6f. Creativity

Enhancing Creativity in the Classroom

Vernice James, Reena Lederman Gerard, Beate Vagt-Traore
Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia

Review of Creativity


Creativity – a magical talent, a sign of intelligence, or a skill to learn? The difficulty in approaching this field is that the topic is still relatively new but already rich with many theories, as well as a certain mystique (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996). The purpose of this chapter is to shed light on the concept of creativity and its implications for teaching and learning. Within the concept of creativity, we provide a portrait of what creativity may look like, a definition of creativity, an overview on some creative-thought models, and discussion of how the models and definition fit the introductory example of creativity. In addressing the implications for teaching and learning, we offer an example of creativity in the classroom followed by a discussion of targeted strategies for teaching towards creativity in the classroom.

Click Here to Play the Presentation Caption: This is a narrated PowerPoint summary of this “Enhancing Creativity in the Classroom” chapter. This PowerPoint presentation was done by Kacy Allen, Tracey Kell, Erica Wagoner, and Amanda Wiley (2005)

The Concept of Creativity

“The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it.” – Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person.

Portrait of Creativity: Meet Mr. Dabo

Consider the following scenario: Imagine a small country in West Africa just south of the Sahara. Most of the rural population is engaged in subsistence agriculture or stock raising. General cash flow is low.

Now follow us to a small village with a local elementary school. The school is relatively new, and has about 100 desks and even a small library has been built. However, the teacher, Mr. Dabo, is not happy. Although the village has many school aged children, only about 15 to 20 percent of these have been enrolled by their parents. National campaigns from the Ministry of education as well as local campaigns from non-governmental organizations could not change this attitude. Of course, there are always explanations as to why these villagers just do not want to enroll their children: traditional values, rejection of the foreign based education, plain ignorance, or simple stubbornness. And often it is overlooked that these people do not have the financial means to pay for the materials and supplies needed by their children.

After being a teacher in that small rural community for more than four years, Mr. Dabo proposed an idea to solve the low enrollment rates. He suggested the establishment of a special exchange, where villagers could trade their agricultural products against school supplies. Mr. Dabo presented his idea to a local non-governmental organization which then helped in organizing the financial means, so that the project could be realized. Today the enrollment rates are rising from year to year, and the concept is spreading further in the country.

How did Mr. Dabo come up with this solution? After being in his community for several years, he observed that each year the local market price for grain was at the lowest level around the time when a new school year was about to start. Farmers needed to sell huge amounts of their agricultural products in order to buy the necessary school materials for their children. Consequently, farmers themselves did not have enough grain left to serve their own needs before the next harvest. This in turn hampered the school enrollment of children. Today the agricultural products that are exchanged for school materials are stored until the market price reaches the highest level and then the products are sold. It turns out to be a win-win situation for all parties involved. Can Mr. Dabo’s actions be seen as creativity in action?

Click here to download the PowerPoint Slide Show. The slide show was created to illustrate the story of Mr. Dabo’s creativity. The slides indicate that the story took place in a rural school district of Africa, just south of the Sahara. The enrollment at the school was low because the villagers did not have enough money to pay for the materials and supplies their children needed for school. Mr.Dabo, a teacher at the school, created a solution to help the villagers: an exchange of their agricultural products for school supplies. The villagers and suppliers agreed to the trade, and enrollment rates at the school rose. Submitted by the Shorttimers, Jennifer Duncan, Cheryl Johnson, and Deborah Mosley (2005).

What is Creativity?

There is consensus among researchers that creativity should be defined as the production of both novel and appropriate work (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996; Lubart, 2000). Novel refers to original work, work that could not be predicted. Appropriate simply concerns the usefulness of the product towards a certain need. Lubart (1999) points out that this is a product-oriented, “western” definition of creativity. Furthermore, the assessment of creative work can only be done in the social and historical context of its making (Lubart, 1999; Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995 in Sternberg, 2001, p.361).

Novel and appropriate products do not arise in a vacuum. Finding the factors that influence creativity thus drives most of current research efforts. In recent years, two approaches predominate the research literature (Lubart, 2000): process-oriented models of creativity (e.g. Finke, Ward, Smith, 1992; Mumford, Mobley, Reiter-Palmon, Uhlman, Doares, 1991); and systems-oriented models (Amabile, 1983; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). The two approaches focus on different facets of creativity. Yet, they can be seen as complementing each other (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995; Finke, Ward & Smith, 1992).

