“Open your textbooks to page nineteen,” Michael Frasier monotonously said to his class. “Read the text, then answer the questions at the end of the page on a separate sheet of paper.” His voice droned on and on, even he was getting tired of listening to it.
A sense of failure had settled in Michael’s chest as he realised that he was doing wrong by both himself and his students. He knew he had to make necessary and drastic changes to create a new teaching strategy in his classroom. But how?
Once he arrived home from a long day of work, he enlisted the help of his laptop and several search engines. Michael had spent most of the night researching ways that best benefit students in the long run and how he, as a teacher, could help them. It wouldn’t be an easy transition, but he wanted them to learn to think critically and creatively.
He found a new teaching strategy that was easy to follow and required some prep time for the next day. He spent the rest of the night configuring a fresh set-up for his classroom, drawing up plans for the following morning until he was satisfied with it.
Michael wanted to make sure that his students would be engaging with the material and each other. Once he was done prepping, he whispered to himself, “This is perfect.”
Just like Michael, every teacher wants to spend their time wisely in the classroom. From lesson plans to discussions and grading, teachers are always in pursuit of any new teaching strategy that will result in the most effective way to not only teach students, but to inspire them, captivate them, and educate them.
Today, more and more teachers find themselves overwhelmed, relying on old habits or ways of thinking to get through the required curriculum. Unfortunately, this lack of creativity in the classroom is having adverse effects on students. And, with nearly 25% of the world’s population in schools, the repercussions of this epidemic are felt by everyone.
According to Dr Pravin Bhatia, a best-selling author and the co-founder of Creative Education, a simple new teaching strategy can be taught in the classroom to teach and foster creativity in students of all ages.
The root of the word “education” means to “draw out”. This definition is the key to effective education, although most teachers and classrooms rarely think about it. Rather than “drawing out” ideas and information from students, teachers tend to design lessons that “pump in”.
One of the significant drawbacks of this strategy is that it leads to very little, if any, interaction with the students. When teachers try to “pump in” information, students are trapped, their brains either subdued to silence or so bored that they begin to cause chaos in the classroom.
Remember, the brain is a muscle, and, like any muscle, it needs to exercise regularly. When classes and teachers only focus on “pumping in” information, the brain becomes mechanical, no longer needing to think creatively or “flex” their muscles.
Dr Bhatia recommends this simple strategy to help education fulfil its real purpose of changing the world: Don’t lecture. Instead, divide students into groups of 4 to 8. (Not above or below; 6 is ideal).
Divide subject matter between groups. Allow each group to take on a specific part of the learning, giving them time to read it for themselves, rather than just hearing you speak it. (For most students, reading is much more useful than hearing.)
Allow groups to discuss. This active discussion among groups engages everyone. Peer learning, or peer tutoring as it’s sometimes called, gives students creative ownership of the subject and requires them to think. During these discussions, your job as a teacher is to clarify questions the groups can’t solve on their own.
Have groups present to the class. Since students are responsible for their presentation, they are much more engaged when listening to other groups, which means the information they are receiving will be more thoroughly absorbed.
This type of creative learning strategy uses the main ideas of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, like Socrates, Aristotle, Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell. By employing this new teaching strategy, you are encouraging discussion while teaching your students how to pursue knowledge freely.
Creative learning is not just art or music or drama or some arty ‘creative’ thing. Sir Ken Robinson states that “creativity draws from many powers that we all have by being human.
Creativity is possible in all areas of life, And like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined” Robinson, 2015, in ‘Creative Schools’. At its core is the creative re-rethinking of the curriculum and how to meet the students’ needs, trying to make the activities as varied as possible in location, and resource-rich to gain 100% student involvement.
Creative thinking enables students to generate and apply new ideas. They can identify alternative explanations and make new links that facilitate the production of complex creative ideas and unique products.
Creative thinking gives students the ability to step outside the box. Take a risk and put imagination to work. Think about how you might do things differently to get the results you desire. Problem-based learning is one effective way to allow students to think outside the box.
Watch Sir Ken Robinson’s (2010) TED Talk video below, in which he states “I contend that creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status”.
It doesn’t matter what subject you teach; it’s more the way you do it. Also, there’s no, ‘one’ unique or ‘right’ way, and it can be different for different kinds of teachers – it can work for any teaching style.
Another core element is to be authentic. Students know when you are real; they know without thinking when you’re genuinely making teaching and learning into a fun experience.
Education should create intelligence, but the information we as teachers give students is not intelligence in and of itself. Information is not intelligence; intelligence knows how to choose what information you need and how to apply it.
Critical thinking is the core of intellectual activity. Students need to learn to use any information to problem solve and develop an argument or use evidence to support their case. Empowering students to produce well thought out conclusions.
As teachers, this is what we are responsible for teaching in the classroom. To learn more about Dr Bhatia’s strategy for Creative Teaching, watch his TED Talk.
The following morning, he posted a list on his Promethean board – on that list, were four groups of six students. As his students filed into class, he said, “Good morning!”
“Good morning Mr. Frasier,” they all chimed, almost robotically.
“Find your name on the board and find your group, seat yourselves accordingly,” he said as he clapped his hands together.
Their usual tired faces shifted from bored to surprised; they all stared at him inquisitively, curiosity filled their eyes. As they finished setting themselves up, he handed each group of a piece of that day’s material; each group held a different part of, what would have been, that day’s lecture. They all looked up at him, waiting for his instructions. He could see that they were all confused about this sudden change of pace; they weren’t expecting it.
“Within your groups, I want you to read and discuss the material I have given to you. Once you’re done, I want you to teach each other what you’ve learned to the rest of the class,” Michael said as he passed his eyes over each face in his class.
At first, things were quiet. It was so silent that Michael could hear a pin drop; he was afraid that his new teaching strategy would fail horribly. Until a roaring chatter filled the air as the students dove deep into their assignment.
Michael was able to see that they were engaged with the material and asking thoughtful questions to each other. They were thinking, spitballing ideas, and problem-solving with one another. Every so often, they’d ask him a question for clarification or help, but that was no problem for him. He saw what he wanted to see – his students learning.
Their presentations were organic and thought invoking, forcing each other to think critically and creatively. Their peers would debate with one another, developing their arguments with evidence to support their claims.
The shame that once filled him was now replaced with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Once that class was done, he overheard some students whispering to each other about how “today had been fun” and how they “liked” it.
Michael smiled to himself as he heard their comments. That went perfectly, he thought.