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11 Ways To Reduce Creativity In Your Classroom



11 Ways To Reduce Creativity In Your Classroom

by TeachThought Staff

In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, where the daily tasks required in a large number of jobs require not repetitive button-pushing but independent and complex thinking, we are often exhorted to ‘be creative’ or ‘use some creativity.’

Which would be fine, if creativity were a little dance one could do on command like a well-trained circus seal. But, for better or worse, the act of creation contains a certain morsel of irreducible mystery. It’s intuitive and holistic, rather than analytical and linear (which is the gear we’re usually in when we’re struggling to get work done). It prospers under certain conditions and perishes under others.

Here are 11 factors that can reduce student creativity in your classroom.

10 Ways To Reduce Creativity In Your Classroom

1. Judgment

The No. 1 cause of death for good ideas is to be smothered in the cradle by repression. There are enough critics, haters, and the merely indifferent out there in the external world. Often we fear these responses so much that we internalize them, and invoke them preemptively, even unconsciously. We fall victim to shame, guilt, negativity, low self-esteem, or just plain healthy tendencies of skepticism and self-doubt.

The thing is, there’s a time for judgment, analysis, and editing — those are all key if you want to produce something good — but that time comes after you’ve given your ideas a chance to breathe. In the initial phase, the watchword is play: un-self-conscious, consequence-free, uninhibited play. Intellect, discretion, and second thoughts can all wait. Those can help you sculpt or prune what you’ve got (in a subtractive way, like a bonsai tree), but if you use them from the get-go, you won’t produce the raw materials you need.

2. The wrong kind of feedback

As with many of the items on this list, you can have too much ego, not enough, or the wrong kind. The ranks of great artists and innovators are certainly filled with narcissists and egomaniacs.

A healthy sense of worth is crucial to help provide the courage to overcome shame, silencing the doubts within you and without. Ambition, too, is necessary; it may well be a virtue to be humble, but it is not a virtue that often correlates with great deeds. However, excessive self-regard not only makes one impossible to work with, it can bleed through to one’s work in the form of self-indulgence or complacency. Too much praise can be just as stifling as too little encouragement.

3. Mindset

There is no room for creativity when dogma takes over. Inflexible, rigidly set ideas will stifle free expression every time. “It has to be this way,” one says. “Does it? Why, exactly? What if we tried this instead?”

We’ve always done it this way.

Many brilliant breakthroughs have come from that impulse. Yet it’s not merely the closed-mindedness of fixed belief that can hold us back: it’s also the convenience of habit, the laziness of stereotyped thinking. Stereotyping is something our brains do constantly, creating two-dimensional “thumbnails” as shortcuts to reduce complexity and make the world manageable. Defamiliarization, the act of looking at something as though for the first time, can bypass these filters and open up new possibilities.

4. A focus on popularity and mass appeal

Politics can be an enemy to creativity on multiple planes. On the most obvious or extreme macro level, the commissar might come and lock you up for writing or painting the wrong thing. Marketplace realities impose a more subtle, and for that reason insidiously powerful, restraint. People are inclined to self-censor ideas they know will be unpopular. This extends to the smaller scale as well; junior members of a company are unlikely to air ideas that second-guess the basic premises of their superiors.

5. Lack of resources


The relationship between money and creativity is an interesting one. Many acts of creation (think of architecture or movies) require a substantial budget. Even writers (who nominally require only a pen and pad) have to put food on the table. Still, even the most dire straits often spur on creators; J.K. Rowling credits the public benefits system in the United Kingdom for giving her enough of a pittance to subsist on, while she wrote her way to one of the world’s greatest fortunes with Harry Potter.

For lesser spirits, or in less generous societies, the stress may well be demotivating, and whatever mindless form of wage slavery is available may look like the only option. An extreme lack of funding can push people away from creativity, toward sheer practicality or even triage. However, extreme comfort has its own perils too. Riches can breed contentment, while on the other hand, having something to lose may make one less inclined to take chances.

6. Unnecessary collaboration

The dynamic of creativity that takes place in groups provides a fascinating and mysterious object of study. Under ideal conditions, alchemy that produces more than the sum of its parts occurs. Take something like the Beatles, or the great actor-director partnerships: von Sternberg and Dietrich, Ford and Wayne, Scorsese and De Niro.