Process-oriented models concentrate on cognition aspects of creativity. What and how do creative people think? What are the thought structures during the creative process? Lubart (2000) summarizes the research efforts on cognitive sub-processes that are seen as crucial to creativity potential:

  • Problem finding, formulation and redefinition
  • Divergent thinking
  • Synthesis and combination of information (bisociation, Janusian thinking, homospatial thinking, articulation, analogy and metaphor, remote association, emotional resonance, and feature mapping)
  • Idea combinations through random or chance-based processes

A more recent approach to identify the cognitive processes and structures involved in creative thinking is the Geneplore model (Finke, Ward & Smith, 1992). It distinguishes between generative processes and explorative processes during creative cognition. Generative processes consist of retrieval, association, synthesis, transformation, analogical transfer and categorical reduction. These processes result in mental representations called “preinventive” structures of a potential final product. In the explorative phase, these initial representations are interpreted through attribute finding, conceptual interpretation, functional inference, contextual shifting, hypothesis testing, and searching for limitations. Finke, Ward & Smith (1992) do not insist that all of these processes and “preinventive” structures are necessary during creative cognition. However, the likelihood of a creative product is interdependent to the extent to which these processes and structures occur. The difference between creative cognition and problem-solving is thus gradual.

Systems-oriented models take a broader approach to creativity that involves non-cognitive factors as well. Systems-oriented approaches range from more social oriented views (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, 1999) to more individual oriented views (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996; Amabile, 1983).

Csikszentmihalyi essentially sees creativity as a social construct that is the result of an “interaction between the producer and the audience” (1999, p. 314). Important aspects in his model are the individual (personal background), the field (society), and the domain (culture). Interaction between domain and individual transmits information; interaction between field and domain selects novelty; and interaction between the individual and the field stimulates novelty.

Although Amabile recognizes that creativity is “culturally and historically bound” (1983, p. 34), it is not explicitly mentioned in her three componential model. The relevant factors working together are domain-relevant skills (or expertise), creative-thinking skills, and motivation. Creative potential relies on expertise because new insights in a domain can only be gained through prior knowledge of the domain. The importance of expertise is accepted by most researchers (Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Sternberg & Lubart, 1996). Creative-thinking skills relate to cognition as well as personality characteristics. Motivation looks at the reasons why a person engages in a task and the attitudes one might have toward the task. Amabile has identified intrinsic motivation as more likely to produce creative results than extrinsic motivation (see also motivation chapter).

Sternberg & Lubart (1995, 1996) undertake a type of goal setting approach. They compare creativity to a thriving investment process of buying low and selling high. Creative people purposefully engage in foremost unknown or unpopular ideas (buying low) in order to successfully disseminate them later (selling high). Sternberg & Lubart (1995, 1996) identify six resources that contribute to creativity: intellectual processes, knowledge, intellectual styles, personality, motivation, and environmental context. Of note is the differentiation between intellectual processes and styles. Processes refer to problem definitions, use of analogies and metaphors, synthesis etc; things that are commonly recognized within cognition approaches. Intellectual styles relate to the preference for how thought processes are applied. Sternberg & Lubart (1995, 1996) identify three main dichotomies in thinking styles with the assumption that some styles are more conducive to creativity than others are: legislative (invent rules) vs. executive (follow rules), conservative (old approaches) vs. liberal (new approaches), global (general aspects) vs. local (detail-oriented). Furthermore, they identify a monarchic style which means the sequential completion of tasks.

Click Here to Play the Movie Caption:This video shows a child building a model roller coaster from a set of plans. While entertaining, the child is not demonstrating creativity. The roller coaster the child is building has been built before and is not original. A software program gives students the ability to construct easily many different roller coasters. The autonomy the program provides allows the student the freedom to make choices that are limitless, therefore providing an opportunity for creativity. By John Edgar, Kim Maugans, and Erin Adair (2005)

Shedding Light on Mr. Dabo’s Creativity: A Discussion

Mr. Dabo’s contribution matches the creativity criteria of novelty and appropriateness. The solution was new, and it was appropriate because it fit the needs of everybody involved. Although we do not know the exact thought processes involved it can be assumed that Mr. Dabo was equipped with perceptual and cognitive abilities (knowledge) and creative thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, etc.) in order to solve the low school enrollment problem in his community. Furthermore, as the teacher of the school Mr. Dabo was decidedly motivated to improve the school enrollment rate in his community. Amabile explains, “an inner passion to solve the problem at hand leads to solutions for more creativity than do external rewards, such as money” (1999, p. 78).

