A Creativity Discussion: Sometimes it's hard...

Purposes: What will I learn about students' thinking from this? How will students benefit from the activity?

This activity has two purposes. One is to help you gather information about students' ideas about creativity. The second is to set the stage for introducing new ideas by helping student become explicitly aware of the ideas about creativity they already have. Because this activity takes the form of a discussion rather than a written task, it's a good activity for younger students, though it works well with older students too. However, even though it's not a written task for students, you will want to create a visible record of the conversation to refer back to later in the module. It will serve as a touchstone to help you and students gauge changes in your ideas about creativity and reflect on new ideas.

Launch: How do I begin the activity?

Here is a sample structure for the conversation.

  • I want to have a discussion with you about creativity. I'm going to ask you four questions about creativity, but before I do, I want you to take some time to think about two things. First, think of a time when you did something creative. Then, think of something you think shows creativity -- maybe an object, an idea, or a design for something.

Give students a few minutes to think silently. Then ask the first question.

  • Tell me about times you think you were creative. What did you do in order to be creative? What was your thinking like that made it creative? What strategies did you use to be creative?

Give students time to think and then begin to collect responses. In particular, draw out students' ideas about strategies for creativity—ways of thinking that help them be creative. You can chart students' ideas down chart paper or make notes to share back with the class later. Now ask the second question.

  • Now give me some examples of things or ideas that you think are creative. What makes things creative? How can you tell? 

Again, give students time to think and then begin to collect responses. Then ask the third question.

  • When is it important to be creative? Why?

Again, give students time to think and then begin to collect responses. Finally, ask the fourth question.

  • Now for my last question: What questions do you have about creativity? What puzzles you about it?

Timing: How much time should I allow?

This discussion can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes depending on how much you probe students thinking and how much you invite students to elaborate on their ideas. 

Assessment: What should I look for in students' responses?

  • Notice the language students use to talk about creativity. Does it seem rich and varied? Somewhat limited?
  • Review students' responses to see what kinds of strategies they associate with being creative. Do they have lots of ideas? Do they mainly associate creativity with artistic design? Do they see creativity as something you can work to achieve? As something you either have or you don't? 
  • What questions and puzzles do students have about creativity? Do their questions reflect an awareness of the distinction between the processes of creativity (strategies, etc.,) and the products of creativity? What do their questions indicate about their ideas about who has creativity and how you get it?