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How can we improve education in such a way that it promotes, supports, nurture and facilitates creativity?

We all know that our education systems, worldwide, are killing creativity. This is the cause of all the problems on earth because education is the supplier of human capital to all the industries. So, how can we solve this problem in such a way that maximum results are obtained?

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  • Oct 26 2013: Sorry, disagree that education systems are killing creativity in general and that anything related to education is the source of all problems on earth.

    Teaching someone how to solve a problem does not preclude them from thinking of other ways to solve a problem. It is the responsibility of the adult community to promote, support, nurture and facilitate learning in the next generation. The lessons that need to be passed along are he lessons needed for survival. We hope also to pass along lessons that enable an increased quality of life. This includes expansion of the arts, generation of new ideas, and finding new and better solutions to problems, both the old problems and the new problems.

    Teaching what has been done in the past as a solution, idea, or art form does not kill creativity, it exposes students to different ideas, concepts and thoughts. Explaining why they are different and relevant gives the material relevance and enables students to put it in context.

    Throwing away the school system and waiting for the next Leonardo Davinci to come along is foolish and cruel. Any student that doesn't think that they have creativity, talent and intelligence inside them, or are made to believe they are either incapable of achieving it, or do not have the potential to achieve it, will be harmed by the experience.

    The school systems are what adults have found to be the right balance of educating all children with the academic tools they need to survive as adults with available resources.

    How about we collectively ask all parents what THEY are doing to make sure that their children have the work ethic, citizenship skills,healthy behaviors, the respect for themselves and other people, and the feeling of worth that is imparted to children by a good family experience?

    Creativity will come when children apply a natural curiosity to what they have seen and learned to solve a problem, make something new or apply their talents to an art form.

    Fix the real problems first.
    • Oct 26 2013: Robert,

      I agree in general but a bad teacher can do wonders to destroy creativity. Let me give you an example: AP chemistry class, midterm test, student gets the right answer but is docked 10 points for using the wrong technique. The technique was correct and is taught in college but it is not the technique the teacher taught.
      The student developed the technique following his own logic.

      Unfortunately, there are teachers like this.
      • Oct 26 2013: Wayne,

        Absolutely agree. Teaching, like most other professions,has good and bad practitioners. Sadly, like parenting, these incidents of alleged or actual unfairness, alleged or actual favoritism, and actual or alleged lack of professionalism occur at a time when we are vulnerable as children. Well meaning parents want to be pro-active and look out for their child's interests (and should!), but rarely get an undistorted perspective about events, they hear it from a child. Usually in the end, one side is arguing from a child's viewpoint, the other from an adult or administrative viewpoint, and the decision usually goes with the latter.

        The point I was trying to make is that teachers and school systems are not there to teach creativity. They are there to teach the knowledge and skill needed to survive as an adult. Promoting creativity is something good teachers will do to get the most out of their students and help the child grow into a creative adult. The best ones somehow do this such that all the kids have fun and WANT to learn and create, all the kids feel like the environment is fair and safe, and that one group of kids learns the material and at a rate that is in general comparable to other groups of kids. It is quite an emotional balancing act, particularly when you throw in the group of emotionally charged, high functioning adults that tend to act on a child's perspective known as parents.

        I think I would make it as a teacher until the first parent/teacher conference, then I would probably get fired, maybe arrested.
    • Oct 26 2013: I agree that creativity can not be taught but I think the school systems needs to make sure they do not crush it. I also feel teachers need the support of the administration against over zealous parents.
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    Oct 25 2013: This subject is discussed continuously in TED Conversations. If you are looking for ideas people have offered in the past, in addition to direct replies you may get here from people who are not already "talked out" on this so popular topic, look to the left at the SEARCH CONVERSATIONS area. If you search for "improve education" or any combination of "schools" and "creativity," you will get certainly thousands of replies to your question. You may get tens of thousands.

    Happy reading!
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    Oct 26 2013: One approach schools can and do use is to discourage "we all know that" thinking and language for situations more complex than that, to encourage students to grapple with complexity and to think about different points of view, angles, and solutions.

    In the language of education, one component of creativity is divergent thinking and another convergent thinking. Divergent thinking means considering other ways of looking at, of explaining, or of doing the same thing.

    As an example, what is a pencil for? You may say "we all know" it is for writing, but, in fact, by its shape it could be used for a variety of other purposes. How many ways can you use a brick? Think of as many as you can and then implement for yourself the most unusual on your list.

