As a special educator, Micky Cokely teaches courses to prepare teachers for students with a broad range of learning needs. She teaches Creative and Critical Thinking in Northeastern University’s Master’s in Education program.
What’s the best way to come up with innovative solutions to problems? As educators in a test-driven society, we’re constantly asking ourselves this question.
The answer, we’re finding, lies in creative thinking: Coming up with new ideas means coming up with new questions to ask.
The good news is, we’re all born with the innate ability to be creative; it’s a matter of unleashing it through learned skill sets.
The following five ways to boost creativity, inspired by learning researcher and educator Mitchel Resnick, can train you to think differently and help you design strategies for bringing creativity into other people’s lives. The wonderfully simple process is based on how we all learned as children—unafraid to play and take risks.
I give my adult students a challenge: Imagine what would you be doing if you had time and weren’t afraid. For example, a career military student tried his hand at animating things, like creating a birthday video for his wife. Or as a more structured exercise, I have my students take a deck of cards and create a new card game.
Next, students challenge themselves to go outside their comfort zone and simply play with their creation. It doesn’t have to be structured, since when you get more flexible, you can be more original. Using the card game example, my students come up with rules for their game and play around to see how it works.
During this stage, students share their game (or other project) with others. Try to keep judgment at bay; it’s important to have a space where creativity can bloom. Get feedback. What do people like about the game (or animated card, or new idea)? Do the rules make sense?
Was it fun? Did it work? Write what you learned from others. Conduct an analysis by asking yourself critical questions about what you’d want to change. Try to be objective and curious, not critical.
5. And start the cycle again.
Products and answers improve when you go back and do the process again. Keep at it. Practicing this kind of structured brainstorming can completely transform your project, and your thinking.