Creativity and its role in Making Education Meaningful

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”      -Albert Einstein

Such a quote seems very applicable today in the world of education as knowledge is easily accessible and we have issues that come with too much information, what is real, etc. The idea of imagination is directly related to creativity. Let’s start with a few definitions of what creativity really is. This blog post will provide some ideas on how to define creativity and why we need it. Ironically, I am writing this why we are having fun standardized testing, so it is sort of therapy for me in a way.

Creativity- What is it?

Would you label yourself a creative person? It seems simple, and maybe it is, but maybe it is so simple it is actually quite complicated- Make sense?

In the 1980’s a researcher by the name of Paul Torrence set out to define creativity while spending many years coming up with ways to test creativity. After years, he concluded that creativity “defies precise definition” (1988, p. 43). But this did not stop him from coming up with a somewhat survivalist definition, “When a person has no learned or practiced solution to a problem, some degree of creativity is required” (1988, p. 57). He also used the previous work of Taylor, and outlined five levels of creativity: expressive, productive, inventive, innovative, and emergenative. Emergenative was the level that most people think about when thinking about creativity and was “where there is an entirely new principle or assumption around which new schools, movements, and the like can flourish” (Torrance, 1988, p. 46).

Creativity Today

One of the main educational guru’s today calling for an increase in creativity in the classroom is Sir Ken Robinson. He described creativity more simply as “the process of having original ideas that have value” (2011, p. 151). He also saw creativity as being directly linked to imagination. “Imagination is the source of our creativity…it is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present in our senses” (Robinson, 2011, p. 141). He saw creativity as the next step that involved using our imagination to actually do something. “Creativity involves putting your imagination to work…creativity is applied imagination” (Robinson, 2011, p. 142).

People are not creative in general, but in a particular sense. It is also a process that involved generating ideas, making judgments, judging value, making connections, and having the freedom and control to make it happen. The creation of an innovation is the final step in the process, where creativity is further applied.

I feel fortunate to work in what I would call a creative place, surrounded by creative people. It is hard for me to imagine being at a school that is different, but the truth is that most traditional schools are far from it. I mentioned in the last blog, my belief in different types of schools for different people, but for me, creativity is what makes teaching what it is, and what makes it meaningful to teachers, students, and other stakeholders. Here are a few reasons why:

It is a Key Component of 21st Century Skills and ISTE Standards

Creativity is one of the 4 C’s under Learning and Innovation Skills along with collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. It is also the first ISTE Student Standard, which states: Creativity and Innovation- Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. If for no other reason, try something creative because they told you to! (Resources  and ideas on how to be creative coming later in a different post)

Jobs of the Future will Require It

I realize the need for some standardization, we all need to have some basic skills to communicate effectively and get by in our daily lives, but I feel we should have different school experiences. As our students of today are entering the workforce of tomorrow, they will take on a variety of different roles and jobs. We do not even know what some of these jobs are, but most will involve creativity in some capacity. If the job is simple, it will be automated by technology or sent overseas where it can be done for a fraction of the cost. A great book about this is World Class Learners by Zhao, who shared, “current students need to be able to compete in an intelligent, highly creative marketplace. …a well prepared citizen of the future needs to be creative, entrepreneurial, and globally competent” (Zhao, 2012, p. 15). I do not think we are doing ourselves any favors by all learning the same stuff.

It can make learning Meaningful for Teachers and Students

Having some leeway in what to teach and how to teach can go along way to keep a teacher motivated. When a teacher is allowed some freedom to be creative, that teacher will be passionate about teaching, and the students will be a lot more likely to be into it as well. High Tech High Teachers have complete control over what they teach. They end up only teaching about 40% of the standards and sign a contract a year at a time. But, it seems to be working. I think that teaching is much too personable to become one of those jobs that can be done by a robot. Let teachers who want to be creative, try new things, and push boundaries do so and education will be better because of it.

Final Thoughts

I would be more than happy to share anything I have and resources mentioned here if anyone is interested. Also, if you have your own ideas, applicable resources, please share. Please tune in next time and I will share some how to be creative ideas!


Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative (Vol. 2). United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing Company

Torrance, E. (1993). Understanding Creativity: Where to Start?. Psychological Inquiry, 4(3), 232.

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners: Educating creative and entrepreneurial students Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin.



Meaningful Education- Take 1

Reflection (first) Blog: Meaningful Education Needed Now

They say that your children grow up faster than you think and I find that to be very true. As my daughter will be entering public school next year, I have been thinking a lot about what type of school experience I want my daughter to be part of.

I also feel somewhat fortunate to be able to influence this. Not only can I influence this through school choice (happy my daughter will be coming to my school), but also by trying to spread creative and innovative ideas throughout the school and with district colleagues. We are currently trying to continue to add to our makerspace, and expand our school garden- two projects that I think will be great additions.

I also find myself reflecting on my own school experience as a student and have come to the conclusion that I think I just went with the flow pretty much the entire time. The only time I really ever remember being pushed out of my comfort zone was during swim class (because water and I do not get along) and a public speaking class I took. The rest of the time I spent mostly just sitting and listening, a type of education that doesn’t really work for me unless I find the content to be real interesting.

I want my kids to have a different experience. Of course I want them to learn the basics, love to read, etc., etc. etc. but most of all I want the experience to be meaningful. I am excited that the district is starting to put more emphasis on things beyond the traditional subjects and teaching things like mindfulness. The student will decide what is meaningful to them, so we need to make sure and meet them at what they are interested in, not force them the other way.

What’s the ideal school look like?

Tough Question: I think that is different for everyone and that is one good thing about school choice. I would love to hear other’s ideas.

For me, here are some thoughts:

-Lot’s of movement! Students need to move not listen passively as the teacher talks. The teacher should be a facilitator and do most of the teaching in a small group setting. This movement includes plenty of time for students to explore and play.

-The subjects would or could blend together- learning is messy and happens sometimes unexpectedly. It is unfair to cut it off, because reading block starts in 10 minutes.

-Teachers should be trusted and given creative freedoms. I understand the purpose of school wide programs, vertical articulation and so on, but putting more trust into letting teachers do what they do best is needed.

-Focus on 21st Century Skills and being given the tech tools appropriate to help

-Most importantly- meaningful- I feel a good way to do this is through Project Based Learning. Students work to solve real problems, collaborate, get time to reflect, lots of good things.

I realize I am missing a lot when it comes to a perfect school, or even my vision of one, but it is a start. I am happy to attempt to set a good example, try new things (like the blog), and stretch my comfort zone. I am excited by the way education should, could, and eventually will be moving. I am just hopeful that change happens sooner than later so that my kids have a more meaningful educational experience than I did.  Overall, cool stuff to look forward to!