    Such practice is useful in schools but also at home and right on through adulthood.

    Another useful disposition to cultivate at school, at home, and on through adulthood is not simply believing everything you are told, regardless of how charismatic the person telling you may be.
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    Oct 29 2013: nearly all of the problems in education lie in the archaic assessment systems in use.

    the rest stem from lack of money and over-crowded classrooms.

    reduce the adherence to standardised testing and creativity will be more easily catered for.
  • Oct 27 2013: I like to think that we live in a time when many of us are looking for new ways of doing what we do, if only to find a suitable application for our education. The future that we are preparing for might seem like a long way off but even now we are starting to feel the change in how things are done. Creativity-based learning might be the next logical step for education.

    When we apply creativity to education, we remove boundaries. We no longer just have to cure people or build structures, we become motivated to study specific things based on a vision of where and how we will be applying them in the future. Some of us will want to learn how to design for outer space, some will want to establish medicine for zero gravity, and some will think of how the earth will provide for our survival in the next hundred years – it is no longer useful to just dream of skyscrapers and crisp white uniforms. Humanity has to start becoming creative. Otherwise, we might end up with the right skills for the wrong time.

    In order to achieve this, I imagine that there might be a need to change the very structure of education itself. Education has to be more interactive than instructional, teachers will have to learn how to identify individual interests and skills and be able to direct it with the right discussions. There has to be more conversations in the classroom, students have to be taught on the basis that they are meant to discover, explore, and create rather than sit at a table waiting for an assignment. This is not meant to lead to a collapse of the traditional way of doing things. In fact, if done the right way, having creative people working together could be a more efficient way of achieving things. There are many reasons how this cannot possibly work and our twentieth-century minds will always be afraid of things that cannot be immediately measured, but we live in a different time, and those who can imagine where we are headed will be the ones who lead the way
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      Oct 27 2013: Why would you think this cannot work? This is a very common way of teaching in this century. You could look up Constructivism and inquiry-based learning, as examples. Teaching through discourse is entirely common now in k12!
      • Oct 27 2013: Hello Fritzie, thank you for your reply. I actually meant it to be ironic when I said that such a thing would be impossible to implement, I was actually referring to the amount of doubt and criticism that would surface in the face of its introduction. Not least of the criticism would be the cost. As you probably know, schools cannot just change their methods overnight, and not without expense. Teachers themselves will have an opinion about it and the reasons can go on and on, but I am not saying that it cannot be done.

        In spite of what we think, schools continue to produce millions of students who are educated using the same method that was applied to produce armies of assembly-line thinkers. The way it works is that students eventually believe that there are only certain things that they have to learn in order to fit into a very particular role at work, and that represents the entire goal and purpose of education. Students who want to get ahead would naturally aim to acquire letters that go after their names. What they were never told to prepare for, however, are the creatively gifted individuals who can snatch away opportunities without the need for the usual academic requirements.

        We've seen this happen many times, they are the code writers, the entrepreneurs, the artists, inventors, and the many other kinds of creative thinkers who seem to be a step ahead no matter how many degrees and doctorates we acquire – some of them haven’t even attended university. And yet, they succeed while the rest of us labor; and the very simple reason for their success is that their natural creativity is better adapted to the times that we live in. People like them used to be a novelty, but in a world based on constant innovation they are the norm. This is the model for the kind of education that I imagine, dynamic creative thinking leading the way for traditional knowledge.
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          Oct 27 2013: I think new teachers, at least in the US, are typically taught to teach this way, through discussion and inquiry, and the big districts I know encourage it and provide professional development in such teaching methods.. It sometimes takes parents a bit longer to come around, as they were typically taught in a more traditional lecture format when young.

          As I wrote, this sort of open, interactive pedagogy is pretty common now. It has not been novel for a very long time.
      • Oct 27 2013: Hello again Fritizie, I will have to agree with you that it must be common in the States. I was actually describing the situation here in the Philippines, where I live. The school system here is still in the process of evolving into the K12 system and it's not very clear yet how well it can be implemented.

