Without creation, there can be no creativity. If we want to inspire our students to be creative, as teachers we must invite students to CREATE content frequently. Creative sharing should not take place only at the end of the year, or as a culminating project, but as a regular part of learning. The following story illustrates this dynamic in the context of ceramics, but this is applicable in other domains as well. In his book “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat,” author John Ortberg writes:

A book called Art and Fear shows how indispensably failure is tied to learning. A ceramics teacher divided his class into two groups. One group would be graded solely on quantity of work– fifty pounds of pottery would be an “A,” forty would be a “B,” and so on. The other group would be graded on quality. Students in that group had to produce only one pot– but it had better be good.

Amazingly, all the highest quality pots were turned out by the quantity group. It seems that while the quantity group kept on churning out pots, they were continually learning from their disasters and growing as artists. The quality group sat around theorizing about perfection and worrying about it– but they never actually got any better. Apparently– at least when it comes to pottery– trying and failing, learning from failure, and trying again works a lot better than waiting for perfection. No pot, no matter how misshapen, is really a failure. Each is just another step on the road to an “A.” It is a road littered with imperfect pots. But there is no other road.

The book Ortberg is citing was written by Ted Orland, and is titled “Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.”

How are you inviting your students to CREATE as a regular part of your class? Students should have regular opportunities to create content and share their ideas with both analog as well as digital tools. Just as “quality time” usually only takes place between parents and children when there is “quantity time,” the same can be said for creativity in multiple domains. Quantity is critical.

Let’s get creative!

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  • I think creativity is one of the biggest pieces missing from most schools today. It has become common practice to push standards to the point that the creativity is going right out the window. You’re right, it’s so important to let the kids create their own content. I’m not saying we don’t need standards in the classroom, but isn’t it possible to teach the standards WITH creativity? Thank you for the thoughtful post. In my gifted education classroom, creativity is what drives us!

  • Jody Watson

    I would have never predicted that the quantity group would produce a better result. That in a way goes against so many things that so many of us as teachers teach and promote. On the flip side it shows that it is so important to make mistakes it makes a better product in the end. Instead of just thinking about it or theorizing about it go out and do it and revise your thought processes. Thanks for the post (and the book).

  • Martha Yim

    I have just read your post as part of Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. I loved reading your post. Initially while reading it I did not think that the students using the quantity method would come out with the best pot. I was imagining the quality pot students to begin their pot and methodically work and work until it was the best. I have always believed that failure is a part of learning but wow is it a hard part to take sometimes. After reading your blog I see more clearly the reasoning behind failure and how it makes you better. I can relate to the statement about quality time with your kids because we definitely have more quality time when there is a quantity of time. I completely agree that art should be a part of learning through out the process and not just a cumulative at the end. I look forward to reading more. Thank you for the post.

    As part of my class assignment I will be summarizing my visits to your blog with a post on my blog on June 30.

    My Blog: http://yimmarthaedm310.blogspot.com/
    Class Blog: http://edm310.blogspot.com/

  • Pingback: Inspiring creativity, when more is more… | Punya Mishra's Web()

  • Chan

    Unfortunately creativity is very difficult to grade on standardized tests. High stakes tests promote conformity as opposed to creativity.

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