Fostering creativity

Post forty-eight in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is week ten of the collaborative blogging and we continue with chapter eight. 

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

In terms of other conditions that I’ve seen enhance creativity in the classroom, I would add – ‘freedom’. I guess, in many ways, freedom could be seen as a component of the ‘Space and time’ conditions mentioned, however, I feel the purpose and benefit of providing ‘freedom’ goes beyond this. If I think about my use of ‘freedom’ when facilitating creative tasks, especially with younger children, I have seen it act as a real agent for creativity. When the children are given ‘freedom’, following a period of ‘Modelling’, ‘Challenge’, and alongside ‘Space and time’, then almost all of the pupils become stimulated, as doing so in this manner provides freedom for those who crave it, and informed/guided freedom for those who prefer a more structured path. I believe a sense of no strings attached ‘freedom’ is vital in ensuring pupils engage with the creative process. Not providing such conditions can result in many subtle forms of reproduction, rather than individuality.

In terms of support, I’ve found a cycle of returning to ‘Modelling’, reminding them of the ‘Challenge’, and reassuring them that the ‘Space and time’ required is available to them works best. Again, this is a balancing act, as some want / need distinct timeframes, while others revel in non-specificity. My reflections of such lessons is that there isn’t a one size fits all version of creating the optimal conditions for creativity. As I’ve eluded to in this reflection, and previous ones, some pupils need structure and guidance to help instil the confidence and conditions required to be creative, while others like an open-ended, free environment in which to create. As a teacher, we need to be ready to mould the environment into one which is as effective as possible for all of our pupils. Doing so is a fascinating form of creativity in and of itself.

David House @House_dg

The list of points to consider in order to facilitate, or foster, creativity is fairly comprehensive: resources, levels of structure, challenge, modelling, space and time, support and intervention, and creating a safe environment. I find that it is also important to have built the right working relationship with a group, to have engaged with them as a whole class whilst working on a creative project collaboratively. It is then important for the group to have developed a collective and individual sense of responsibility.

Amongst occasions when creativity has been promoted successfully in our school I would look back to a visit from some animateurs from a touring orchestra, they led a session with GCSE students which had the sound of Debussy’s music as a focus. There were several aspects of this which made it successful: the integrity and openness of the animateurs, their sense of humour, their ability to take risks, the layout of the group [in a larger space than normal enabling a semi-circle with immediate eye contact with everyone], a sense of purpose and a clear way of working towards a final “presentation”. Reflecting on this my colleague and I changed the way we laid out our usual teaching room in order to give students more immediate access to instruments and to be able to see each other clearly, we also consciously adopted a much more risk-taking approach when working with a whole class, being much more prepared to stop if something was clearly not working and also to give time to ideas and see them through to some form of completion.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

Having open ended tasks certainly helps with creativity as well as encouraging pupils to bring any of their informal musical learning and the musicianship skills that they have learnt into the classroom to enhance their creative experience. I think that the best creative lessons is where the lesson has a strong focus or lesson aim in which students can focus their creativity. For example, giving pupils a short melodic phrase and asking home to adapt and transform it before extending it is a good way to help students progress creatively. You might set some parameters such as instrument choice or length of bars or something so that pupils can then compare their work at the end to that of the rest of the class. By giving the students the same starting point and maybe scaffolding through modelling ways you can develop ideas such as through inversion, changing a note etc will help students to gain confidence in their creative work.

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