Creativity is more than an artistic skill; it involves thinking differently, collaborating, developing solutions and communicating in a way that connects with others. Leveraging creativity in the classroom helps students develop a deeper understanding and make cross-curricular connections. Creativity is also a valuable skill for the workforce across many fields. Recently, EdSurge podcast host Carl Hooker discussed with field experts how educators can foster creativity for college and career readiness.
What importance does creativity play when it comes to college and career pathways?
Whether high school graduates transition to college or a career, there is a good chance that they will tap into their creative skills. Tacy Trowbridge, the lead for global education thought leadership and advocacy at Adobe, references an analysis of 2 million resumes and 2 million job postings that revealed employers are widely looking for creative skills. In fact, says Trowbridge, “Ninety-eight percent of college placement officers think creative skills are essential for college and career success.”
Donna Caldwell, a senior solutions consultant for Adobe Education, says this is partly a result of the demand for innovation. “Employers don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like. But what they do know is that they need collaborators, storytellers and people with new ideas. And creativity is at the core of all of that.”
How can educators develop creativity in today’s students?
Are students of today really that different from those of previous generations? Research indicates that Generation Z students are technologically savvy and appreciate interdisciplinary, project-based learning experiences. Katie Fielding, an instructional technology coordinator at Arlington Public Schools in Virginia, sees that today’s students lean heavily into video and collaboration for deeper understanding, suggesting Gen Z learns best from working with other people.
Trowbridge adds that while 65 percent of students cite doing and creating as the most effective methods of learning, they don’t often have such classroom opportunities. So how can we adjust learning experiences to cultivate more creating?
For Caldwell, one strategy is to appreciate that students offer diverse backgrounds and talents. She supports students in exploring their gifts and interests through projects and encourages educators to start by substituting a traditional assignment with an opportunity to create. This can ignite creative confidence in students, where they shift from passive consumers to successful creators. And the results are impressive: integrating creativity leads to better student outcomes.
What tools or resources can teachers use to help encourage creativity in the classroom?
For educators unsure of how to bring more creative outlets into their lessons, Trowbridge suggests finding a community, such as ISTE Connect or Adobe Education Exchange, where practitioners share ideas and resources. After all, it is important for educators to feed their own creativity and continue to learn.
Some educators may feel overwhelmed by adding projects to their already busy curriculum, but Caldwell and Fielding offer two strategies that can greatly reduce stress and time: use rubrics for assessment and incorporate peer reviews. Rubrics help bring more concrete assessment to creativity, a skill that many otherwise consider difficult to score. And research shows that peer reviews build community among students and help them develop critical thinking and communication skills.
Fielding encourages teachers to dive into Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a research-based framework that embraces creative solutions while removing learning barriers. She teaches students to be more inclusive by making their creations accessible to those who are differently abled.
Trowbridge adds that opportunities to enhance creativity are not inherently accessible and equitable, leading to what could be considered a “creativity gap.” But educators have a chance to open pathways through collaborative projects that encourage innovation and creative thinking.
How does creativity help with students’ mental health and well-being?
“Creativity can provide students with an outlet to process some of the emotions they’re feeling by giving them opportunities to explore and build their personal identities,” says Fielding. As students mature and their digital worlds grow, she encourages them to move from a focus on digital citizenship to digital wellness. Caldwell agrees, noting students today can be overwhelmed by digital influences that leave them feeling less valuable. But giving students a stage to have a voice, tell their stories and express their emotions can have a pivotal impact on how they feel about themselves; it can keep them involved and committed to their education.
Creativity, in turn, can lead to optimism. “Creative, authentic problem-solving opens students’ minds, gives them agency and empowers them with meaningful skills,” says Trowbridge. It gives them a stronger self-identity and voice to tackle challenges.
Not every student is going to go to college. How can infusing creativity in the K-12 setting help them when they leave our institution?
The key to preparing students for the workforce is to integrate real-world experiences that engage workplace learning in the classroom. Caldwell suggests that educators need to make community connections so that students recognize the authentic value in the skills they are learning. And one viable option is through career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Trowbridge agrees that CTE programs give students a solid pathway to in-demand careers, and creativity serves as an important skill. Jobs in the creative economy can lead to higher salaries and faster advancement, according to an Adobe-LinkedIn study. Creativity has a broad reach across the workforce. Students are already using creative thinking and problem-solving to succeed in classes. Trowbridge encourages educators to take those implicit skills and make them explicit. For example, students can create a portfolio of their work and emphasize what they have learned through collaboration and creativity.
What creative skills are employers looking for?
Today’s careers require creativity. For some careers, creativity is expressed through storytelling. Caldwell connects creativity with pitching an idea or telling a story to spur action. Employers that encourage a culture of innovation provide their employees with greater job satisfaction and lead to improved workplace performance.
Fielding adds that creativity builds advocacy skills that employers want, such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Trowbridge summarizes what employers are looking for as a cross-section of creative skills: creative communication, creative problem-solving and creative thinking.