Nora-Corina Jacob, who did her doctorate on the topic of promoting creativity and innovation, names five qualities of discovery as the basis for groundbreaking ideas: questioning, observing, experimenting, networking, linking.
Questioning is an ideal way to introduce pupils to a topic, as it awakens their intrinsic motivation. The spirit of discovery is awakened, the children become curious and simply have fun. Instead of explaining facts, the teacher can ask open questions. Or turn a question into the opposite: Then, instead of "How do you give a good presentation?", it's more like "How do you give a particularly bad one?" This allows the children to be particularly creative, gives them pleasure and stimulates their curiosity.
Another method is Question Storming: 50 questions on a certain topic are collected - for the time being without worrying about the answers. Using the school reading of Goethe's Faust as an example, this could look like this: Why do you think Goethe wrote this work? Why didn't he put an angel at Faust's side rather than a devil? What effect would it have on the play if Faust were a woman? What would the drama look like if Goethe had written it today? Why do we read this old book at all? Are there parallels in it to today? - Then the questions are collected, sorted and prioritised. It would also be possible to first collect a lot of "what if" questions about an issue and then discuss them: What if the earth were really flat? What if the French Revolution had not taken place?
If the class comes to a conclusion together, it is important that someone else rephrases it once or twice so that everyone can better remember the result of their work. In the case of rules and regularities, there is always the possibility to ask in which cases they do not fit.
It is also ideal if pupils can choose the problem for a topic themselves.
You can observe everywhere and in very different ways: whether on the bus, in the schoolyard or in the kitchen at home. In doing so, children can think of ways to improve the activities they do there. Paul Collard reports on a project in Lithuania where pupils went to a train station, a market and a church and wrote down the sounds they heard there. It was not always easy to put a sound into words - but that is the challenge. An excursion into nature or even within the city offers the children new stimuli, they can collect materials there and take them with them, thus broadening their horizons.
Another way to sharpen their senses is, for example, to visit a barefoot park on a class trip, where the feet have the unusual experience of coming into contact with very different surfaces one after the other. A school garden also offers many different sensory impressions such as seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and perhaps also hearing when birds visit the garden, and stimulates creativity (see the article "Urban Gardening – a Trend Based on Tradition").
Young people can also make observations in a museum, at a cooking class or at driving school and try to apply them to their own questions.
You can experiment not only in physics and chemistry lessons, you can experiment everywhere. In German lessons, students could write a poem, an advertisement or, for example, an instruction manual (that is understandable!). Or attend a reading. All these activities offer very different insights. It is important that teachers also allow for wrong approaches in the creation process.
In other subjects, crossing boundaries is also possible: for example, visiting a dam in geography class or a barrow in history class. In physics, the children could take apart an everyday object and inspect its inner workings; in physical education, they could experiment with different techniques to aim at the basketball hoop. But also research competitions encourage the children to actively use their grey cells.
Most school models require students to keep to themselves within their grade. This should be eliminated where possible. Pupils of different grades benefit from each other through age differences, for example when they express different views in ethics classes. Inter-grade work groups serve a similar purpose. There should be no pressure to compete - this is the only way to create an atmosphere in which creative (mutual) learning is possible.
In classes that take place after regular school hours or at school festivals, students can network further. In turn, they can make contacts with people from outside when they visit companies as a school class or when the school invites experts from different fields and the children have the opportunity to discuss with them.
In the UK, there are schools where the focus is not so much on theoretical knowledge, but rather on the practical: the Studio Schools. They follow a new concept that aims to better prepare graduates for the real world of work. The school form is intended for 14- to 19-year-olds, and attendance is similar to a working relationship: it takes place all year round, from 9 am to 5 pm. In addition to academic training, there is a lot of practice on the programme, directly in companies. Paid work placements, where young people can get a taste of the working world and make contacts, accompany the training. Many of these internships lead directly to later employment in the same company. But the studio schools are not only popular - critics criticise the early specialisation of the young people.
