Creativity and risk taking

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be creative and how we give pupils the opportunity to be creative. Doing a quick search of the web I found the National Curriculum site has quite a few pages on what it deems creativity to be. The first one asks:

What comes to mind when you think of creativity? People being imaginative, inventive, taking risks and challenging convention? Do you think about originality and the value of what people produce? Perhaps you think you can only be creative if you are artistic.

A good starting point for defining creativity is ‘All our futures: Creativity, culture and education’, the National Advisory Committee’s report (DfEE, 1999). This report states that we are all, or can be, creative to a lesser or greater degree if we are given the opportunity. The definition of creativity in the report (page 29) is broken down into four characteristics:

First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.


I totally believe the part that states that we can all be creative but I also think that, even if given the chance, we don’t necessarily do it. I have in mind my own school days, gifted and talented children, and what happened last week in my class, which I mentioned here.

Being creative involves taking risks. Taking risks involves the possibility of not being 100% perfect and correct and can cause major trauma to someone who is used to getting things right all of the time. Perfectionism is a common trait amongst G&T pupils because they just aren’t used to not being able to do things*. When I was at school I would never put my hand up to join in with class discussions a) because everyone thought I was nerdy and I wanted to blend in and pretend I didn’t know the answer, and b) because I was terrified that my answer wasn’t correct even when I knew it was. There was risk in putting my hand up; risk of making myself look silly and not living up to the expectation that is placed on G&T children.

So can creativity be taught? I’m not sure taught is the right word, as I think we are all inherently creative in some way, but I definitely believe what we do in the classroom can help to unleash creativity amongst all children. And I think one way of doing this is to encourage risk-taking (not of the silly, jump off a cliff kind though!). If children feel safe taking risks with their work in the classroom they will become more willing to have a go at something new and unknown, and this is bound to lead to more creative thinking and willingness to share weird and wacky ideas. It is about getting all children to accept that everyone’s ideas are worthy and useful in some way.

Things that I already do to encourage this are using a creative thinking challenge each week to engage the children in discussion and thought about very random things; and getting children to take on the role of the teacher at different points in the lesson by doing the starter or plenary which puts some of them entirely out of their comfort zone at first. We also spend a lot of time in PSHE thinking about accepting everyone for who they are and recognising everyone’s special gifts and talents.

Something else I’ve come across, by way of Ian Addison (@ianaddison on twitter), that looks like a very useful tool in getting children to take risks is the Learning Event Generator which you can either use directly from the site or you can email the creator and get your own editable version.

I’m also looking into setting up an entrepreneur club as I think this might get the children to take risks and think creatively. I’ve come across a competition on this site: One Big Idea which I am hoping to start off with.

I would be really interested to hear what you do to encourage risk taking and creativity in your classroom.

*Of course it’s not true of all G&T children; I have also got a child in my class who is very creative and takes lots of risks with his work although not always at the most appropriate time and he is in the minority of all the G&T children I have known.

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