Build STEM Skills

Developing 21st Century Skills: Creativity

Developing creativity in your 21st century STEM classroom

The global STEM workplace is in need of students who are creative. Employers are looking for students who are not only proficient in their content, but who can also produce the next great innovation. Students need to be creative while working individually and as part of a team. Yet, in a culture of standards and state tests, it is hard to integrate these skills into the classroom. Do you provide opportunities for your students to develop creativity and other 21st Century Skills?

Essential Creativity Skills

Creativity is often viewed as integrating arts into the curriculum, but it is so much more! Creativity also includes harnessing curiosity and taking risks in order to produce inventive ideas. Students who develop these skills become effective problem solvers and critical thinkers. The Framework for 21st Century Learning has further broken down creativity into three essential skills:

Think Creatively

– Use a variety of idea creation techniques
– Create innovative and valuable ideas
– Evaluate and refine ideas for improvement

Work Creatively with Others

– Be open to the perspectives and feedback of others
– Effectively communicate ideas with others
– Understand that mistakes and failures are a part of the process

Implement Innovations

– Turn an idea into a tangible innovation

In other words, creativity embodies the ability to be original, flexible, and persistent. Such skills are essential to solve problems and think critically in situations both within and outside of the STEM fields.

CreativityClassroom Strategies to Develop Student Creativity

You may not always feel very creative, but integrating creativity is possible in any STEM classroom! Here are some strategies that can make fostering creativity an integral part of your classroom:

Ask Questions
When solving problems, ask your students why that was the best solution. This is especially the case in math courses. Don’t let students accept the algorithm and move on. Why is it the best? What are some other ways to solve the problem?

Take Risks
Encourage students to brainstorm new ideas for solving a variety of problems when they encounter something that has them stumped. Provide extra time for students to make mistakes and learn from them. Rather than feeling rushed to find the right answer or the “right way,” time provides an opportunity to learn from the process.

Model Creativity
Be a role model of creativity in your classroom. Express ideas in unexpected ways and solve real-world problems. Seeing your dedication to creative pursuits will inspire them to do the same.

Visual Thinking
Rather than writing explanations for their work, ask your students to draw pictures. Artistic skill is not important here – just focus on the content. Expressing thought in a visual way will open students’ minds to new connections.

Choice
Allow students to choose how to provide evidence of their mastery of the content. Students may have different ways of expressing themselves, so allow them to showcase their strengths. Assess their work with a rubric to add consistency in expectations.

Peer Debriefing
Allow students to conduct peer reviews for any assignment using creativity skills. This will allow students to work in teams to problem solve and improve their product while reflecting on the process.

Change can be intimidating, so start small by choosing one or two of the strategies listed to try out in your classroom. Once you and your students become more comfortable with using creativity as part of the learning process, introduce a few more.

Keep exploring! Find additional tips to transform your classroom from STEM to STEAM, along with even more ways to bring creativity into your classroom.

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Alexandra D. Owens

Alexandra Owens is a STEM Education consultant based in Charleston, SC. She taught middle school science for many years and is now completing her doctorate in STEM Education at Texas Tech University.
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