Design Opportunities for Creativity



This spring is all about curating great foundational practices to engage our Designer Network next fall. inspiring creativityOne of these foundations will be creating and enhancing learning environments that build a culture of creativity in our classrooms.

One particular resource currently resonating with me is “Inspiring Creativity and Innovation in K-12” by Douglas Reeves. This is a really short read packed with practical ideas, research, and a great discussion on assessing creativity. This book is rapidly becoming a springboard for additional research and I enjoy looking back at my text annotations and then seeking out others to discuss and create new connections to the content.

I never want to be the accused of spoiling a good book so I have decided to pull out a few key components that directly relate to my purpose for reading which has me saying, “That makes me think about…”


“Creativity is not the results of first drafts” – Douglas Reeves

Reeves talks about how traditional schools aren’t typically built to cultivate or tolerate mistakes in the process of learning. All too often we give assignments and then penalize the attempt in learning through the compilation of points. The quote above really makes me think about how life is a series of iterations and rarely are we faced with a final product you can’t modify in some aspect. Through the process of creation, we must be learning, practicing, experiencing failure, gaining feedback and striving to improve through continual reflection.

This leaves me wondering…

How can we cultivate “creative discomfort” as part of our school culture?

Chapter 2 starts with a rich discussion about building creative environments that are “mistake-tolerate cultures”. I have always known the power of feedback as a classroom teacher and learner, but Reeves made me stop and really consider why and how feedback creates positive cultures where learners are empowered to be active in the learning process.

Reeves mentioned the Goldilocks Principle, which has always resonated with me because (A) I have fond memories of The Three Bears and (B) I have been frustrated by experiencing feedback that has been either too harsh or too vague. I find that there is an art form to giving feedback that is “just right”.

By combining feedback that is timely, accurate, and specific (Hattie’s research) and grounding it with deliberate practice you create a rich breeding ground to increase fluency and the intentional transfer of skills. After reading this text, I find myself thinking about the importance of leveraging feedback as a catalyst to grow a culture of creativity.

Quote Reeves.jpg

The quote above hits a chord that is near and dear to my own fears of creative limitations. There is a clear push for authenticity and publishing results in education but the work doesn’t have to be original to enhance the conversation. Reeves states,”Great work is derivative“. Learner growth occurs over time and is the compilation of experiences, observation, feedback, and continuous improvement. We need to highlight the contribution of others to our thinking as we develop and contribute to global conversations.

This is an exciting time to be in education as social media is quickly becoming an outlet for learners to share their ideas casting a wide net to engage in discussions and receive feedback enhancing the learning process. No longer do our students have to rely on the teacher to have all of the answers, but must learn how to identify and engage with learning communities be it local or across the world.

Research shows creativity often occurs in teams which ups the ante on developing collaboration skills. I have been thinking a lot about how much I value my PLN and the radical collaboration that frequently occurs. Our work next year as Designers will be to research, learn, and create opportunities for creativity to thrive in our learning environments.

I do think it is unlikely learning occurs or sticks unless you reflect so I end this post with a great activity by Richard Elmore to extend your thinking on the concept of creating a creative culture:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.11.06 PM

One of my lightbulb moments in this book was the realization of the growth between what I thought and how I have changed my thinking through research and connecting. As I sit here looking at this image, it makes me wonder…

How can we intentionally support a culture of creativity in our classrooms and schools?


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