Of course, a problem’s solution will be constrained through the existential needs of the population, and the creator must consider this constraint. In Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) terms, this is seen as the interactivity of the individual with society and culture. Then again, it also leads us back to the cognitive processes that are involved. Product constraints have an important impact within the creative thinking processes as defined in the Geneplore model (Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992, p. 20). However, product constraints do not need to be present at the very beginning of idea generations; they might arise at any point during the generative or exploratory phases of “preinventive” structures (Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992, p. 26).

Coming back to Mr. Dabo, it cannot conclusively be determined at what point in his thinking processes this constraint took form. Apparently, at some point in his reasoning he concluded that the problem should not be seen from the low enrollment perspective but from the perspectives of the people who need to buy school supplies. Problem construction or redefinition of a problem is seen as a crucial factor towards creative thinking (Mumford et. al., 1991; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995, 1996).

Mr. Dabo’s four years of experience provided him with an invaluable understanding of the community and its needs. Amabile (1983) refers to this expertise as “domain relevant knowledge”, which is one of three components in her model of creativity as discussed above. Mr. Dabo’s domain-relevant knowledge helped him develop a creative solution. Finally, he came forward with his ideas and made them public. This points to his courage of his own conviction. According to Sternberg & Lubart (1996), this and other personality attributes are important aspects that contribute to the distinction of creative potential and creativity.

Implications for Teaching and Learning

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.” – John Updike.

The Cool Project

This project focused on an urban school’s home economics course. Responding to Glasgow’s very low health score, as researched and compared to the rest of Europe, The Cool Project’s objective was to “encourage pupils to think about healthy eating and discuss that healthy eating can also be fun” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2004, p.14, “The Cool Project”).

The project required eighth grade students to create an original ice cream that met specifications outlined in a design brief as well as the dietary requirements that originally stimulated the project. In planning this hands-on project, the teacher was taking a constructivist approach to what might otherwise have been an instructivist lesson in nutrition, which would be rather uninspiring. The teacher facilitated the students’ work by functioning as a subject matter expert, asking questions, providing encouragement, modeling creative and project management skills important to the students’ projects.

Student groups worked independently in pairs and groups, making decisions and taking risks. The teacher remained the “guide on the side”. They organized themselves and assigned responsibility within the group for various tasks. Students had the opportunity to speak with experts in business. They learned what types of health and safety problems could occur when developing a food product. Students also studied the constraints imposed upon businesses, from health regulations to financial requirements. Through contact with these subject matter experts, the students gained an appreciation of the business world. All the steps of working in a group — sharing, brainstorming, compromising, and deciding — helped them learn to work together. After developing some of their ideas further, the groups tested them in a systematic manner. This trial and error process guided the students in making choices about taste, color, texture, and aroma. In the end, each Cool Project team had an original, final product – ice cream!

Through competition to make the best ice cream and the most engaging packaging students used their mistakes to evaluate what worked and what did not. This critical analysis helped them make better choices and produce a better product. When something went wrong they were often disappointed; however, the teacher, as a facilitator, offered encouragement. Moreover, as more knowledgeable other (MKO), the teacher was able to guide students in more constructive directions. The little successes and difficulties students experienced while creating their new ice cream made the achievement that much more satisfying (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2004, pp.14-16, “The Cool Project”).

Enhancing Creativity

This chapter offers a multi-faceted view of creativity that can only begin to look at the concept. Within the field, there are some factors generally accepted as essential to the development of creativity; motivation is one of these factors. Because motivation is a strong driver of creativity (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996), and perhaps more easily influenced than other contributing factors (Amabile, 1983), we will focus on how creativity is developed through higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Six strategies may influence intrinsic motivation: challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encouragement, and organizational support (Amabile, 1999). Some of these strategies parallel those found in the Six C’s of Motivation and as such are perhaps the most important. While Amabile frames her terms with a business perspective, they are equally applicable to an educational setting, and align with Sternberg and Lubart’s (1995, 1996) work. For simplicity, we will use Amabile’s terms. The Cool Project by Notre Dame High School in Glasgow, Scotland offers a good example of teachers enhancing students’ creativity using those six strategies.


