Creation myths exploded

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Teachers can now look online for advice on putting a buzz into classrooms. Margaret Talboys reports.

Today, teachers seeking support promoting their pupils' creativity will have access to a new online resource for schools: Creativity: Find it, promote it.

The website, launched by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is the outcome of a three-year project working with 120 teachers. We asked them to investigate how they could develop pupils' creativity through existing schemes of work and lesson plans.

The resource is based on the QCA's work with these teachers, with help from more than 1,000 schools consulted as part of the project. It aims to answer some key questions: What is creativity? Why is it important? How can you spot it? And how can you promote it?

The project exploded a few popular myths:

* Myth number one is that promoting creativity means a classroom free-for-all. It does not. Teachers can plan for it. They need to be clear about choices and decisions pupils can make within realistic timescales and limits on materials. Teachers also need to be clear about their role in learning and confident in their subject knowledge.

* Myth number two: creativity is just about the arts. In fact, it can happen in all kinds of activities. It is true, however, that the arts can spearhead creativity across the curriculum. Involvement in arts subjects engages pupils and gives them opportunities to better understand creative processes. This is why artists are marvellous role models for pupils and why schools see such value in making partnerships with creative people.

* Myth number three: only a minority of talented pupils are creative. We are all capable of creativity, depending on our abilities and interests. We simply need opportunities for it to flourish and skillful teaching for it to develop.

But one myth seemed to be true: pupils leap ahead in their learning when they have a chance to think and be creative. They thrive on questioning, on connecting their learning with their experiences and building on what they already know. They are motivated when they see possibilities in an activity and have time to explore, to play with ideas, solve problems and work with others.

Where pupils have the chance to share their thinking, reflect critically on what they are doing, get feedback and develop their critical thinking skills, the quality of their work soars.

The teachers in the project saw this happen. They testified to the increased pace of learning. They saw the rise in pupils' self-esteem and motivation. Literacy and numeracy skills flourished.

Materials on the website are intended to provide snapshots of classroom practice. They show teachers fostering pupils' creative thinking and behaviour throughout the national curriculum and at all the key stages.

Our overriding aim is to show the very different ways that teachers in this country set up tasks and activities to engage children in learning - something the TES Target Creativity campaign has also drawn attention to.

Every day teachers are working to fire pupils' imaginations and help them to develop creative skills. There is no blueprint for any of this - these are not lesson plans.

Where do we go from here? Well, we need to continue to learn about how best to promote pupils' creativity. We need to understand more about how pupils make creative progress and how this impacts on their learning and attainment.

We want to find out what other teachers, advisers, teacher educators and those who work with teachers think of the materials. And we need to add more examples - for the foundation stage, for instance, and to show how ICTpromotes pupils' creativity. We also need examples of pupils' creativity in personal and social health education and in citizenship.

We hope that teachers, whatever the year group or subject, will give time to consider the examples we have collected. If they generate debate with colleagues about how we recognise pupils' creativity and how the teacher's role and the learning environment support this, they will have met one of our aims.

But until we can show that they have helped to promote pupils' creativity across the curriculum, they will not have served their prime purpose.

Margaret Talboys is director of the Creativity: Find it, promote it project. See www.ncaction.org.ukcreativity and send in your own examples of creative learning

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