Cross-curricula Approaches to Creativity

Creativity can be somewhat difficult to define, however its expression certainly extends further than the realm of the arts.

The creative student is motivated, independent, curious and intuitive. To be creative, a student is required to read critically, establish the problem, think logically and work towards a resolution. This is a practice that is embedded in many subjects — with or without a visual component — but taught explicitly in an Art subject through a design process. In this context to think creatively is defined as the ability to state the problem quickly, be flexible in an approach and select the most appropriate resolution.

Design thinking strategies, which help students see their work from a range of perspectives, are integral to a 21st Century worldview and span over a plethora of occupations, some of which will not even exist until students themselves create them. Although this learning is an area of key knowledge in the Study Design, the process of problem defining and problem solving through abstract thinking is applicable to most subject areas. This is not a new way of thinking. Embedding arts practice and design thinking into most subject areas, without allowing it to be a mere accessory, has proved a positive step towards students’ enhanced understanding of content. This begs the question – should design thinking be a separate entity? Should we be teaching creativity in an umbrella approach where the knowledge and skills are transferable? Or do we need to collaborate more purposefully in our endeavour to create a more unified curriculum?

I often find that students encounter some difficulty in applying knowledge from one area of study to another. Again, this is nothing new, however when writing new course work I attempt to address some of these issues in my own classes. Cross-curricula practice is a vital step forward in encouraging the act of transferring knowledge. Last year the Year 11 Visual Communication Design class created typographic quotes based on the English text The Outsider, which they had studied previously. Students had extensive knowledge of this text and were able to openly discuss the meaning behind their given quotes, sharing ideas with the group about potential approaches. This discussion led to the generation and development of relevant imagery that reflected underlying concepts within the text – avoiding the temptation to create something ‘just because it looks good’.

Each year we study the Bauhaus movement, which has strong links to what is taught in 20th Century History. Not surprisingly, students who achieved the best results were those who had gained an understanding of historical context and could draw on this in response to a visual stimulus. This year, students will be looking at designing promotional material for a School club or subject area. The aim is to allow students to collaborate with others within the School in an ‘apprenticeship’ approach to gain a ‘real-life’ experience – writing a brief based on client need, applying design thinking in a folio process, meeting with the client and pitching their final idea. This Outcome will take design out of the classroom and into the broader community, where relevance and ownership helps to drive creativity.

Creative thinkers are intrinsically motivated to change something they are dissatisfied with. This is not limited to creative subjects but stretches widely across the curriculum. By fostering creativity in the classroom and allowing for meaningful cross-curricular practice we can begin to develop the entrepreneurial culture that is vital in an ever-changing society.

Ms Lilly Dusting

Visual Communication and Design Teacher

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