom of acts and choices, at work and home and play, our own mindfulness about being imaginative. (Liu, E, Brandon, S (2009) p. 11).”

If we work with this as a goal, we will soon witness and experience the imaginative quality in our teaching.

There is value in play.

Some have said that play is a ‘rehearsal for life,’ however, like Vivian Paley suggests, it is more than this. It is in play where we can rewind our actions, consider other alternatives, create fictional choices and explore real ones. We need to step out of the classroom and enter a playful one. Real work can happen as a result.

There is value in creative problem solving.

Learning is a reflective process. As socioculturalist Vygotsky (1978) states, when students are involved in problem based play, it is as though they are “a head taller” in their learning. Imagine how much students can grow when then are involved in inquiry-based playful approaches in your classroom.

Discovery over correctness.

Art teacher Jayne Young of Wellington School said she states, “There are no mistakes only unexpected outcomes.” Imagine the eclectic range of choices that open to students when they are given reign to design how they represent their learning. There is room for discovery in the classroom.

The best creative designs for learning are negotiated.

The investment of the class will help the investment in the work, especially if it is problem based. As Beach, Edmiston, and Campano ( 2010) suggest, “We therefore align ourselves with those who argue that literacy tools (including artistic literacy) should be embedded in critical and dialogic inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009, Lewison, Leland & Harste, 2008; Morrell, 2008, Wells, 1999), where communities of learners not only gain knowledge, build interpretations, and formulate understandings about the words, including how society might be more equitably organized and their role in such transformations.

Ask yourself, what inquiry questions can we work together to find out? How can I build creative insight into the discovery process?

*I would love to know your experience with placing art in your curriculum. We learn from each other. We are listening. Tell your story.

#art #creativity #digital #curriculum

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