        My hope is that the Philippines and other countries will take the requirements of the 21st century as their cue to look into the possibilities of innovative teaching methods. It's not that hard actually, it's just that old habits die hard sometimes and change is often slow to take root. It is a necessity though, as I mentioned in my last post. Otherwise, we run the risk of having opportunities snatched away by those who've already realized the importance of creative thinking.
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          Oct 27 2013: I have read that some countries in Asia still think of lower ed as a time to convey a large body of facts. Constructivist and inquiry-based methods are not at their strength in conveying bodies of fact. They are suited to objectives related to reasoning, understanding, and application of tools and ideas.

          This is my observation from many years of teaching this way.

          I cannot tell if you are a teacher. In any case, a book I recommend that lays out the rationale and strategies for implementing a pedagogy of this kind is Bransford's How Children Learn. This work is strictly research-based.
      • Oct 28 2013: Hi Fritzie, I’m so sorry for the late reply, I couldn’t keep up with the time difference. You are absolutely right about Lower-Ed being a time when students here encounter a very large volume of facts and figures that they end up just memorizing, the bad thing is that not many students (in the public school system of the Philippines) develop a real appreciation for the subjects they are taught - they just memorize and then fill in the right answer for a quiz or a test to get a good grade and move along to the next hurdle. I think there is a time for memorizing things but it’s also good to have a session where students can then process what they've learned and develop a narrative for why they study it - as it must be in your experience.

        I taught in a gifted school for some time but it was my parents who were professional teachers, they were involved in an effort in the 1990s to develop a proposal (for the Philippines) for creativity-based professional teaching. Their proposal didn't get very far because they weren't able to get government support for it. The gifted program I was involved in has since disappeared as well, due mainly to a lack of funding. I now work in the creative and design industry instead. Even in my present line of work, I still encounter the effects of “old” teaching practices on new graduates. Many of them, I could say, for lack of a better way to describe their situation, have turned out to be “very well-educated non-creatives” – and not for a lack of talent. A lot of them have just been conditioned to work in a particular way where it’s as though they’re afraid to think for themselves.

        Continued in the next post...
      • Oct 28 2013: Continued from the post above...

        Even after a period of time that new graduates have been on the job the effect is still there, you could see from the way they make presentations or manage meetings that they are just trying to fulfil the job description –to make the grade. They make perfect office workers, but for a creative-based job, it’s frustrating for the people who have to work with them. Basically, the new graduates I’ve worked with have never left school. They’re still sitting quietly in class and are just waiting to be given the facts of an assignment. Except now, they expect their client or their boss to act the part of the teacher. This kind of mind-set is good for turn-over but bad for business development efforts later on. The lack of innovative thinking prevents some people from being agile enough to adapt to ever-shifting creative and technological requirements of their work. I think a shift to the method of teaching that you described will improve many of these things.
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          Oct 28 2013: Yes, the style of teaching and of parenting, the focus of evaluation both at home and in school, the person's inclination to take risks, and a person's intrinsic motivation to push the boundaries in the area in which he works all come in to play.
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    Oct 25 2013: the answer is simple and impossible - reduce class sizes to a one-to-one ratio.

    creativity cannot be taught. it can only be fostered with support and time - both of these are logistically difficult in current schools systems.

    also, the focus needs to come off assessment systems and onto individual students..many people balk at this idea and cannot fathom education without traditional, standardised testing..
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      Oct 26 2013: Teaching children how to be creative is very important. We teach people carpentry. Maybe you were referring to mental processes? Teaching children how to think is very important as well. We do that all the time as well when we teach math and logic and philosophy. There are plenty of ways to teach people how to use their thought process to be more creative. Why would you say that creativity can't be taught? I am not getting something here.
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        Oct 29 2013: I would love to see the text book on how to be creative.

        It cannot be taught because it is not like teaching a set of skills as you would with carpentry, even though creativity has obviously been involved in the development of carpentry techniques over the years.

        It cannot be taught because it is extremely subjective - it would be the antithesis of creativity itself to assess the level of someone's creativity and make no mistake, in education, this must happen. Not because it is the only (or even a good) way to operate education systems but because of the financial and political elements involved.

        What can be done is discussing the value of coming up with new ideas but how would you teach someone to have a new idea other than encourage one?

        Allowing time and opportunities to be creative is vital and this should be catered for in schools.

        Also, valuing the efforts made by students is important as well as teaching them how to self-evaluate and articulate the process they went through (which would maybe give other students ideas about how to do something similar).

