Encouraging Creative Teaching & Learning

Featured UKEdMagazine Article by Night Zoo Keeper

There is a common misconception that inspectors would like all schools to teach using the same methods, follow the same ethos and compartmentalise their lessons into clear subject areas.

However, it has been found schools that adopt creative approaches to teaching and learning are more likely to be successful during an inspection. The Government are also seeing an increase in the number of parents calling for creativity to be added to the curriculum and take a larger role in their child’s education.

What is creativity?

If you were to ask a stranger to think of someone creative, names will roll off their tongue – Picasso, Mozart, Jobs, Da Vinci, Rowling – the list goes on. Ask the same stranger what makes these famous names creative, and you may well be faced with a blank expression. For years, creativity has been a nebulous concept in many minds, often solely reserved for those who were naturally gifted in the “the arts”. Often synonymous with “disorganised” and “chaotic”, creativity was stereotypically seen as an attribute useful only if you had future plans of becoming a painter or musician. Juxtaposed to this were pursuits which required logic and reasoning, known as “the sciences”. Those who wished to be engineers or physicists had no time for creativity, only for order and perfection.

In order to define creativity for the purpose of this article we draw on the work of Sir Ken Robinson. He claims that creativity is a 3-part process. It begins with imagination, bringing to mind concepts which are not immediately available to the five senses. Following this, you employ your creativity, using the concepts you have imagined to generate original ideas, which have value. Thirdly comes innovation, putting original ideas into action.

creativity is a disciplined process that requires skill, knowledge and control

Sir Ken Robinson, 2009.

The rise of project based learning Implementing a creative approach to teaching and learning can be very difficult within rigorous timetables and routines. However, it is important to note that Ofsted recognise the importance of a creative approach to teaching and have previously celebrated project based learning (PBL) methods during school inspections. A study entitled ‘Learning: Creative Approaches that Raise Standards’ (Ofsted, January, 2010) found schools that used a PBL method of teaching and learning achieved an outstanding Ofsted report. These schools implemented cross-curricular learning for their students, which allowed them to solve problems and answer open-ended questions.

(Good Practice Resource, Ofsted, 2013)

Parents calling for creativity


The development of these skills, which a PBL method facilitates, are exactly what we have found parents are calling for. Night Zookeeper commissioned research into perceptions of parents towards creativity at school.  1,000 parents were surveyed across the UK in October 2014 and we found the following:

  • 9 out of 10 parents think activities that teach creative skills should be added to the curriculum
  • Over half of UK parents think recent changes to the curriculum have reduced opportunities for creative learning
  • Three quarters of parents think modern technology can provide a vehicle for creativity and it should be integrated into more lessons

Can We Teach Creativity?

As previously discussed, creativity must be considered to be a combination of skills and thought processes, neither of which are necessarily natural. Therefore, if we consider creativity something that can be learned, how do we teach it?

Csikszentmihalyi (1996) argues that the environment of an individual can either nurture or hinder the development of creativity. In the classroom, this is especially important to remember, because creativity is not at the forefront of most children’s education. If a child’s environment doesn’t allow them to experiment, to try new things, to ask questions – their creativity is most likely to be diminished. However, if we consider creativity to be an important factor in children’s learning, we must design classrooms and lessons with this in mind.

How can Night Zookeeper help?

Night Zookeeper is widely used in schools as a great way to begin implementing a PBL approach. The website and educational materials that accompany it, focus on some core areas of the curriculum; English, Computing, Art and Design, Science and Drama. Crucially, it enables teachers to integrate them seamlessly, so that children are immersed in a project and develop vital skills without the rigorous instruction that they are more commonly used to.

The project encourages creativity both in writing and in art work, the children need to be diverse in their thinking. It has enabled my reluctant boys to be engaged. They really love being given time on the website.

Jacqui Latham, St. James Primary School, Bolton

This is a promoted article, and was originally printed in the January 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.