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Developing Creativity in the Classroom

reviewed by Bobbi Hansen

coverTitle: Developing Creativity in the Classroom: Learning and Innovation for 21st Century Schools
Author(s): Todd Kettler, Kristen N. Lamb, & Dianna R. Mullet
Publisher: Prufrock Press, Austin
ISBN: 1618218042, Pages: 240, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

Are we doing enough to prepare students to live and work in the 21st century? That question constitutes a major theme of Developing Creativity in the Classroom: Learning and Innovation for 21st Century Schools. Kettler, Lamb, and Mullet, the authors of the text, embark upon a 360-degree examination of the field of creativity, offering compelling arguments for its inclusion in 21st century classrooms. Even though they are not the first to issue this clarion call to address creativity in our educational system, they make an exquisite case for its inclusion. Other texts have been instrumental in highlighting the significance of creativity, such as The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, published by a national coalition of business and education professionals. Their original 21st century skills, commonly referred to as the 4 Cs (creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration), are even more relevant today than they were then. Creativity, as the authors suggest, may even be the most essential of these 21st century skills because without it, there would not be the innovation that creates jobs, addresses challenges, and inspires the social and individual progress so needed for society today.


In Part One, “What is Creativity?,” the authors elegantly lay the foundational framework for the remainder of the text, offering the reader workable definitions and grounding theories regarding the nature of creativity and innovation. In the first chapter, selective historical accounts of creativity are highlighted, beginning with those in ancient Greece and proceeding through the eras of ancient Rome, medieval times, and, of course, the Renaissance. The authors effectively make the case that creativity and innovation have been part of the fabric of humankind for thousands of years. Of special note, Chapter One also presents the authors’ views surrounding some of the myths surrounding creativity, and, in particular, teachers’ common misconceptions of creativity. Referencing research by Andiliou and Murphy (2010), they state, “Generally, teachers’ beliefs around creativity tend to misalign with research/theory in three areas,” (p. 19). In Table 2 (p. 20), they carefully spell out those misconceptions and offer more accurate conceptions of creativity. I believe all educators will find this section to be most enlightening.

In Chapter Two, the authors advance notable theories of creativity represented by such luminaries as Rogers, Renzulli, Sternberg, Csikszentmihalyi, and Guilford. Alongside these historically renowned theorists, the authors share more contemporary models. Chapter Three, the final chapter in Part One, focuses the reader’s attention on a central issue: how to assess creativity. Despite the myth that creativity cannot be accurately assessed, the authors state, “On the whole, creativity tests are reliable and scores tend to be stable over time,” (p. 51). All in all, Part One does a commendable job grounding the reader in the field of creativity, both past and present.

If Part One sets the table, then Part Two, “Practicing a Creative Pedagogy,” and Part Three, “Creative Pedagogy in the Content Areas,” are the main course. Yes, theory is important, but teachers are always drawn to the practical applications of theory. In this regard, the authors do not disappoint. Immediately in Chapter Four, “Integrated Approach to Teaching Creativity,” they dispute the frequent teacher concern that there just isn’t enough time in the school day to teach for creativity. The writers lay out their counter-argument by making the case that one can achieve this seemingly unreachable goal of teaching creativity through a slight altering of the manner in which students engage, process, and are assessed on their learning tasks. Particularly helpful to educators is the information in Table 6 (p. 73), which offers numerous descriptors of what creative teaching can look like with a goal of dispelling the myth that one must treat creativity as an add-on in the school day. Additionally, in Chapter Five, “Developing Psychosocial Skills,” the authors smartly address the current educational interest in growth mindset (Dweck, 2016) and make a strong argument that teaching for student creativity also supports students’ overall efficacy as learners capable of innovative thought.

I would venture to guess that many teachers would agree with my vote for favorite chapters: Chapter Six, “Teaching Models to Develop Creativity in the Classroom,” and Chapter Seven, “Strategies and Tactics for Developing Creativity in the Classroom.” In Chapter Six, the writers link to Joyce and Weil’s classic work, Models of Teaching (1972), and highlight those particular models that promote creativity. They then carefully lead the reader to an even deeper understanding of these powerful models (e.g., Teacher Incubation Model, Creative Problem Solving, Project-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Design-Based Learning, Creative Productive Independent Investigations). Along with these descriptions, they offer companion tables with step-by-step guidelines for how teachers can successfully integrate these models into their pedagogical repertoire. With such superb scaffolding, the authors light the path for teachers to experiment with essential strategies and tactics for the development of creative classrooms. Of particular note is Table 15 (p. 121), “Common Creativity Suppressors,” and the resulting discussion that calls attention to phenomena that teachers may be unaware of, yet which may hijack their own best efforts to teach in a more creative manner.

In Part Three, whether you are an elementary teacher with responsibilities for teaching all four core content disciplines (Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies) or a secondary teacher tasked with teaching just one, there are numerous subject-specific pedagogical suggestions for integrating creativity into the school day. For example, in Chapter Nine, “Developing Creative Abilities in Mathematics,” the authors present a table (Table 25, p. 170) that lists 25 different creative abilities in mathematics. This list is notable as most lay people, and also many teachers, still view math instruction as more linear and without the nuances that may be able to spark creative thought in students. In fact, as the writers point out, math is an extraordinarily dynamic discipline that lends itself quite nicely to creative reasoning and problem solving.

The final section, Part Four, “Systemic Development of Creativity,” tackles the entire system of schooling in the U.S. and also the spells out the need for further research on creativity in educational settings. As to the first issue, schooling in America, the authors highlight the need for districts to take the long view regarding the inclusion of innovative and entrepreneurial skills students will need in order to thrive in the 21st century. Regarding the need to continue our collective learning about creativity in schools, they offer quite a number of compelling research trajectories. Examples of these include: (a) the ecology of cultivating creative capacity in complex educational systems, (b) relationships between creativity and other metrics of achievement, (c) measurement tools capable of documenting growth in creative skills and production, (d) the effectiveness of models, strategies, and tactics, (e) understanding and changing teachers’ perceptions of creativity, (f) the role of leadership in fostering creativity in educational institutions, and (g) barriers to creativity in educational institutions.

As an educator who has had the privilege of teaching graduate-level courses on creativity, I know that this text will remain a trusted resource for me going forward. I appreciate how the authors not only interpret major theories but also seamlessly facilitate teachers’ practical understanding of creativity while also addressing their possible hesitations regarding how to integrate creativity into their daily classroom routines. I look forward to contemplating the ideas presented in this text as they advance my own instructional practices teaching for creativity.


Andiliou, A., & Murphy, K. P., (2010). Examining variations among researchers’ and teachers’ conceptualizations of creativity: A review and synthesis of contemporary research. Educational Research Review, 5, 201–219.

Dweck, C. S., (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Joyce, B. R., & Weil, M., (1972). Models of teaching. Englewood Hills, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2006). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2019, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22880, Date Accessed: 7/16/2019 12:43:38 PM

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