Many thanks to all who participated in my workshop at the IB conference of the Americas in Toronto last week. Below is a quick overview of the workshop.

Entitled “The Importance of Community to Creative Thinking,” the aim of the workshop was to demonstrate that creativity is the result of new associations or connections, a process significantly enhanced when an individual is a member of a collaborative community. Evolution has made this a fundamental and unavoidable element of humanity.

The potential for creative thinking can be enhanced in our classes if we see our learners as members of a collaborative community that sets out to solve real-world problems. Here are 11 principles that can help achieve this:

  1. Learners must be encouraged to contribute different perspectives, life experiences, knowledge sets, values, and cultures. The more diverse these contributions are, the greater the potential for creativity.
  2. Our learning environments must be exempt from judgement, to allow for unrestrained sharing.
  3. All new ideas must be valued. Some will be retained; others will eventually be set aside. An idea that might not seem pertinent on first consideration could spark another idea or could contain elements that may be worth pursuing at another time.
  4. We need to encourage the search for new information, resources, and ideas that allow learners to complete their tasks. This is research, but intrinsically motivated.
  5. Failure should not be experienced as entirely negative, but rather as a step in the learning process that can provide a lot of valuable data. As Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  6. Schools should be a place where learners can discover, express, and develop their individual passions. The motivation and knowledge that arise naturally from individual passions can be invaluable to group work and creative thinking.
  7. Our classroom communities need to celebrate experimentation, which may or may not result in success.
  8. Educators and learners must develop a culture of deep listening; this goes beyond the words and includes intention, tone, emotion and body language.
  9. Non-conformity must be allowed. Very few of the world’s innovations or creative productions have resulted from conformity. Indeed, non-conformity is a surer path to creative thinking.
  10. We must de-emphasize standardization, which is one of the best ways to kill creative thinking.
  11. Lastly, we need clear objectives for each project. Learners who understand the goal will do a better job of thinking creatively.

For educators, the challenge is to design the right problem, or rather to guide the learners in identifying the problem and setting the objectives. This is where we come full circle: teachers are members of a professional community of educators that can also engage in the process of creative thinking as they design their classes. Together with their colleagues and other stakeholders in their educational community, they can observe the principles listed above as they set out identify the real-world problems that become student projects.   Here is some inspiration:


Your comments are welcome. So are your suggestions for real-world problems that students can tackle.