Challenge is the stretch between being able to do something with great ease and being unable to achieve an objective. Somewhere in the gap is an ideal learner state in which the student has just enough knowledge, ability, or skills to make considerable progress in pursuing the goal, and yet not feel overwhelmed by the task. This is known as the Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. Within that ZPD, a learner benefits from someone more knowledgeable and experienced who provides him or her with just the right amount of assistance at just the right time to facilitate the learner’s development and at the same time optimize challenge. Vygotsky identifies this person as a More Knowledgeable Other or MKO (Galloway, 2001). We can see that a challenge tests one’s abilities to resolve a problem, and in its very nature is motivating, interesting (Editors of The American Heritage Dictionaries, 2000), and hopefully fun.

Sternberg and Lubart (1996) believe there are five essential attributes within our personalities that enhance creativity: tolerance of ambiguity, perseverance, willingness to grow, openness to experience, and willingness to take risks. These attributes are useful in further understanding why challenge is a strategy for developing creativity. Sternberg’s and Lubart’s attributes are essential to approaching something difficult and staying the course.

The Cool Project is rich in challenges. “In designing an assignment that was achievable, the children had a sense of achievement and provided awareness that challenging tasks are worth undertaking, and bring their own rewards” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2004, p.15, “The Cool Project”). Because it is a hands-on task that requires integrating specific dietary guidelines, the students were faced with “real world” goals not usually found in classroom projects. Not only did the students need to do research on nutrition, but on packaging and marketing too. Simply inventing an ice cream was not enough. The groups had to develop appropriate packaging and marketing plans to become the ice cream of choice, or gain market share. Being 13 years-old hardly made the students savvy product managers. However, there can be no doubt that given the kind of exposure most kids have to advertising through various media, they had a visual literacy in product promotion.

Because of the constructivist grounded problem-based learning approach the students went through a trial and error process while developing their solutions. Within the Cool Project, students’ mistakes became challenges to overcome. When something failed to work as they had planned, the students discussed what happened, sought solutions, and received encouragement from their teacher.


In the Six C’s of Motivation this strategy corresponds to choice and control. When people have autonomy over how they reach their goal, they will be more creative. Conversely, control over the actual goal is not as critical to fostering creativity. In fact, providing clearly defined goals can boost creativity (Amabile, 1999). To support students’ autonomy during the learning process, research suggests that teachers may offer more choice in activities, minimize algorithmic solutions, and provide support and feedback (Driver, 2001). “Freedom about process also allows people to approach problems in ways that make the most of their expertise and creative-thinking skills” (Amabile, 1999, p.82). The Cool Project students worked in pairs or groups to develop their ice cream product, but the process of how they worked together was their own. Through teaming, sharing, compromising, and decision-making the students established their own process and reorganized their previous knowledge, new expertise, and new cognitive skills to solve the problem.

Another aspect of the creative process is the problem-finding or problem-selecting that occurs (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). There are many strategies to help with thinking and problem solving skills in general. These strategies can be used in problem solving in a general sense and are not specific to creativity. However, it may be argued that creativity is just another form of problem solving, so that applying those strategies would also help develop creativity. Once you consider creativity as problem-solving then “problem discovery is an important part of much creative activity” (e.g., Campbell, 1960; Getzels & Csikszentmihalyi, 1976; Souriav, 1881 in Amabile, 1983, p.33). Rather than a teacher presenting students with rigidly designed problems, the freedom to define their own problem to be solved is maybe the most creative phase in the work.

“Henle (1976) argued that “the perception of dynamic gaps’ incites the creative process”: And yet posing the right question may be the most creative part of the whole process’ “(Glover, et. al, 1989, p.23). The Cool Project’s general goal was predetermined and the project was organized so that students managed themselves as they researched, asked questions, and learned from their mistakes. This methodology required that students investigate and define the problem as they saw it. It would have also dictated how they went about their work. Students exercised autonomy as exhibited by their self-evaluation skills and self-management skills (Orey, 2001) necessary to manage performance through each product iteration. Each ice cream trial and error cycle resulted in the groups reconsidering how they had been working and whether they needed to make changes. They evaluated their strengths and weaknesses and made intelligent decisions based on the information. The freedom to guide their own work allowed students to make discoveries and learn directly from their experiences (Nickerson, 1999).


