Creativity and Creative teaching and Learning

Cremin, T. and Barnes, J. (2018). Creativity and Creative teaching and Learning. In: Cremin, T. and Burnett, C. eds. Learning to Teach in the Primary School (4th edition). Routledge.


Nurturing learner creativity is a key aim for many schools. Teachers and school leaders continue to see the development of creativity as an essential part of their job. They recognise that an appropriate climate for creative thought and activity has to be established (Ofsted, 2006, 2009), and know that pressures to improve standards in ‘the basics’ can crowd creativity out of the curriculum.
In a world dominated by technological innovations and rapid change, creativity is a critical component; human skills and people’s imaginative and innovative powers are key resources in a knowledge-driven economy (Robinson, 2009). As social structures and ideologies continue to change, the ability to live sustainably with uncertainty and deal with complexity is essential. So organisations and governments all over the world are now more concerned than ever to promote creativity (Craft, 2011).
As primary professionals, it is our responsibility to steer the creative development of young people in our care. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, creativity was given a high profile in education policy and the media, and children were expected to think creatively, make connections and generate ideas, as well as problem solve (Craft, 2011). In 2012 the EYFS (Department for Education) acknowledged that, alongside ‘playing and exploring’ and ‘active learning’, the third characteristic of effective learning is ‘creating and thinking critically’. In relation to the current primary curriculum however, explicit references to creativity are few. Nonetheless, there is professional recognition that developing the creativity of the young cannot be left to chance (e.g. Cremin,2017).
Academic explorations of creative teaching and teaching for creativity continue to expand (e.g. Jeffrey and Woods, 2009; Cremin et al., 2015, 2017; Sawyer, 2011; Craft et al., 2013), and teachers still seek innovative ways to shape the curriculum in response to children’s needs. Creative teaching should not be placed in opposition to the teaching of essential knowledge, skills and understandings in the subject disciplines; neither does it imply lowered expectations of challenge or behaviour. Rather, creative teaching involves teaching the subjects in creative contexts that explicitly invite learners to engage imaginatively and that stretch their generative, evaluative and collaborative capacities.
However, many teachers still feel constrained by perceptions of a culture of accountability. You too may already be aware of the classroom impact of an assessment-led system. Such pressure can limit opportunities for creative endeavour and may tempt you to stay within the safe boundaries of the known. Recognising that tensions exist between the incessant drive to raise measurable standards and the impulse to teach more creatively is a good starting point, but finding the energy and enterprise to respond flexibly is a real challenge. In order to do so, you need to be convinced that creativity has an important role to play in education, and believe that you can contribute, both personally and professionally. You may also need to widen your understanding of creativity and creative practice in order to teach creatively and teach for creativity.

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