The networking in so-called democratic schools goes so far that all teaching takes place across all grades (compare the article “Actually, I Really like School”). But even if we stick to the classic grade levels, children can learn a lot from each other, since they often come from different cultures, often speak a language other than German at home, perhaps belong to a different religion, have different hobbies and different social backgrounds.
In his speech to university graduates, Steve Jobs told of how he had attended a calligraphy course during his studies. Although he did not finish his studies at the time, he was able to benefit from the calligraphy course years later - when he designed the fonts for the Mac, which had not existed before. As everyone knows, the Mac became a great success - Steve Jobs thus benefited from the unusual combination of IT and calligraphy.
This way of linking things can also be practised at a very early stage in class: Two students each think of a word (for example, "hoover" and "fried potatoes"). The class tries to link the two words. Games available on the market can also be helpful in practising linking: there is one that contains playing cards with words that hardly anyone knows. The players try to come up with a plausible definition for the word. The TV programme "Genial daneben" works in a similar way.
Mathieu Cassotti, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Paris Descartes, conducted workshops with ten-year-old children to promote their creativity. The focus was on methods for defixing, i.e. preventing automatisms that are in all of us: when confronted with a problem, we automatically think in a certain direction and are blocked to many other ways of looking at things. Children fall prey to these automatisms less often than adults, which is why they come up with more original solutions, but even they are not immune to fixation. If it does happen, teachers should point out to the child that his ideas revolve around the same thought and ask him to consider other approaches.
An example: Cassotti gave the children the task of telling the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood differently. At first the children were at a loss. He helped them along by suggesting that Little Red Riding Hood could become Little Green Riding Hood. What he observed was that this redirection of the thought process immediately led to a new fixation: The children wanted to turn the Little Red Riding Hood into a Blue, Yellow and Purple Riding Hood. So Cassotti tried other thought processes: What would a Little Red Riding Hood be without a cap? Could new characters appear in the narrative? Would it be possible to change the structure of the story? Little by little, the little ones became more creative.
Similarly, in another exercise, the question was: Imagine we drop an egg from a height of 10 metres and it must not break - what is the best way to do it? At first, obvious solutions were suggested: equip the egg with a paraglider; place a pool of water at the bottom to serve as a landing surface; wrap the egg in cotton wool. The more unusual Cassotti's ideas became, the more creative the children became: you could freeze the egg beforehand ... A bird catches the egg in flight ... The little course participants had managed to break out of the pattern and were able to think much more creatively at the end of the workshop than before. The teacher also observed that a development in one area of creativity (painting, writing, making music, etc.) in the children also had an impact on other areas.
Brice Sicart, who works in the field of visual arts at the Académie de Créteil, suggests creating a paradox, a constraint, something that poses a problem in the classroom so that the children learn to deal with it. They are confronted with a challenge and can think up the solutions to it themselves - in this way their creativity is stimulated. Concrete example: You tell the children to imagine that a giant has walked through the classroom. Now each child is to represent this in his or her own way. Some will knock over chairs in the room, others will paint footprints on the floor, still others will draw a giant's face and stick it behind the glass, others might move the floor tiles. Each child has their own ideas and learns from the ideas of the others.
Using different senses
Nora-Corina Jacob reports in her essay about a teacher who had children draw to music. Different variations are also possible in this area: the children could create a figure out of plasticine to a scent they like, compose a little piece of music to a colour or describe the taste of their favourite dish.
Fun in maths lessons
Mathematician Agata Ludwa, who among other things wants to bring her subject closer to primary school pupils, not only believes that maths can be fun, but that it should be. Even if it is a precise science, the approach can be creative. Because it is by no means always the case that there has to be only one solution. Ludwa gives an example: the children find a number line in their textbook that is made up of the following numbers: 4, 18, 27, 1, 21, 24, 0, 25, 6, 30. Above this the question: "This is the result if you take a certain number times 7." The result for this task: 21, because 21 is a multiple of 7. However, the answer can also be 0, because 7 times 0 results in 0. Thus, there are two solutions here.