One of Sternberg & Lubart’s (1995, 1996) six resources that contribute to creativity is environmental context. Environment can include the political atmosphere, the interpersonal relationships, the physical space, or even the equipment and supplies available for a project. These are the resources, and they can be difficult to supply. However, students and teachers can short-circuit their resources too. When students are excited to jump right in and start producing their product, and the teachers begin to feel the pressures of “getting through the book” or rush through the year’s curriculum to meet external requirements, the simplest resource, time, can be overlooked. Teachers should allow time to explore ideas, but not so much that the project stagnates. They need to balance the need for this exploration with the costs of this time. Additionally, it is important to provide the physical space needed to work comfortably in groups (Amabile, 1999). An environment needs to be conducive to the students’ style of work, whether working individually or in collaboration. Interestingly, while both Sternberg & Lubart (1995, 1996) and Amabile (1999) discuss the importance of context for a student’s work, in terms of environment and resources respectively, The Project Cool case study does not mention much of the context. We know that the project took place in Glasgow, but we don’t know how much time they had to work, if supplies were sufficient, whether they worked in the classroom or a lab, or if the government initiative was actually funded.

Work-group Features

Diversity in the team makeup will foster creativity (Amabile, 1999; Simonton, 2000; De Souza & Fleith, 2000). When teams are comprised of like-minded students, they will reach their conclusions quickly and feel good about the process (Amabile, 1999), but will fail to explore and debate other ideas, because they did not bring them to the table. A diversity of people means a variety in expertise, creative-thinking styles, and cognitive abilities. This opens the group dynamics and discussions, and encourages sharing and exploring divergent ideas. Hearing an opinion from someone of a different economic background or a linear thinker rather than a global thinker might be just the “whack on the side of the head” (Von Oech, 1998, p.1) needed to produce innovative solutions.

Other work-group features that enhance creativity are excitement, a commitment to the project being a team effort, and mutual respect for the team members (Amabile, 1999). In The Cool Project, the diversity of work-groups may or may not have been realized. Achieving diversity in the classroom can be difficult depending on the community makeup. Glasgow, an urban setting, has Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, African, and Caribbean communities that contribute to the city’s diversity and, thus, may contribute positively to the formation of diverse teams in the classroom. Unlike the diversity feature, the work-group feature of excitement is easy in this instance. Ice cream! What a great project to raise everyone’s excitement level and thereby increase the intrinsic motivation that enhances creativity. Team members were quite excited to delve into this project as demonstrated by their high attendance rates and improved relations between each other and with their teacher. Mutual respect and commitment were evidenced as students worked together and practiced skills in “helping each other, learning from each other, listening to each other, and accepting group decisions” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2004, pp.14-16, “The Cool Project”).

Diverse Team Work

By by Nora Cloonan, David Newborne and Chris Nylund (2014)

