Our students do not come to us only to be taken through a curriculum and textbooks. Education is much more than this – or at least it should be. The way we teach our students and their experience of their education have a lasting and significant impact.
Creativity, as an attribute, is increasingly talked about as an important outcome for students in the 21st Century. It is increasingly believed that with greater creativity, there is a better ability for our students to contribute to their own futures and to future society.
At ZSC we have identified 11 keys for developing our students’ creativity:
Redefining a problem means looking at it from different perspectives. This is one of the keys to creative thinking. This aspect of creative thinking requires students to both analyse and synthesise different views and contexts in order to gather a better understanding. Therefore, you work with students in ways that encourage them to redefine problems for themselves. We do this by giving students choices – for example, with activities in a project – and letting them make mistakes. Learning to recognise mistakes is an important analytic skill and is the beginning of redefining problems in order to derive creative strategies for arriving at solutions.
Creative people question assumptions and lead others to do the same. Questioning assumptions is part of the analytical thinking involved in being creative. When we question assumptions there is the opportunity for change – cultural, technological, and other forms of advancement. This is why creativity is seen as a key skill for the 21st Century.
Our teachers aim to be role models for questioning assumptions in classes. We show our students that what they assume they know may not be as obvious as they think. However, we also help them understand that, in order to accept assumptions, we sometimes need to adapt our own thinking. This means helping students to develop the skills of questioning by making them a part of the regular interactions in our classrooms.
We know that it is more important for our students to learn which questions to ask rather than to learn the answers. We do this by avoiding the questions which require memorised answers. We help students understand that what is important is an ability to use the facts they have learned. Our focus at Ziauddin is to teach our students how to ask the right questions (questions that are good, thought-provoking, and interesting) and lessen the emphasis on rote learning.
Creative ideas are difficult to come by because we tend to be fixed in habits of thinking. This means, to develop our students’ creativity, we give them opportunities to persuade other people of the value of their ideas. Argumentation is a practical component of creative thinking and is considered to be a key strategy for teaching in the 21st Century. Therefore, when students finish a science project, they present it and demonstrate why it makes an important contribution, or if they create a piece of artwork, we ask them to describe why they think it has value.
Practical activities in ZSC classrooms support productive ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking where students are comfortable being constructively critical of each other. This helps our students understand that some ideas are better than others. Our teachers collaborate with their students in class to support their creative thinking. In our classrooms we use ideas as opportunities to suggest new approaches and to encourage further creative thinking.
We Demonstrate that Knowledge is Flexible, Not Fixed
Our teachers are learners too. They have knowledge that students may not have, but we understand they our students have flexibility of thinking that our teachers may have lost. Our classrooms are therefore dynamic and stimulating places where everyone learns.
Be a Problem-Solver
Perseverance in learning is an important student attribute in the 21st Century. Our teachers prepare students by describing obstacles that they may face while trying to be creative. This has happened to many people throughout history.
Therefore, we help our students learn from their struggles, identifying aspects of what they are doing that are being successful and why, and discussing with them/suggesting other ways to help them overcome the barriers.
Developing Our Students’ Self-Efficacy
At Ziauddin we believe it is vitally important that students believe in themselves and believe in the value of what they are doing. The main limitation on what anyone can do is what they think they can do. In order to help our students develop their creativity we need to give them a strong foundation for that creativity – helping them believe in their ability to be creative.
Students’ Engagement in Learning
Our teachers are always striving to find out what excites their students. This is because we understand that the best learning happens when students are engaged in doing things they are genuinely interested in.
Classrooms that Nurture Creativity
Our teachers are role models of creativity because this is the most powerful way to develop our students’ creativity. The teachers we remember from our school and college days are not those who covered the most content in their lessons, but those whose thoughts and actions served as a role model for us. To be the best role models, our teachers are clear about their values, goals and ideas, and demonstrate these in their actions. They always reward students’ creativity.