Arithmetic problems that have a context are also fun for children. For example: Paul and Felix are 22 years old together. How old were they together 2 years ago? When will they be 30 years old together?
All in all, it is not that difficult to make mathematics lessons exciting and varied. Ludwa mentions many more possibilities in her video: Maths tasks in rhyme form, as riddles or, for example, as a detective story.
Mandatory subject KREA
Tanja Gabriele Baudson suggests introducing the compulsory subject "KREA" at schools, which is mainly about the implementation of creative ideas: The children can decide in which area they want to exercise their creativity, depending on their interests - whereby the activity does not have to be limited to one area, but the children can also be creative across subjects. The lesson should be a mixture of free work and project work; in doing so, the teacher limits the projects sensibly and also makes sure that they have a connection to the reality of the pupils. If the children can do something with the results of their work in "real" life, they are much more motivated than if they just do something to get a good grade for it. A child who has created a product of his or her own accord in free working time will carry the object home with pride - and will soon be happy to start a new project.
Evaluate - yes or no?
Admittedly, this is not an easy question. Nevertheless, let's try to answer it: since artists always create something that stands outside a given system, their works cannot be evaluated at all. At least that is how Jordan Peterson sees it. This is contradicted by Brice Sicart's view that there is no learning without evaluation. Otherwise, one could never develop one's skills. Assessment is always part of later working life: There, too, projects are always evaluated - whether by superiors or customers. Being assessed should therefore not be understood as a sanction, but as a step on the way to perfecting one's own skills.
Judging is poison for relationships
In private life, evaluation is not only highly controversial, but is also rejected by most psychologists, for example in Marshall B. Rosenberg's concept of non-violent communication. How often have we experienced that we told someone about our project, they automatically gave their opinion and we were demotivated afterwards? Exactly. That's why, unless asked directly, one should hold back with evaluations and advice. The responsibility for each individual's life lies with him or herself. Anyone who learns to listen to their intuition will make the best decisions for themselves.
But how can a work of art be evaluated? Should the evaluation be left to the person who created it, as Tanja Gabriele Baudson suggests? After all, it is the artist himself who decides when the text no longer needs to be rewritten, when the painting does not need any further brushstrokes. Should one consult a panel that has knowledge in the field in order to reach a consensus? Is it even possible for everyone to come to a common judgement? At the very least, in a school context, the authority to interpret a work should not be left to the teacher alone.
In his essay on assessing the quality of ideas, Boris Forthmann lists some dimensions for evaluating creative school performance: The first criterion is idea fluency, i.e. the sheer number of ideas. The second is originality: How seldom does a certain solution proposal occur when many people are working on a question? How far away is it from other proposals? The third criterion is flexibility: Do a person's solutions concentrate on one or two specific areas or do solutions occur that belong to different categories? Then there is the elaborateness: how detailed can someone imagine the solution? Cleverness can also be a criterion: How appropriate, thoughtful, imaginative and witty is the idea? Finally, there is the criterion of surprise, whereby an idea can be surprising not only for the environment but also for oneself, simply because one had not thought of it before - although it has long been known in other parts of the world or sometimes even in one's immediate environment.
What is a work of art?
Claus Martin has a simple answer to this: "A work of art is nothing more and nothing less than a good idea and its successful implementation in terms of craftsmanship". It is crucial to recognise a good idea as such and to perceive its artistic potential, i.e. the possibility of actually creating a concrete work from it. The idea is therefore crucial, because without it there can be no real work of art: The portrait painters in the pedestrian precincts of large cities are undoubtedly gifted in their craft, yet their works cannot be compared with those of Salvador Dalí or Claude Monet. In earlier times, it was even the case that masters left the production of further parts of their pictures to assistants and only did the finishing touches themselves - and had the idea for the composition at the beginning. On the other hand, the best ideas are of no use if you are not able to realise them in terms of craftsmanship.