The chemistry has to be right to produce the perfect give-and-take (and sometimes the chemistry is too right to last) and there’s no way to predict it. Some great creative minds simply work better in solitude. Then, too, there are extroverts who draw energy from group settings, and collapse into boredom if left to their own devices.

7. Distraction and stress

Heroism, someone once wrote, is a way of being that is not conducive to family life. Artists, at least in our romantic conception of them, fit this definition well. Often the most potent creators on the world stage prove to be appalling parents and spouses at home.

There are plenty of counterexamples, of course, but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule. Even creative dyads like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, or Charles and Ray Eames were rarely as happy, or equal, as they seemed. Apart from the demanding depth of family relationships, even what we would colloquially call ‘having a life’ can be an impediment to creation. Fun, overstimulation, distractions, and even happiness and security can lead to loss of focus, procrastination, and excuse-making.

8. Making it about ‘school’

Again, this is a matter of balance. While we always speak of education as a positive in our society, there are counterexamples. A naive lack of instruction has always provided outsider artists with great vitality, while established folk traditions often pass on a fantastic wealth of ability that’s almost impossible to transfer to a formal academic setting.

Amateur enthusiasts have made many a breakthrough, from the airplane to the PC, that smarter people ‘knew’ were impossible or pointless. Over-education can lead (the word ‘educate’ itself means ‘lead away from’) to exactly the kind of rigidity and dogma listed at No. 3 here.

9. Deadlines

This is the most salient reality of creative work as it operates in the real world. Getting things in on time, on budget, forces one to make things happen. Unreasonable levels of pressure, though, can backfire, leading to ‘writer’s block’ and other forms of paralysis or even nervous breakdowns. On a related note, for those who’ve proven their creative chops, the world’s high expectations can seem weighty or even crippling (thus the common ‘sophomore slump’ phenomenon).

10. A complete ack of restrictions or focus

The only thing worse than deadlines is no deadlines. A total lack of pressure leads to nothing much getting done; one can waffle endlessly and tinker infinitely, never finishing a project. Overindulgence can lead to uninspired creations.

Creativity is a game. It’s related to our faculties for problem-solving. We look at a situation and think, playfully, what would be a clever, elegant way to solve this? The most radical revolutions in modern art would not have meant a thing if their proponents hadn’t been deeply trained in the old ways of doing things. They would have had nothing to react against. We need parameters within which we can be creative — not set in stone, but constituting a kind of scaffolding that gives us something to work with.

Setting too many rules will kill creativity, but so will setting no rules at all.

This is a cross-post from; Image attribution flickr user loyaloak; 11 Enemies Of Creativity

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Four Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model



self-directed learning stagesFour Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

by TeachThought Staff

Self-Directed Learning is not new–but is perhaps misunderstood.

In the linked post above, Terry Heick wondered about the relationship between self-directed learning and the purpose of education:

The goal of the model isn’t content knowledge (though it should produce that), but rather something closer to wisdom–learning how to learn, understanding what’s worth understanding, and perhaps most importantly, analyzing the purpose of learning (e.g., personal and social change). It also encourages the student to examine the relationship between study and work–an authentic ‘need to know’ with important abstractions like citizenship and legacy.

Studied in terms of adult education and vocation for years, self-directed learning is increasing in popularity for a variety of reasons, including growing dissatisfaction with public schooling, and the rich formal and informal learning materials available online. This is the ‘age of information’ after all.

Self-directed learning is one response, something slideshare user Barbara Stokes captures in this chart, based on the model by Gerald Grow. The four stages–very similar to the gradual release of responsibility model–appear below.

The Four Stages Of The Self-Directed Learning Model

Learner                            Teacher

Stage 1   Dependent        Authority, Coach

Examples: Coaching with immediate feedback. Drill. Informational lecture. Overcoming deficiencies and resistance.

Stage 2:  Interested          Motivator, Guide

Examples: Inspiring lecture plus guided discussion. Goal-seting and learning strategies.

Stage 3:  Involved             Facilitator

Examples: Discussion faciliated by teacher who participates as equal. Seminar. Group projects.

Stage 4:  Self-Directed     Consultant, Delegator

Examples: Internship, dissertation, individual work or self-directed study group.