        There is also the danger of confusing the process of being creative and the outcome. Striving to create is laudable but the end result often is not (other than it's value as being part of developing the creative process itself).
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          Oct 29 2013: The only prerequisite is curiosity. Given that, yes I can teach people to be more creative, everyone is inherently creative; it comes with the brain architecture. People could not survive in our society without being creative. Maybe we are using the word differently? This statement would not even be controversial in the neurological or psychiatric field, I am pretty sure.

          Yes, I do in fact have techniques that I use to teach people to increase their creative abilities. This is not theory I am discussing. I already do this. Thank you for the book idea. I will get started on it right away. Actually I will incorporate it into the one I am working on now. I feel a little silly for not having thought of it before.

          Yes, I am talking about the creative process which is directly linked to the 'product' as you say. The better the process, the better the product. Just remember, the fact that you cannot conceive of how to teach creativity or that your reality model does not permit it does NOT mean that it cannot be done. It just means that you don't know how. Other people with a different way of looking at things may have solved the problem, such as in this case. Thanks for the reply.
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        Oct 30 2013: my thought is that this is merely one of the current trends in education. Obi Wan Ken Robinson does a nice talk but offers very little in the way of practical application to improve 'the system'.

        i agree with you that the potential for creativity is innate in all of us and yet it is an ephemeral concept rather than a set of skills. by setting parameters to be taught or adhered to, you would be restricting the very thing that, at it's heart, requires no restrictions.

        that's the main reason i said that it cannot be taught, only catered for.

        i cannot agree that the creative process automatically leads to quality content. in fact, it rarely does, so banging on about creativity sounds great and, like so many things in this modern information/propaganda age, looks good on paper but that's about it.

        the problems within most educational institutes will not be solved by any current models. the time, money and expertise restrictions prohibit any robust improvements in fostering creativity.

        better to encourage a change in attitude in all those people that prefer to see black and white test scores over subjective or individual success criteria because current assessment practices are the greatest limiting factor in education systems and are holding back all kinds of progress.

        a student-centered curriculum is far more important than teaching creativity - it puts the reins in the student's hands and this, more than anything else, encourages students to take control of their learning which in turn leads to confidence in their ideas and approach to education.
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          Oct 30 2013: OK. One of the first things is to recognize that just because we don't understand something does not mean it is not correct. It is important to question the person that says something that we find implausible. That is the only way to expand horizons. Of course if one believes that the already understand the universe under discussion, well then not only can I not teach them how to be creative but no one can teach them anything. You may fit into that category, I don't know but you certainly did not pose any questions. So, maybe you are correct with respect to yourself. I did not mean to say that everyone can be taught, some do not want to learn. That is why I mentioned the prerequiste of curiosity in my first sentence. At any rate, many creative people have discussed the topic. If you were interested it is not difficult to find. I was willing to discuss it but you don't seem interested. Good luck. There is plenty on the internet.
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        Oct 30 2013: You are correct, of course, Michael, that teaching creativity, or fostering creativity, or removing obstacles to creativity has over the last several decades become quite an industry! There are thousand if not hundreds of thousands of systems in circulation, hundreds of thousands of blogs, books, consultants, training programs...

        I think you and Scott may, indeed, have different ideas in mind. I think you may be talking about strategies for encouraging divergent thinking or familiarizing students with an array of design tools, while Scott may be thinking you are saying you have a system for making every child a Leonardo, a Picasso, or a Shakespeare.

        I think he is thinking about what some people in the discipline call Big C Creativity and you are talking about something much more universally accessible.
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          Oct 31 2013: I have misunderstood the point of the thread, my apologies for the 'interference'. I had no idea that serious people thought that they could 'create' another Newton or Russell or VanGogh. I personally see value in asking other creative people what it is that they do and comparing notes about how creativity works within our own (us) minds and perhaps discuss how to apply our own personal techniques or at least explain our techniques so that they might be useful to others. That was my interest at any rate; This is TED after all. Sorry for the intrusion.
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        Oct 31 2013: I think the question in the thread is wide open! If you look back at what Oduetse asks, the inquiry is about supporting and facilitating creativity. I hear you and Scott both saying that that is both possible and desirable.

        In this, as you write, there is and has long been much sharing of ideas.

        I think Oduetse and others would be very interested in your specific ideas or approach, as in anyone else's who chooses to respond in the thread..

        I believe Scott is a professional musician and brings that perspective to TED.