So the idea and its execution make the work of art? Not quite. For a work in itself to which no one pays attention, Martin continues, is a meaningless object. Only when someone looks at the painting, reads the novel or listens to the piece of music does it become art. For then images arise in the mind of the recipient. The viewer/reader/listener has given the work a meaning, he completes the work of art, so to speak. In the best case, he feels a sense of pleasure through the images and thoughts in his head.
Is there good and bad art?
Clearly yes, according to Claus Martin. The composer points out that the idea of not being allowed to evaluate art still comes from the time of the Third Reich. In Germany in particular, there is, in his opinion, a misunderstood respect for creativity (similar to the previously mentioned view that creative writing cannot be taught). This fear of contact only exists in the arts. No mathematics teacher would think of saying to his pupil: "You did a fine job of calculating that" if both the result and the way to it were wrong.
Yes, there is art that is successful and art that is not. It's not just a question of personal taste. But developing a well-founded critical opinion is hard work.
The art of evaluation
Making a qualified judgement is not something someone can do on their own, it has to be learned like many other things - writing or a new language for example - and is a longer process. Judging should not only be a means of assessing the works of others, but also one's own. The best basis for this is to study well-known masterpieces.
When assessing a work of art (again, we are not only talking about the field of fine arts), one should, according to Claus Martin, take three time levels into account: Firstly, the time in which the work was created - perhaps other conventions prevailed at that time, people talked about other things because other things were important. This discrepancy between the time of creation and the present time should not be underestimated: Time and again, works were not understood at the time they were created and were rejected.
When judging a painting from earlier times, it must be added that painters then had other means of craftsmanship at their disposal than they have today.
The second level is that of the time depicted; this can differ from the time in which a work was created. Think here of historical novels - or, by contrast, science fiction narratives.
The third level is that of the reader, viewer or listener. Every recipient is shaped by the time in which he lives, but also by the experiences he has had in his life. That is why it is impossible to assess in advance how a painting will affect him; it could trigger things in him that were not intended by the artist. For this reason, the enjoyment of art - and thus also the appreciation of art - is to some extent also something very subjective.
An art judgement is made up of objective and subjective criteria. Its quality of craftsmanship can be assessed quite objectively. This is usually where the school comes in: Paintings are assigned to Impressionism or Expressionism, literary works to Sturm und Drang or Romanticism, for example. Stylistic figures are examined, art historical facts are learned (by heart). The pupils decode works - which is not much different from reading a cooking recipe. They remain on the surface as mere observers, do not become real recipients. This form of teaching falls short, because it gives students the feeling that the quality of works can be measured by objective criteria.
Of course, schools should teach the tools to judge works - so that judgements take a form other than: "I think Molière's 'Imaginary Sick' is stupid because there's so much dialogue." Qualified feedback has an impact on each student's personal artistic abilities and helps them to work on themselves. On the other hand, schools should also teach that the evaluation of a work of art is highly subjective. That two different critics can arrive at completely different assessments of a work - and yet both have their raison d'être. That critiques are not facts, not absolute truths, but often subjectively coloured views that spring from their time. The objective imparting of knowledge, as we know it from school, must definitely be supplemented by subjective aspects.
Furthermore, teachers should encourage their students to form their own judgement on the one hand, and on the other hand to have the self-confidence to decide for themselves whether they like a work or not - and to know exactly what about this judgement is personal taste and what objective quality criteria.
School of the future
What could a school of the future look like? Tanja Gabriele Baudson and Julia Sophie Haager have very concrete suggestions: In such a school, creativity is not just one skill among many; it is seen as an essential part of personal development - and thus of the curriculum. The acquisition of creative skills is elevated to an educational standard. Teachers trained in the field live out their creativity themselves and act as mentors and stimulators in the classroom.
Each pupil is supported individually - which means that not all pupils end up with the same level of knowledge and the same educational profile. The uniqueness of each individual is accepted. So not every child has to be creative by hook or by crook - some may be less so and want to stay that way. That is also okay and accepted. This way, students do not get into creative stress; encouraging creativity does not degenerate into creative compulsion. It is important to realise that even students with less creative potential can contribute to the community.