Enhancing creativity usually begins with motivation. There are innumerable factors that inspire us to imagine or invent. Diversity and even conflict in teams are factors that contribute to dynamic and productive ideas. When several members with various backgrounds confront a problem, the generated outcome is more original than that of groups with identical perspectives (Paulus & Nijstad, 2003). Work units characterized by diversity have the capability to access broader networks of contacts. This enables them to acquire new information that informs decisions, increases commitments to choices and enhances responsiveness to environmental turbulence. The Project Management Institute claims that teams, which effectively master conflict, can expect to have more beneficial connections within the group and experience increased efficiency. Additionally, sustained innovation and better ability to come to consensus as the groups mature is a result (PMBOK Guide, 2008). Conflict, when it is effectively channeled, can lead to improved creative problem solving and decision making because the diversity of perspectives generates more alternatives and greater critical evaluation. Paulus and Nijstad (2003) state groups with “high levels of observable or readily apparent differences among their members” will experience “lower levels of group identification, psychological safety, and group satisfaction,” (p. 41-42), but these early obstacles can be changed and/or avoided with careful management of how the group interacts with each other. Achieving consensus and maintaining group harmony can overshadow the potential for sharing meaningful perspectives and discussing unique solutions to a problem. In most cases, the dynamics of a group hinge on how fearful members are of being perceived negatively. For example, in 1986, during the launch of the explorer, NASA engineers withheld their assessments that mechanical malfunctions may occur because of lowered temperatures during the launch. The most effective method for managing the engineers’ differences of opinion would have been to accept negative assessments of ideas but not negative assessments of the individuals with the idea (Troyer, 2009). When groups are involved in reaching a creative solution, discussions should carefully avoid any judgments whatsoever; at least for a period of time. This technique lowers group inhibitions and makes for a freer environment for creativity. In the case of the Explorer in 1986, dissenting contributions at that time would have been a picture of creative problem solving at its finest; and would have saved numerous lives as well. Unusual ideas are linked to innovation and alternative resolutions to a problem. These same ideas, however, among group members, may cause a loss in popularity (Troyer, 2009), as was the fear with the Explorer example above. In short, while diversified groups can experience more conflict, higher turnover, less social integration, and more problems with communications than their uniform counterparts early on, many of these issues can be avoided with proper management and monitoring, thus producing a much more robust and productive team with a more versatile skill-set than that of a homogeneous group. As Thomas Crum so eloquently described. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Ordinary + Conflict = Extraordinary. The graphic depicts a box that shows Ordinary People plus Ordinary Resources in another box with a third box saying Ordinary Circumstances all on the left hand side of an equals sign. Under the equal sign is a box that states Conflict. All of those combined yields the right hand side of the equal sign which has a box that says Extraordinary Results. Created by N. Cloonan (2014).

In the above figure, there are displayed five rectangles with text arranged like a mathematical equation. On the left side of the equation two elements within rectangles, labeled Ordinary People and Ordinary Resources are being added together. Below this sum is a very long rectangle, saying Ordinary Resources. It encompasses the length of this entire left side. There is an Equal Sign dividing the left from the right side of the equation. Below this equal sign is an arrow pointing up directly to it from a rectangle containing the word Conflict. Finally, on the right side of the equal sign in its own rectangle are the words Extraordinary Results. (Crum, 1987)


Troyer, L., & Youngreen, R. (2009). Conflict and creativity in groups. Journal of Social Issues, 65(2), 409-427.

Paulus, P. B., & Nijstad, B. A. (2003). Group creativity: Innovation through collaboration. Oxford University Press.

Crum, Thomas. (1987). The Magic of Conflict. Simon & Schuster. New York, NY.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). (2008). (4th ed): Project Management Institute, Inc.

Supervisory Encouragement

Supervisory encouragement can take many forms, such as offering feedback, boosting a student’s confidence, or providing structure to a student overwhelmed by the task. Teachers provide the encouragement or positive support that their learners need to move forward. Creativity develops when teachers encourage curiosity, exploration, confidence, risk-taking, and balance.

Curiosity and a desire to explore even things taken for granted seem to be some of the important factors that build towards creativity. For example, Einstein often took a childlike approach in questioning the world around him. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) also states that the first step towards more creativity is the cultivation of curiosity. Teachers can support and reward exploration to enhance creativity.

Having self-confidence helps learners persevere. It enables them to champion their point of view and work. While success builds confidence, failure can tear it down. Fearful people, lacking confidence in their abilities, will often fail to produce creative work. Therefore, encouragement for all work, not just successful efforts, is important. It engenders a sense of safety for risk taking without fear of repercussions for making mistakes (De Souza & Fleith, 2000).

Balance in the classroom structure can encourage creativity. Students can benefit from some external organization in their processes, and a teacher should not hesitate to intercede. This does not contradict earlier statements regarding autonomy over the process, but rather offers a realistic view that some students need assistance in how they attack their work. However, the amount of support provided should be moderated by students’ needs for spontaneity and imagination. “While creativity can be stifled by a repressive environment, it is not necessarily fostered by total lack of constraint (Marjoram, 1988); too little structure can be as inhibiting of creativity as too much (Runco & Okuda, 1993)” (Nickerson, 1999, p. 418).

