Teaching the Creative Process

Posted on Jun 28, 2013 by Adobe Education Latest activity: Mar 28, 2014

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The creative process has many forms, but most have these general steps in common:

  • Framing or identifying the problem, question or challenge to solve;
  • Gathering information about it;
  • Providing time to incubate the material;
  • Exploring variations of existing ideas and generating new ones;
  • Filtering, ranking or combining ideas to find the best candidates;
  • Elaborating and refining the solution; and,
  • Communicating and receiving feedback.

How many of these steps do you already follow in your classroom projects? In what ways? What other steps do you take?

This discussion post is part of the Adobe Education Exchange Professional Development Workshops: Creativity in Today’s Classrooms: Designing Creativity in the Primary Grades Curriculum, Designing Creativity in the Middle Grades Curriculum, and Designing Creativity in the Upper Grades Curriculum.


Comments (10)

Sue Alexander

Posted on Mar 28, 2014 11:56 PM - Permalink

I have found that embedding direct instruction of the creative process within a simple first project helps my 7th and 8th grade students approach later works with more confidence and delivers much better outcomes. Less formal reminders, like "I don't think that chick is ready to hatch; back in the incubator she goes." help reinforce the process until it becomes habit.

Jean Harper

Posted on Mar 23, 2014 8:53 PM - Permalink

My lessons include most of the steps listed. First, the art problem and the objectives are presented. These are launched by initial activities that explore or brainstorm possibilities. During this part of the lesson, students gather information about their ideas and practice skills in a sketchbook. We often share solutions to the problem or show work from other years both examples and non-examples. The students are then given time to refine and complete their work. We conclude with student or teacher discussions following the four steps of art criticism to provide feedback.

delia delgadillo

Posted on Mar 21, 2014 3:51 AM - Permalink

The steps I already know are all of the above. I knew that in order to have a creative outcome and think critically you needed to do the folowing steps. The only thing I am really being refreshed with is how the creative process is numbered and in ways it is made into a step by step format. This was helpful to see beacause it did remind me of exactly what should be done in order to think creatively and freely. I am currently trying to use this outline to finish my school work because I know it has to be thoughful and creative.

Jean Discorfano

Posted on Nov 13, 2013 7:05 PM - Permalink

With the type of classes I teach, strictly CS6 and Premier Elements a lot of the information does not fit my curriculum. I have students for two week stretches, 4 hours a day, for a summer camp on web design. They strive to make a website and they really are free to use all their creativity for this. I do use some structured lessons to teach them how to use the Adobe programs but once they start their webpages they basically have free reign, (with a few restrictions.) I have printed out the list Robert Cocanougher posted for my own use.

Robert Cocanougher

Posted on Aug 29, 2013 9:06 PM - Permalink

This discussion is similar to others on creativity in this Exchange so I will include this list again. Teachers must be up on the latest thinking on the subject and not just apply scientific problem solving methods. Doing creative work and getting it analyzed in a critique takes advantage of a good teacher and other students.

brainstorming: any of a number of problem-solving techniques that are designed to expand ideas and encourage creativity. List making, mapping, associative thinking, and metaphorical thinking are common strategies used.

divergent thinking: an open-ended problem-solving strategy. Starting with a broad theme, the artist or designer expands ideas in all directions.

convergent thinking: a problem-solving strategy in which a predetermined goal is pursued in a linear progression using a highly focused problem-solving process. Six steps are commonly used: 1. define the problem, 2. do research, 3. determine your objective, 4. devise a strategy, 5. execute the strategy, 6. evaluate the results.

critique: any means by which the strengths and weaknesses of designs are analyzed.

cause-and-effect critique (or formal analysis): a critique in which the viewer seeks to determine the cause for each visual or emotional effect in a design. For example, the dynamism in a design may be caused by the diagonal lines and asymmetrical balance used.

compare/contrast critique: a critique in which similarities and differences between two designs are analyzed. Often used in art history classes to demonstrate differences in approach between artists.

descriptive critique: a critique in which the viewer carefully describes what he or she sees when observing a design.

objective criticism: the assessment of strengths and weakness in a design based solely on the visual information presented.

subjective criticism: the assessment of strengths and weaknesses in a design based on nonobjective criteria, such as the narrative implications of an idea, the cultural ramifications of an action, or the personal meaning of an image.

metaphorical thinking: the use of metaphors or analogies to create visual or verbal bridges.

recontextualization: a postmodern practice in which the meaning of an image or object is changed by the context in which it is placed.

Mark `Adamowski

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 1:45 AM - Permalink

Thank you for submitting your valuable list. I'm new to Abobe Education Exchange. It seems to have gems of knowledge around every corner.

Sue Alexander

Posted on Mar 28, 2014 11:47 PM - Permalink

Thank you for the excellent list Robert. Now I just need the MiddleSchoolese translation.

Ken Hakstol

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 4:00 PM - Permalink

The process you have listed is a model for colllaborative problem/passion based learning. If kids use this flow in their learing from primary grades by the time they are teenagers the creative habit of mind will be so natural. It will direct them as learners and citizens of the planet.

Nick Robertson

Posted on Jul 30, 2013 11:35 AM - Permalink

The creative learning process identified in the general steps is very close to what we taught but we did not identify them in such a structured way. In the lessons we used it was the steps we missed, or did not fully realize, that stopped a good task from being a great one. We were probably lacking in generating new variations, although we did do these in a limited capacity, and filtering and ranking. Another time pressed area was elaborating and refining.

My excuse, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, is when teaching VET or Certificate courses the standardization is based on a large variety of competencies and these competencies must be shown in order to finish the course. While we housed these comps in projects the variety of software needed to be taught cuts down on deeper exploration which tends to rely on the students own investigation outside the allotted hours. In my view standardization in assessment created by government scoring and University entry levels, tends to inhibit the diversity in exploring software and enlarging projects fully. This is perhaps the lineal model that Robinson mentions in his videos, that is, its based on an older scholastic system that’s needed to be updated.

Students that loved the design process would further investigate software to solve their own problems, others would need more structured projects.

Nicholas Murray

Posted on Jul 18, 2013 4:26 AM - Permalink

I agree that the process you identify is important for learners to follow to access, understand and apply the creative process. I find that it is sometimes useful to make comparisons to 'thinking theory'. If you look at either Bloom's or Anderson's taxonomy as a framework for thinking, the same processes are identified (just different labels). What I find interesting is that the ranking of thinking/creative processes in this way allows learners to understand the level or difficulty of thinking and therefore the time and application they may need at each stage. So I might explore/highlight with my learners that the gathering of information (comparable to the 'remember' thinking stage) is a relatively easy cognitive process. The process of evaluation (gathering and applying feedback) required much more careful thought and planning for it to be a useful process.