Since everyone is supported individually, there is no division by age groups in the school of the future. Children of all ages learn from each other and thus form a creative field. Everyone develops at their own pace and goes through the school in the time they need - even if this may mean that some pupils finish several years earlier than others or reach a higher level of competence at the end. There is no graduation at this school.
Individual support also means that the children spend their week in "learning houses" - that's what Baudson and Haager call the new schools - where they can learn autonomously for the most part and have flexible time. Pupils and teachers are in the learning house at certain core times, but otherwise have a certain amount of leeway. Since no specific learning material has to be worked through in a predefined time, there are no holiday periods that apply to everyone - pupils and teachers apply for their holidays within a certain framework. Holidays are replaced by project weeks, where students work on real projects, do internships in companies and make contacts.
The school of the future is organised like a campus where everyone is free to move around: The students themselves decide in which room they want to study, whether they go outside or prefer to stay inside. They find an attractive learning environment on the grounds with versatile learning aids that inspire them every day. Uniform, dreary classrooms are a thing of the past. Instead, the children design the rooms themselves.
Flat hierarchies prevail in the learning houses, and the children enjoy learning. The houses are more like creative talent workshops than today's schools.
The pupils learn by listening to lectures and ideas from others, by researching, investigating or creating something. The lessons offer just the right amount of challenge without being too demanding. Pure knowledge transfer or even memorisation are no longer part of it, but knowledge is still needed so that it can be linked in a new way. The children learn contexts, open up things within a context, learn skills and behaviour patterns (which they observe in their teachers).
Individual learning also means that a learning profile is created for each pupil, stored in a digital learning diary and updated again and again. The learning diary accompanies the children daily in their tasks, which they solve sometimes on paper, sometimes digitally. This ensures that they do not feel permanently monitored. Every three months, the teacher and the pupils look at each pupil's level of knowledge together and discuss further teaching goals.
Questions that arise during learning are asked in specially created forums. In this way, everyone benefits. In the case of very specific questions, the children can contact one of the teachers directly. It is not their job to know all the answers. Rather, they should offer help for self-help.
Ideally, you will find learning houses around the globe that are networked with each other. This way, not only does everyone benefit from the learning materials created; the students also perfect their foreign language skills if the materials are available in another language and benefit from the world view of other school children who are working on similar problems. They have the opportunity to work on projects together.
For students to think differently, they must learn to act differently. It is precisely this opportunity that the learning houses offer them, which hopefully will not remain just a vision.
As you have surely noticed, contradictions appear again and again in the course of the text: One fact is explained and a few paragraphs later perhaps completely reversed. There is an intention behind this: on the one hand, we wanted to depict as many facets of creativity as possible, on the other hand, contradictions are simply part of creativity. They make up not only our science and art, but our entire life. - A new perspective is lurking just around the next corner, we are sure of it!
Why this intensive article on creativity?
Creativity, as we have seen, is not only a crucial part of our world; being a child is virtually defined by it. It contributes greatly to good development, is immensely important in learning and determines your children's later lives.
Children are close to our hearts: our own, yours, the ones next door. We want them all to be able to develop their creativity freely; that is our great wish. That is why we would like to give you the tools to shape your children's lives - and your own - more creatively.
But that's not all: for over forty years, we have been living this creativity by inventing a modular toy that never existed before. We are constantly developing it further, taking inspiration from your experiences and moving into new areas (see also our QUADRO Nature section).
But the most important point is still missing: QUADRO is a thoroughly creative toy. You don't believe it? Take a look at our model database. There you will find over 400 different models, from the climbing frame to the Ultra Climbing Pyramid Extreme, the pirate ship to the pool bar. We are really creative. And now it's your turn, you and your children: think up something of your own, something that suits you, your home, your garden. Something that no one else has. Spin around a bit and invent something that even we haven't thought of yet.
And if you're really creative, we'll also be happy to be inspired by you: Send us your ideas or already realised projects ([email protected]). If they spark something off, we'll be happy to report on them and support you with free or reduced materials for your project.
Let's create a creative world together!
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