Student Creativity and the Common Core

Student Creativity and the Common CoreOne of the factors that led to the development of the Common Core Standards was a desire to prepare our students for success in the global economy. The United States has traditionally led the global economy in the area of innovation.  In his book The Rise of the Creative Class (2012), economist Richard Florida defines a growing group of people finding success in jobs that require them to “create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content.” But how will adopting the Common Core Standards help to prepare our students for global competitiveness through creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation?

A recent issue of Educational Leadership from ASCD (February 2013) was dedicated to the topic of creativity. In the article The Uncommon Core, author Jason Ohler rightly points out that the Common Core Standards do not include an explicit focus on creativity. While it may be true that there is little mention of creativity, innovation or originality in the standards themselves, there remains plenty of opportunity within the standards to allow students to be creative.

Let me pause here to explain what is meant by creativity. It is more than artistic expression and outside-the-box thinking. In several of the articles I read, creativity is defined as the combination of a unique perspective or solution applied to a relevant problem or task. Ohler also adds an element of media to his definition and describes creativity as, “creating something new to the student, that is appropriate or useful and demonstrates command of some kind of media.” This definition of creativity–something that must be applied appropriately to a task and must utilize a form of media as a vehicle for communication–is perfectly aligned with the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.  

Bloom’s Taxonomy puts creating at the top level of higher-order thinking because of the nature of the thinking involved in the creative process, which requires students to move beyond basic understanding. In the article Creativity on the Brink, author Alane Starko connects creativity to deep understanding: “If we want students to master the content, they must do something with it beyond simple repetition. They must use it in meaningful ways and make it their own”(Starko, 2013). As teachers transition towards the Common Core Standards, they are certainly being asked to attend to each of the aspects expressed through creativity: increased rigor and higher-order thinking, the application and transfer of knowledge, and the ability to communicate effectively through 21st century technology tools.

For these reasons, I do believe that although not mentioned directly in the Common Core Standards, creativity is essential to their successful implementation. So, how should teachers be thinking about creativity in their classrooms? One of the essential shifts of the Common Core is focus. This focus should be providing both teachers and students with opportunities to delve deeply into core concepts and allow for the time needed to be creative in problem solving and expression. In fact, it is this type of focus that may allow students to have the time and permission to let their minds wander and allow creativity to flourish. In his blog titled The Importance of Creativity in the Classroom, Colin Hussey reminds us that as adults, our creative thoughts tend to come to us when our mind is free to wander: “when driving home, in the bath, or perhaps watching TV.” What this means for classrooms, teachers and instruction is that it needs to be designed for “children to have space, and time to think and to experiment.” Educators should be fostering this type of environment by posing interesting problems and asking lots of questions, encouraging students to ask lots of questions and pose their own problems and then allowing time and space for divergent and flexible thinking.

If we provide this environment and spend enough time, will creativity follow? Not necessarily. More thoughts to come in future blogs regarding specific ways to build and assess creativity!

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