Developing Creativity in Every Learner

Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner
By Doug Johnson
(Corwin 2015 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

vonstaden3All of the newest standards call for students to demonstrate creativity, innovation and divergent thinking; yet we keep evaluating students, teachers and schools on “one right answer” high stakes tests. In this book, Doug Johnson addresses this disconnect as well as how we can change our own thinking (and teaching) and the attitudes of those around us (including our bosses).

teaching outside lines von stadenJohnson begins the book with a chapter that addresses the critical need for creativity/innovation in our world, and points out that if we want our students to be able to hold “good-paying” jobs, they will need to be innovative. He further argues that creativity is not just for art class and must be infused in all classes.

He follows up this chapter with one on defining creativity, innovation, craftsmanship, etc. and how to encourage it. He provides the formula: originality + effectiveness + craftsmanship = creativity, and emphasizes that originality without craftsmanship is not productive.

Bringing creativity to class

Johnson goes on in other chapters to discuss incorporating creativity/innovation into our content, the role that it should play, including craftsmanship and self-reflection, project based learning, using technology to increase creativity, the need for genuine questions that are meaningful and relevant to students, and assessment of creativity/innovation.

He provides some rubrics, a tool to evaluate whether an app is a good fit for the desired creativity, and a list that addresses the levels of Bloom’s with examples and tech tools.

He rounds out the book with chapters that address the issue of breaking the status quo and teaching students to think and create outside of a one-right-answer mentality. He considers, why are teachers reluctant to allow more creativity and innovation in their classrooms?

Johnson addresses the common issues that are cited and gives us lists of actions that we can take to get past these issues and “Teach outside the lines.” He also gives teachers a list of ideas on how to expand their professional development.

Easy-to-follow ideas to share

At the end of each chapter there are a few thought provoking questions for reflection titled “Up for Discussion.” Additionally, most sections in the chapters have numbered lists to address the topic at hand, making the book very easy to follow and providing a list of talking points/arguments that can be used when addressing these same issues with others.

Overall, this book is worth the read. It provides a lot of good information and addresses the need for us to start teaching our students to be creative and innovative rather than conformist. After all, we no longer live in the industrial revolution, and we need creativity and innovation to solve our current and future problems. In short, our future depends on it.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.

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