Portrait of a Learner 9-12

Systems Change


Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Creativity. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

Creativity is a dynamic and iterative process (mental, material, and/or social) of making new connections, exploring, and transforming the world in new and meaningful ways. Creativity is typically defined as a combination of divergent/experimental thinking—generating new ideas—and convergent/evaluative thinking to narrow them in, resulting in novel products that are meaningful to the creator and also, often, to the surrounding community. This creative process is a core element of all learning experiences, because individuals usually learn most effectively when they play an active role in constructing their understandings. Students' early Creativity has been shown to predict later Creativity and academic success. However, learners' Creativity continues to develop throughout adolescence, highlighting the need for educators to support opportunities for learners to exercise Creativity.

Main Ideas

There are many pathways to Creativity, but in general learners are most likely to think creatively when they are intrinsically motivated--and feel confident and supported in their ability to-- explore, take risks and make mistakes, to ask questions and try new solutions. Opportunities for exploration help encourage learners to come up with multiple possible solutions to a problem.Some research suggests that children with ADHD may experience more frequent “mind wandering” (a shift of focus away from a given task to other unrelated thoughts), which has been shown in some cases to lead to increased Creativity. Creativity often emerges from Collaboration, where learners can improvise, consider others perspectives, and build off one another, generating novelty both individually and as a group. That is, collaborative Creativity allows for a participatory and dynamic creative process where individuals can play different roles, bring different viewpoints, and can support learners in seeing how they can be creative in new ways.

Although in some cases, when learners have less Background Knowledge in an area, they may engage in unconstrained exploration which can lead to creative engagement, as learners develop Background Knowledge through adolescence, they may be better equipped to discover creative solutions to many real-world problems (for example, learners need to understand how a tool works before iterating upon it). In addition, key networks of the brain involved in core aspects of cognition are continuing to develop in adolescence, which may also contribute to the development of learners' creative processes and outcomes.

Learner's environments across home and school play a pivotal role in encouraging Creativity. In order to allow Creativity to flourish, learners' environments must allow for flexibility—with open-ended tasks, unstructured conversations, respect for the learner, a Sense of Belonging, and independence. Providing ample time and comfort and expectations of ambiguity and failure, can support a learner's natural Creativity. In addition, creative learning is also enhanced by carefully-designed guiding structures or scaffolds, which ensures that learners are moving towards their learning goals through the creative process.

View Measures and References