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Academic Views

May 2009

Creativity: essential to our education, essential for our future

Dr Ali Black, senior lecturer in education at Central Queensland University's Gladstone campus, discusses the importance of valuing children's creativity and imaginative thinking.

It is increasingly recognised that education must value children's creativity and multiple intelligences. Young people need to be equipped to manage the challenges of globalisation and of powerful and continuously developing communication technologies. They need to be able to respond to the world's many problems such as global warming, ecological disasters, hostility between nations and religions, disease, poverty, consumerism and global economic crises.

Dr Ali Black, senior lecturer in education at Central Queensland University's Gladstone campus.

Dr Ali Black, senior lecturer in education at Central Queensland University's Gladstone campus.

Because of these realisations "creativity" has become a focus for education.

Educational experts from around the globe are discussing the importance of creativity in education for the future. Sir Ken Robinson who is renowned for his youtube TEDtalk believes we need to rethink schooling so that education cultivates creativity and values the power of imagination and diverse and multiple intelligences.

Here in Queensland, the State Government has called 2009 the Year of Creativity and the Department of Education and Training is celebrating and developing creativity in our schools.

At the department's recent Ideas Festival in Brisbane, Anna Craft, a leading UK academic in education and creativity, identified that for children and educators creativity would be vital to survive and thrive in our uncertain world.

She believes it is essential that education encourages our young people to believe in their creative potential, engages their sense of possibility and gives them the confidence to take risks in their learning.

Ms Craft regards "possibility thinking" which involves both problem-finding and problem-solving as being at the core of creative learning. Possibility thinking is about posing and responding to "what if?" questions and involves a shift from "what is this and what does it do?" to "what can I do with this?".

For parents and educators fostering possibility thinking involves valuing children's ideas and imagination and encouraging them to have a go. It means asking children and young people to share their ideas, theories and imaginings. It enables them to explore ideas and issues, to pose their own questions, and to identify and solve their own problems.

It also means prioritising the arts which includes dance, music, media, drama and the visual arts in the school curriculum. The arts are significant as modes for knowing, imagining, understanding, constructing, representing and communicating ideas.

It is essential we recognise the importance of an education which encourages meaning making, risk taking, independent judgement, resilience, intrinsic motivation and curiosity. Education has to become a shared process between parents, teachers and children around explorations and around together posing questions, identifying problems and issues.

Young children are bursting with imagination. It is vital our education system builds on this to offer a rich range of expressive and communicative avenues for our young people to ponder possibilities and share their ideas, imaginings and questions. Our future depends on it.

Possibility thinking is about exploring "what if?"

and "what can I do with this?" questions.

You can support creativity and possibility thinking by:

  • asking open questions
  • posing questions and problems and exploring options
  • asking children for their opinions and theories (and valuing imaginative answers)
  • allowing children enough time for play
  • providing uninterrupted time for children to become immersed in activities, projects and explorations and to make connections
  • giving children many chances to communicate, express and represent ideas (e.g. using the arts)
  • encouraging children's imagination, originality, risk taking and self determination
  • encouraging openness to ideas and critical reflection