Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom

Book Review: Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom written by Hanne Marie Bratsberg

Nurturing Creativity in theClassroom is an edited collection of essays on how to bring creative and critical thinking into the classroom. Lately, the discussion on creativity in schools has flourished yet again. This book focuses on preparing students of today for the future of tomorrow. It is no longer enough to teach them about knowledge; they now have to be able to think for themselves. Torrance called the same discussion ‘a quiet revolution’ that has been ongoing since the 1960s. With this book the editors, Ronald A. Beghetto and James C. Kaufman, are making a true effort to make this a loud revolution.

Both editors are well known within the Creative Studies field where Beghetto’s research focuses on K-12classroom creativity and Kaufman has dedicated his career to studying how to nurture and encourage creativity. Together these two editors create a collaboration that brings the importance of creativity in the classroom to the forefront of education. There are a total of 28 different contributors dispersed on 20 chapters and 418 pages. A quick look at the list of contributors is enough to heighten anyone’s anticipation. The essays are written by both American- and foreign authors, including well-known researchers Mark A. Runco and Robert J. Sternberg.

But, how can you nurture creativity in the classroom? The editors suggest it starts with educating the teachers and the decision makers. Most teachers, especially the ones favoring creativity, do not fully understand what creativity is and what itactually means. This has to change if progress is going to be made.

The different essays presented examine and respond to the increasing tension many educators face when having to deal with curriculum constraints while trying to balance student creativity in the classroom. Most chapters refer to the constraining effects of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 but they all show concrete examples on how to work within these restrictions.

The book begins with a bold chapter written by Raymond S.Nickerson, where he lists all the ways to discourage creative thinking in the classroom. The chapter is written in a sarcastic but powerful tone. However,the next 19 chapters teach you how to nurture creativity in the classroom. With clear examples and easy-to-follow steps the different essays discuss in various degrees four topics viewed from different angles. The chapters examine how formal and informal learning blended together represents the ideal act of learning,which can then lead to creative productivity. In addition, the authors review how dependence and passive learning should be replaced with independence andengaged learning.

Two authors, Joseph S.Renzulli and Chatharina F. Dewet, propose how teachers should stop teachingand, instead, become facilitators of learning. Further, they discuss how the best thing for a school system is to take away the many enforced curriculum constraints (rules, standardized tests, closed curriculum). However, theauthors note the difficulty of instituting such practices and recommend as econd best option which is to infuse creativity in every subject, in every class, and in every mind, body and heart of both students and teachers.

The last topic touches on the many definitions of creativity.With the literature being so broad on how to define creativity, the best way to fulfill the creative potential in every classroom has become very difficult.

One might believe this is another book in a long line of promising additions to the growing debate about school and creativity but this book will surprise you. With concrete tips and detailed steps on how to implement creative and critical thinking in the classroom, the work is way ahead of its competitors. Beghetto and Kaufman have done an excellent job editing; making this a useful, must read for teachers, decisions makers, andothers with an interest in teaching to nurture creativity.

Some might find the book repetitive, because some chapters present similar techniques on how to nurture creativity. Therefore, a next step for the editors could be to put together small themed instructional books for teachers. The creative teaching techniques would then be the only thing in focus and there would be no feeling of repetitiveness. On the other hand, the book is an easy read and it lets you skip from chapter to chapter. A teacher will find great benefit from the book’s lessons for not only their students’ learning experience, but also for their own personal value.

However, you do not need to be an expert in creative thinking or teaching to gain value from this book. If you are a teacher who is new to creative teaching you will go along way with an open mind and a willingness to learn. If you are a consultant like me, I can assure you the book will liftyour spirits and encourage you to go out and implement what is presented. If I were a well-set teacher I would rearrange my lessons plan for the coming week tonight.

Runco nicely sums up the spirit of the book when he says, “Imagine what the world could be if everyone made even the slightest gain in their creative potentials. The total impact would be enormous and amazing...even if there is no guarantee, it is worth trying” (p. 248-249).Preparing children of today for the future of tomorrow starts with nurturing creativity in the classroom.

HanneMarie Bratsberg graduated from Oslo School of Management, Norway in 2010 with aBachelor Degree in Innovation, Creativity and Business Development. Shortly thereafter she started a consultant company with two classmates called IC. The company focuses on bringing creative thinking into schools. The company filled a gap in the Norwegian school system but Hanne felt she needed more experience and knowledge before making it into a full time job. She is now enjoying every minute of her graduate studies at ICSC at Buffalo State. Hanne’s passion and interests include creativity in education, nurturing creativity in others,teaching creative thinking and facilitating CPS-sessions.


Ismet Mamnoon said...

What an excellent review. I recently bought this book and plan to read it. I am particularly interested in the specific techniques. In my work with training teachers to bring creativity into the classroom - I find that most often what the teachers want are specific steps they can take.

Marta said...

Nicely done. It bears mentioning this book was published in 2010 (perhaps a citation?) Beghetto and Kaufman gathered a great group of educators who've generously shared very specific techniques. Two which stand out for me are: Alexinia Young Baldwin's "Creativity: A look outside the bos in classrooms" (Chapter 4)which details unit lessons which stimulate creative thinking, and much more; and Ruth Richards'"Everyday creativity in the classroom: A trip through time with seven suggestions" (Chapter 10)which begins with discovery learning and evolves into a formula for bringing "creativity fearlessly into the world" (p. 222).

Janice said...

I saw this book on Amazon a few weeks ago and wondered if it was worth getting. Clearly it is. Thanks for sharing this review.