Theories of Teaching and Learning: The Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, G.Grow. from Barbara Stokes; Four Stages Of A  Self-Directed Learning Model

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment



The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

contributed by David Garrick, Dean of Graduate School of Education, UCDS College for School Culture

The general idea behind a competency-based assessment is that it provides students and families with specific feedback about student performance that can lead to a clearer understanding of progress and skills gained over time.

As Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the UCDS College for School Culture, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the possibilities that competency-based assessment can provide. Students who attend University Child Development School (UCDS) in Seattle don’t earn A’s, B’s, or F’s. Instead, student assessments are communicated through our own set of competency-based continua for various subjects.

These continua, paired with narrative communication with students and families, make up the school’s framework for assessment, based on skill progressions. I’ve seen the benefits first-hand in Pre-K through elementary classrooms, and also in training at the graduate level.  

By providing specific information about the academic and social skills students exhibit, schools provide detailed and actionable information. This empowers students in their learning and educators in their teaching practices. Here’s a general overview of the benefits of competency-based assessment.

Building Competency-Based Assessments: The Benefits

1. Improved clarity & transparency

Greater clarity allows teachers and families to identify areas of strength and areas where students may need additional support. In all cases, these assessments provide teachers with detailed knowledge about student progress that can be used to build individualized goals and educational plans.

In addition to evaluating proficiency in these domains, teachers should regularly share comprehensive feedback individual student accomplishments and struggles. For example, UCDS teachers provide narrative commentary to families where they focus on how a student engages within each domain, as well as notable accomplishments and struggles.

Focusing on comprehensive feedback brings clarity to the learner, and clarity to the family about what’s happening in the classroom. Letter grades don’t show the full picture (suggesting alternatives to letter grades), and a competency-based model is better equipped to provide students, families and future schools with clear information about each student’s social and academic progress.


2. More seamless personalization of learning

Through Competency-Based Learning, educators have a better chance to provide a deeper view into each student’s learning attitudes and strategies and can provide resources that best support individual needs. This type of information is key to understanding the unique modes, strategies, and coaching to which each student responds best. This is the foundation of personalized learning.

3. It helps shift towards a culture of assessment

To successfully adopt competency-based strategies, teachers and administrators must first reevaluate assessment. While traditional forms of assessment (i.e., exams and quizzes) are valuable when placing students on a general scale of progress, they don’t show the whole picture. Making changes to assessment can be daunting for some educators, especially those who have been using traditional assessment practices throughout their career. It can also be a shift for parents to evaluate their student’s performance without a grade.

It’s important that teachers pursue resources and professional development that introduce different methods of assessing student progress, and why they hold value. As every teacher knows, the learning never stops – and by staying on top of current trends, curriculum can be adapted to meet every students’ needs.

4. Students better understand their own learning profile

Through comprehensive, competency-based assessment methods, teachers can help students to reach college and career readiness with greater self-knowledge about their learning approaches and needs. Working from a continuum of skills ensures that every student is being challenged in a way that is appropriate to what they want and need to learn and that educators can give individualized support as needed to help them move forward.

Removing the stress of being placed on a tiered grading scale shifts the focus back to learning, while building the confidence to make mistakes. Students take ownership of their learning. They feel empowered when mastering a skill and learn to identify what’s next.


For teachers, competency-based assessment brings depth and value to curriculum. With the focus shifted away from letters and percentages, students become more involved in long-term progress and are more apt to become engaged and take risks while learning.

Ranking students based on undefined competencies and then using that rank to determine their future prospects and contributions is a practice best left to past eras. Competency-based assessment provides more detailed information that promotes better-targeted teaching and learning for all parties involved.  

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5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious



Causing curiosity in students boils down to knowing that student.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

by Terry Heick

Understanding where curiosity comes from is the holy grail of education.

Education, of course, is different than learning but both depend on curiosity.

Education implies a formal, systematic, and strategic intent to cause learning. In this case, content to be learned is identified, learning experiences are planned, learning results are assessed, and data from said assessments play some role in the planning of new learning experiences. Learning strategies are applied, and snapshots of understanding are taken as frequently as possible.

This approach is clinical and more than a smidgeon scientific. It arrests emotion and spontaneity in pursuit of planning and precision, a logical trade in the eyes of science.

Of course, very little about learning is scientific. While data, goals, assessment, and planning should all play a role in any system that purports to actually accomplish anything, learning and education are fundamentally different. The former is messy and personal, painful and fantastic. The latter attempts to assimilate the former—or at least streamline it as much as possible in the name of efficiency.