Project Cool provided supervisory encouragement through its learner-centered approach. The teacher was the more knowledgeable other, MKO (Galloway, 2001), acting as a guide and sometimes subject matter expert. As a MKO, the teacher offered prompts to expand their ideas, information on technical and organizational skills, and encouragement to develop confidence, self-esteem, self-motivation, critical reflection and informed decision-making. Some strategies used by the teacher included brainstorming and questioning sessions and provided more structure to the students’ discussion which in turn encouraged some risk-taking in ideas. When faced with problems in their project, students were further encouraged to explore the issues through reflection and discussion, develop a new approach, and to learn from their experiences. Throughout Project Cool, the students made good decisions and readily assumed responsibilities, all of which confirmed their enthusiasm and happiness with the project (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2004, pp.14-16, “The Cool Project”).

Organizational Support

This strategy requires a school, district, city or state to support the educational efforts at a more global level. In the case of The Cool Project, it was supported at the national level through The Creativity in Education initiative under Learning Teaching Scotland, which oversees The National Grid for Learning. This government-sponsored initiative was designed to enhance education and lifelong learning for all Scots. Part of the initiative’s focus has been on creativity because “creativity is vitally important and should feature across all school activity. .. [Creativity in Education Online] encourages the nurturing, fostering and teaching of creativity and looks at the implications and challenges facing schools” (Creativity in Education, 2004, 1-3.). Support can include mandating communication, creating new work environments, or passing a bill to support new funding. The field is wide open for the form that organizational support might take. What is critical is that the organization’s leaders “put in place appropriate systems or procedures and emphasize values that make it clear that creative efforts are a top priority” (Amabile, 1999, p.84).

Click Here to Play Video. Caption: Ninth Grade Students Create and Perform a Musical Presentation on the Concept of Photosynthesis – Another project that demonstrates the power of intrinsic motivation to enhance creativity is included here (challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encouragement, and organizational support). The video highlights students’ understanding of the process of photosynthesis. Students were extended the opportunity to use their preferred intellectual style as they demonstrated their understanding of the process of photosynthesis. They had their choice of mode of delivery. The pair of students drew upon prior knowledge of a music resource website, http://www.fruityloops.com/ to construct a product that, not only demonstrated conceptual understanding, but also provided evidence of internal motivation, flow, and enjoyment in artifact creation and performance. The students’ intrinsic motivation in the act of creation was enhanced by their total buy-in and by the support of the teacher and educational process. By Amy Dean, Sonja Fox, Albert Gresens, John Martin (2006).


“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.” – Albert Einstein, ‘Out of My Later Years’, 1950.

Who needs creativity? We all do. It is the foundation of change and innovation. It is the solution to many problems. Therefore, it is the responsibility of education to foster creativity in our students. This chapter has offered some suggestions on how to accomplish this on a small, classroom scale, but there is no reason why the same ideas cannot be scaled to a much broader audience, such as an entire university. The concepts behind enhancing creativity are easily integrated in problem-based instruction resource-based learning, experiential learning, and collaborative learning (see e-book chapters). As a field of study, creativity is still young and growing. With further research may come more recommendations for classroom teachers and hopefully changes in school organization, curriculum, and facilities. Creativity research could change how we look at schools – that is exciting!

Quick Tips for Enhancing Creativity in the Classroom

  1. Provide in-class time for individuals and groups to just think and let their ideas marinate.
  2. Reward creative ideas and products through public recognition – even if the ideas are still developing or perhaps fail.
  3. Encourage students to take unique and different approaches in their work and reward any efforts in this direction.
  4. Allow mistakes and model positive, supportive responses to mistakes. Encourage learning from their mistakes.
  5. Encourage mental flexibility – taking other viewpoints that they might not usually take.
  6. Explore the environment to stimulate curiosity about their world.
  7. Question students’ assumptions and guide them to dig deeper and consider their beliefs and others’ to expose students to other ideas.
  8. Stop evaluating or judging too soon. There is a time and place when ideas and their constraints need to be considered, but not too soon or the process will flounder.
  9. Foster cooperation rather than competition.
  10. Offer choices.
  11. Encourage dissent and diversity.
  12. Regularly provide positive feedback.


This is a note added by Iwan Zahar, PhD. Student, Universitas Negri Jakarta, Indonesia.

I have read that there were five stages of creativity from Herman Helmholtz, Henry Poincare and Jacob Getzels.

