Creativity in the classroom

By Fabian Mayer

University of Calgary associate professor 
Robert Kelly recently published a book on the different ways creative learning is being implemented around the world. The book, entitled Educating For Creativity: A Global Conversation, looked at how creativity was used at 20 educational institutions around the world — from elementary to post-secondary.

Creative education has been the subject of TED talks and numerous books. Alberta recently identified it as one of the seven pillars of 21st-century learning.

According to Kelly, who teaches graduate courses in the department of education and co-ordinates the Creativity in Educational Practice graduate program, there is a fundamental problem with classroom learning today, as students often do not learn how to think creatively. 

His book is about how creativity-based learning can be incorporated into education to address this problem.

“It’s something I’ve always thought about and looked at in education for myself — my own educational journey,” said Kelly. “How could [education] have been more relevant going through high school, going through undergraduate courses, sitting through lectures. How could it be more meaningful?”

Kelly said that currently, a large portion of education is memorizing information rather than understanding it and bringing forward new perspectives and insights.

“People have learned how to consume really well, how to consume fact and restate it. What’s the sense of learning all that stuff if you don’t give students the disposition on how to apply it innovatively or creatively? This book is about the how,” said Kelly.

Kelly said that learning needs to be more experiential so students can create new ideas.

“Creating original work and failing by a design that doesn’t work as opposed to an F on an exam is far more meaningful. Then how does one respond to redesigning until you get it right?” said Kelly. “That’s experiential learning, first-hand learning.”

He said there needs to be a shift in the way people look at education.

“Environmentally, socially and economically, on a variety of fronts, you can’t consume your ways into those solutions. You create, you innovate and you research your way into those solutions,” said Kelly.

Faculties at the U of C are making an effort to incorporate creativity into their curriculums. One way is through the new Institute for Teaching and Learning, a centre that will be built on campus to focus on innovative areas of learning, which Kelly is excited about.

“The [Institute for Teaching and Learning] will be a college of discovery, creativity and innovation. I think it will be a catalyst for creative practice and innovation among teaching,” said Kelly.

Kelly said that a new, creativity-focused approach to education would benefit the university in a number of ways. 

“I would assume that innovative and creative practice . . . would lead to original and front- end research. They go hand in glove,” said Kelly.

Kelly added that demonstrating success and student engagement would be the best way to encourage further implementation of creative-learning techniques.

The book is Kelly’s second on the subject of creativity in the classroom with a third to be 
released in spring 2014.

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