How can the cultural sector support schools to teach for creativity?

Tips from our masterclass on our Teaching for Creativity programme

22 May 2023

In March 2023, A New Direction invited artists, facilitators, and teachers to share their knowledge and skills to build confidence and understanding of our Teaching for Creativity programme, including the creative pedagogies and practices and ways to better support schools’ engagement.

Creativity can be taught

The session began with Erin Barnes introducing the Creative Wheel, which explores the 5 creative habits of mind. The diagram below names the competencies that we believe children and young people should be exploring. Creativity is not tacit but can be taught, and should be an essential focus in teaching.

This wheel is a very powerful lens A New Direction uses to create resources and learning programmes. The wheel and resources are there to really help teachers feel confident, equipped, and supported in embedding creativity across their curriculum and classes. As more teachers engage with this, it can be an extremely useful frame for the cultural sector to embed into their creative learning and participation programmes.

Ideas are blossoming

Sarah Pimenta is a textile artist and facilitator who uses the creative habits in her practice and even has the wheel posted on her wall to see how she can bring the habits into all her workshops. She uses the habits to gauge how successful a workshop was; were the students thinking imaginatively, inquisitively, or collaboratively? Did they persevere? Were they disciplined? ‘I am always really happy when I can visibly see [the creative habits] happening in action.’

Sarah took us through a lovely example of a project she had recently run in which a school wanted students to create pieces in response to the school's values of cooperation, ambition, respect, and empathy.

For the students, it was a real challenge to present such abstract values creatively. Sarah recounted being met with a lot of blank faces that were unsure of how to draw these words and took us through an activity called the Lotus Flower that she used to help the young people to broaden their thinking and generate ideas.

Start by drawing a first circle in the middle and writing a word in it, in this case, the word was empathy, then draw a round of circles around the first and fill them with words that come straight to mind when thinking of the first word, then create an outer round of circles around that, and fill those with more words.

‘It’s important to not overthink this exercise, go with the first place that your imagination will take you to.’ With the lotus flower approach ideas are blossoming out from each other.

Sarah recalled that one of the students using this exercise found the project challenging and was ready to give up, but once she found her idea, she not only persevered, but she stayed behind to make sure her piece of artwork was completed. ‘I thought she embodied it [the creative habits] so amazingly because once she started it, she really focused on the task she was doing.’

Sarah told us here how she uses the Creative Habits wheel to praise and give language to what the students were doing. ‘I found that during that workshop I didn’t say “wow that’s an amazing piece of art that you’ve created” I was saying things like “you know you’ve been really disciplined there, you’ve really persevered” – beyond the creativity it was more about how she’d approached the task that made it a really successful experience.’

Shared Language

We were very lucky to also be joined by Kat Pugh, the Headteacher at The St Marylebone School, London lead in Arts Council England’s Creativity Collaboratives.

Kat’s biggest piece of advice for Teaching for Creativity is to involve staff in a collaborative, creative process rather than force upon them something they don’t believe in. This gives the people we are working with a voice, and shared language. Kat said they have found it useful when working with partners, ‘if you establish a shared language then you’re able to express and identify the common goals, outcomes, obstacles and ultimately solutions.’

‘One of the ways to be most effective in working with teachers is convincing them that there is genuine cultural, social, and educational benefit of whatever programme they’re taking on. Otherwise, they can feel like again that it’s another thing they’re being told to do. Spend time talking to them about what it is they want the benefit to be, how that might be achieved, and identifying what that might look like in the classroom.’

‘Bring people on the journey rather than telling where they’re going to go.’

Taster Cards

We ended the Masterclass with a very insightful conversation with panel speakers Dwayne Rose from Royal Museums Greenwich and Tascha Von Uexkull from Foundling Museum, who spoke about their work on creating Taster Cards for A New Direction.

Schools Learning Producer Dwayne found that when developing the Taster Cards and looking through the 5 habits of mind he felt a sense of justification ‘looking through the creative habits, one thing that stood out to me initially was they are things I think I was already doing, it was a bit of vindication seeing them in this form, so nicely set up and also seeing there was more research and background into it that helped me explore and unpack the stuff I was doing.’

Learning Coordinator Tascha created Diverse History Taster Cards with her colleagues and found developing them a ‘useful challenge’ as she had to reduce the amount of information on each card. The creative habits were incredibly useful in this challenge – by looking at the habits the activities they had planned were divided from two larger activities to four smaller ones that focused on different habits. Creating the taster cards ‘produced some really interesting conversations within the learning team about different ways into objects, especially within the context of working with different age groups…embracing the idea of us not having the answers and giving the children more agency.’

Explore our Taster Cards

A New Direction is keen to hear from cultural sector organisations that would like to use the Teaching For Creativity model in their programmes. To collaborate with us please contact Naranee

Find more about our Teach for Creativity programme.

Sign up to our Schools and Cultural Sector newsletters, to be kept up to date on all our future Teach for Creativity or Cultural Sector Masterclass events.