An analogy might help. (I love teaching with analogies.)

learning : education :: true love : dating service

True love may very well come from a dating service, and dating services do all they can to make it happen, but in the end—well, there’s a fair bit of hocus pocus at work behind it all.

Hubris & Education

Education is simultaneously the most noble and hubristic of all endeavors. There are two minds to every educator. This may all reek of sensationalism, but watch anyone at play, honing a craft, lost in a book, or engaged in a digital simulation and you’ll see a completely different person—one there physically, but far removed in spirit.

In a better place.

Causing this in a classroom is possible, but is as often the result of good fortune than good planning. The best substitutes that can masquerade as curiosity are dutiful compliance and engagement. Neither of these are curiosity, which has among its sources a strong sense of volition, accountability, and curiosity.

Here, let me try.

I want to show you what I can do.

I want to know.

And that last one—a sign of curiosity–is a bugger, one we’ve talked about before. Like the caffeine in coffee, the chords on a guitar, or the wet in water, genuine curiosity is not a thing, it’s the thing.

Not temporarily wanting to know, or being vaguely interested in an answer, but being able to put together past experience and knowledge like the millions of fibers on a network–only to be maddeningly stopped from branching further without understanding or knowing this one bit.

Like stopping an incredible movie right at the climax—that awful, crazy feeling inside would be unfulfilled curiosity—and it’d just kill you not to know. But where does it come from?

And can you consistently cause it in a learner?

If formal learning environments driven by outcomes-based systems have taught us nothing else, it’s that while we often can “cause” something to happen in learner, it is only by considerable effort, resources, and angst.


But we certainly can create ideal conditions where natural curiosity can begin to grow. What we do when it happens—and disrupts our planned lessons and tidy little units—is another story altogether.

5 Things That Make Students Curious

1. Revisit Old Questions

The simplest curiosities arise from old questions that were never fully answered, or that no attempt to answer was made.

Of course, any question worth its salt is never ‘fully answered’ any more than a good conversation is ever finished, but as we learn and reflect and grow, old answers can look positively awkward, as they are bound by old knowledge.

Strategy to actuate: Revisit old questions—through a journal prompt, Socrative discussion, QFT (Question Formulation Technique), or even a fishbowl discussion. And also revisit the thinking from the first go-round to see what has changed.

2. Model & Promote Ambition

Ambition precedes curiosity. Without wanting to advance in position, thinking, or design, curiosity is simply a biological and neurological reaction to stimulus. But ambition is what makes us human, and its fraternal twin is curiosity.

Strategy to actuate: Well thought-out mentoring, peer-to-peer modeling, Project-Based Learning and a genuine ‘need to know.’

3. Play

A learner at play is a signal that there is a comfortable mind focused on a fully-internalized goal.

It may or may not be the same goal as those given externally, but play is hypnotic and more efficient than the most well-planned instructional sequence. A learner playing and learning through play, nearly by definition, is curious about something, or otherwise they’re simply manipulating bits and pieces mindlessly.

Strategy to actuate: Game-Based Learning and learning games and simulations like Armadillo Run, Civilization VI, Bridge Constructor, and Age of Empires all empower the learner to play. Same with Challenge-Based learning and other forms of learning.

4. The Right Collaboration At The Right Time

Seeing what is possible modeled by peers is powerful stuff for learners. Some may not be initially curious about content, but seeing what peers accomplish can be a powerful actuator for curiosity. How did they do this? How might I do what they did in my own way? Which of these ideas I’m seeing are valuable to me—right here, right now–and which are not?

Strategy to actuate: Grouping is not necessarily collaboration. To actuate collaboration, and thus curiosity, students must have a genuine need for another resource, idea, perspective, or something else otherwise not immediately available to them. Cause them to need something, not simply to finish an assignment, but to achieve the goal they set for themselves.

5. Use Diverse & Unpredictable Content

Diverse content is likely the most accessible pathway to at least a modicum of curiosity from learners. New projects, new games, new novels, new poets, new things to think about.

Strategy to actuate: Invite the learners to understand the need for a resource or bit of content and have them source it. Instant diversity class-wide, and likely divergence from where you were going with it all. At worst you’ve got engaged learners, and a real shot at curiosity.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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