Ken Robinson – education system “killing” creativity

Renowned educator Sir Ken Robinson believes that a lack of creativity in the classroom is hindering students, both in their academic performance, and in their capacity to obtain success beyond formal education.

In his TEDTalk entitled, “How schools kill creativity”, Robinson reveals that arts and creative subjects play an integral part in the formation of a child’s character and success, and yet are being replaced in favour of “left brain” subjects such as maths and science. “Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability,” he told the audience. “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Robinson outlines three principle things about intelligence, adding that when it comes to motivating students, educators must address all three and not simply focus on academic achievements. According to Robinson, intelligence is diverse, (“We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.”), intelligence is dynamic, and intelligence is distinct. By integrating arts and growth mindset activities into the classroom, teachers can help students increase their intelligence, and go on to enjoy better success throughout their life.

smiling girl showing painted hands

What teachers can do to foster creativity in the classroom

Robinson believes that the way mistakes and failures are stigmatised plays a key role in quashing a child’s creative tendencies. He says:

“What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original…And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.”

This way of thinking is fundamentally in keeping with principles outlined in Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, and teachers can combat this by eradicating the fear of failure in their own classroom. Creative thinking and learning can play a part in this; for example, you may wish to have a board on to which students can pin ideas about how to solve a problem, or how to approach a challenge. By showing that there are many different ways to do so, children will feel more inclined to explore these, and less afraid of getting things “wrong”.

There are some other tips regarding creativity and motivation for students:

  • Psychologist Paul Torrance carried out numerous tests to determine the best ways to teach creativity in the classroom, and found that methods such as media-based programmes and the Osborn-Parnes model of CPS (creative problem solving) had the most success.
  • View creativity as a positive thing, not an inhibitor to academic success. Integrate classes about artists, dancers, authors and famous creative figures to show your children that a career in the arts is attainable, and should be embraced as much as a job in other fields.
  • Embrace creativity and curiosity throughout the school as a whole. The Case for Creativity in Schools is a great resource with advice about how to do this.