  1. First insight; Mr Dabo sees the level of agricultural products at the lowest when school is about to start. The farmer needs to sell a huge amount of agricultural products to buy school materials (predominantly right brain)
  2. Saturation; Mr Dabo collects all the information as to why these villagers do not want to enroll their children (predominantly left brain)
  3. Incubation; Mr Dabo takes time to think (predominantly right brain)
  4. Aha; Mr Dabo gets an idea (predominantly right brain)
  5. Verification; Mr Dabo presents his idea to the local government (predominantly left brain)


Amabile, T.M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. New York:Springer-Verlag New York Incorporated.

Amabile, T.M. (1999). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review, september-october, 1998, 77-87.

Creativity in Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2004, from http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/creativity/

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Haper Collins.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Implications of a systems perspective. In R.J. Sternberg (ed.) Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

De Souza Fleith, D. (2000). Teacher and student perceptions of creativity in the classroom environment. Roeper Review, 22(2), 148-158.

Driver, Michaela (2001). Fostering creativity in business education: developing creative classroom environments to provide students with critical workplace competencies. Journal of Education for Business, 77 (1), 28-33.

Editors of The American Heritage Dictionaries (Ed). (2000). The american heritage dictionary of the english language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved April 25, 2004, from http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=challenge&r=67.

Edwards, B. (2004, April 28). The legacy of school busing: part 1: a qualified success in Charlotte, N.C. [Radio broadcast]. Morning edition. Washington D.C.: National Public Radio for Athens and Northeast Georgia.

Finke, R.A., Ward, T.B., & Smith, S.M. (1992). Creative cognition. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Galloway, C.A. (2001). Vygotsky’s learning theory. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology [Electronic version]. Retreived April 29, 2004 from Website: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Vygotsky%27s_constructivism

Glover, J.A., Ronning, R.R., & Reynolds, C.R. (Eds.). (1989). Handbook of creativity. New York: Plenum Press

Learning and Teaching Scotland (2004). Creativity counts: portraits in practice [Electronic version]. Retrieved October 2, 2007 from http://www.ides.org.uk/Images/portraitsofpracticelts2004_tcm4-122010.pdf

Lubart, T.I. (1999). Creativity across cultures. In R.J. Sternberg (ed.) Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lubart, T.I. (2000). Models of the creative process: past, present and future. Creativity Research Journal, 13(3/4), 295-303.

Mumford, M.D., Mobley, M.I., Uhlman, C.E., Reiter-Palmon, R., & Doares, L.M. (1991) Process analytic models of creative capacities. Creativity Research Journal, 4, 91-122.

Nickerson, R. S. (1999). Enhancing creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge Press.

Orey, M. (2001). Information processing. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Available Website: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Information_processing. (Kristi Bearden, editor)

Simonton, D. K. (2000). Creativity: cognitive, personal, developmental, and social aspects. American Psychologist, 55(1), 151-158.

Sternberg, R.J. (2001). What is the common thread of creativity: its dialectical relation to intelligence and wisdom. American Psychologist, 56, 360-362.

Sternberg, R.J. & Lubart, T. (1995a). Defying the crowd: cultivating creativity in a culture of conformity. New York: Free Press

Sternberg, R.J. & Lubart, T. (1995b). An investment approach to creativity. In S.M. Smith, T.B. Ward, and R.A. Finke (eds.) The Creative Cognition Approach. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Sternberg, R.J. & Lubart, T. (1996). Investing in creativity. American Psychologist, 51(7), 677-688.

Toure’s Story. (2002). Retrieved October 2, 2007 from http://www.netaid.org/inspiration/from-the-field/toures-story.html.

Von Oech, R. (1998) A whack on the side of the head. New York:Warner Business Books


Following below we provide selected online resources related to Creativity.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov03/creativitytoc.html Articles from American Psychological Association

http://www.buffalostate.edu/library/collections/creative.asp E. H. Butler Library – Creative Studies Library

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/creativity/ Creativity in Education – Learning and Teaching Scotland

http://www.ncaction.org.uk/creativity/ Creativity: find it; promote it – National Curriculum in Action


APA Citation: James, V., Lederman Gerard, R., & Vagt-Traore, B. (2004). Enhancing creativity in the classroom. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved <insert date>, from  http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/