Creativity killers!

You may have heard or may have read that “Schools are creativity killers”. But, do schools really “kill creativity”? If yes, several queries arise: Why do schools kill creativity? How do schools kill creativity? And, how can we as educators help reducing it?

George Land and Beth Jarman conducted a research on children in 1968. The researchers questioned 1600 kids aged 5 about the potential applications for paperclips. They retested the same kids again when they were 10 and 15.


The results of the research were surprising. The percentage of participants who scored the “Genius Level” as reported by the article “What Paperclips Tell us About Creativity” was as follows:

98% of 5 years- olds

10% of 10 year olds

15% of 15-year-olds

This study and several more daily observations demonstrate how creativity is being killed off in schools. But, the question is why is this happening? Parents expect the reverse when their kids join schools and we ,as educators, do too!

The main reason for this goes back to the prevailing education system that was specifically designed in the 19th century to create the workforce needed by manufacturers. Some may claim that this educational system has witnessed regular reforms in recent years. It did, indeed! Significant adjustments has happened since that time. However, the main traditional structure is still there.

The primary role of students and teachers in the classroom has not been significantly altered through these years. Teachers are still doing a big part of their students’ learning for the majority of the learning sessions without even realizing it. How is this happening? Teachers consider the class a student – centered classroom since they keep on engaging their students through meaningful discussions and cooperative learning activities. However, If educators will measure the frequency of these meaningful discussions and their depth, they will notice how in most classes these discussions fall flat and end up with a discussion between the instructor and a small group of interested students leaving behind the other students. These left behind students will gradually feel disengaged and will either get bored or cause discipline problems. Hence, in reality the percentage of students who are actively engaged is minimal and moreover, the duration of this active engagement per individual is minimal too!

Adding to the aforementioned, teaching is still carried in a four walls classroom with the same table-chair student seating combination that was used a century ago. Even though, there is a trend towards making the classroom more student-centered than teacher-centered and towards providing students a bigger voice in their education. Again, the majority of schools advocate the traditional seating plan in which students sit with their backs to one another and their faces toward the instructor. In best case scenario, these students rearrange their seating to perform a group work, a pair work or any similar arrangement to cooperate with their classmates in answering a question or solving a problem. This may run for 10 to 20 minutes, after which students again go back to the original seating to engage with their teachers in wrapping up the work at hand or any similar Teacher-centered activity.

In the twenty first century and amid this massive advancement in technology, we must take into account what was considered as active learning the conventional and implement immense reformation in the education system to meet the demands of the present and the future. This starts by embracing a more flexible curriculum that is unrestricted by standardized examinations and that considers students co-constructors of knowledge. Adding to this, we have to adopt learning that meets students’ interest, need, learning style, age- level, and experienced reality. Don’t underestimate kids power! From my experience with kids, I have noticed that the thorough directions and instructions we keep on delivering to kids hinder their creativity! We overdo guiding kids to the extent of killing their creativity! We overdo following our pre-planning to the extent of suppressing kids’ innate curiosity! This is driven by the fact that we care about students’ grades more than their learning and about the end product more than the process itself. Sometimes, we have to give kids the lead in doing their learning and they will surprise us by reaching or even exceeding our set-out learning outcomes.

Afterwards, embracing the shift comes into action when we adopt the teaching strategies and techniques that require students to inquire, investigate and play during the learning journey, while teachers are facilitating and scaffolding their learning. This necessitates a learning environment that is designed to fulfill the needs of the students. Depending on the demands of the activity, learning may take place in the classroom, a factory, an industry, a bakery, a museum, etc

To that end, addressing teaching methods and strategies such as experiential learning, play – based learning, inquiry -based learning and project-based learning, to be at the core of our learning rather than an activity that is done from time to time will be a step stone to a bright future in education.

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