Developing creativity and imagination in your students

Creativity and imagination are essential capacities which have a vital role to play across the whole curriculum and at every age and key stage. 

Humans are born with a natural capacity to be inquisitive and curious about their world. Our ability to imagine a different world and to create new possibilities sets us apart from other creatures. They are characteristics that contribute to all aspects of human life and are more essential than ever in the rapidly changing 21st century.

And yet, with the understandable response to the ever-demanding standards of league tables, exam grades, SATs and levels of progress, the focus on syllabus content in schools can suppress the very skills that nurture creativity.

Here we share some of the key messages from our innovative Connecting Classrooms Core Skills training course, offered in partnership with the British Council. To find out more about this programme and to attend a fully funded course on this topic, click here.

Five essential creative capacities

Questioning and challenging

  • Asking “Why?” “How?” “What if?”
  • Responding to ideas, questions, tasks or problems in an unusual way
  • Asking unusual questions
  • Challenging conventions and assumptions
  • Thinking independently

Making connections and seeing relationships

  • Recognising the significance of knowledge or previous experience
  • Generalising from information and experience, searching for trends and patterns
  • Using analogies and metaphor
  • Reinterpreting and applying learning in new contexts
  • Communicating ideas in novel or unexpected ways

Envisaging what might be

  • Imagining and seeing things in the mind’s eye
  • Asking ‘what if?’
  • Visualising alternatives
  • Seeing possibilities, problems and challenges
  • Looking at and thinking about things differently and from different points of view

Exploring ideas and keeping options open

  • Playing with ideas and experimenting.
  • Responding intuitively and trusting intuition.
  • Keeping an open mind, adapting and modifying ideas to achieve creative results
  • Trying alternatives and fresh approaches
  • Anticipating and overcoming difficulties, following through ideas

Reflecting critically on ideas, actions and outcomes

  • Reviewing progress
  • Inviting and incorporating feedback
  • Making perceptive observations about originality and value
  • Asking “Is this good; is this what’s needed?”
  • Putting forward constructive comments, ideas, explanations and ways of doing things1

Rising to the challenge

The challenge for us as teachers is to look at our pedagogical practice and the opportunities around us with a fresh perspective so that we may begin to actively encourage the development of these creative capabilities.

Teaching creatively: could you adapt your approach to make it more interesting or challenging? A demonstration lesson to inspire students? Present as if you were being filmed for a TV show?

Teaching for creative learning: take a step back; design it so the students do most of the work – the thinking, researching, working out, presenting – e.g. a high level of student agency.

The environment: think of your classroom and immediate learning environment. Are there ways in which you might adapt what you have to help create spaces that excite curiosity and stimulate imagination? What if you took the learning elsewhere?

Resources: what ideas do you have for extending the resources available to you and your students? Are there materials that are inexpensive or free that can be used and adapted to encourage your students to invent and adapt? Could students invent, design and make their own?

Having good ideas, putting the imagination to work, planning and making things happen are all capabilities that are essential in a world where the pace of change demands adaptability, resilience and risk-taking. Knowledge alone is not enough. Very young children have the natural curiosity to explore and experiment but sometimes formal schooling places barriers around them and teaches that there is a right and a wrong answer to everything. Surely we owe it to our students to remove the barriers and let their creativity and imagination flourish?

Develop creativity and imagination in YOUR classroom

Creative Education is offering a new set of fully funded British Council core skills courses across England under the new Connecting Classrooms programme. The course on creativity and imagination will enable you to:

  • Plan projects, lessons and challenges that promote creative thinking in learning
  • Relate creative approaches to real-world challenges
  • Understand the issues involved in assessing creativity and undertake meaningful assessment
  • Collaborate to plan and lead professional development through reflective practice
  • Learn strategies to consciously nurture and develop the creative capacities of your pupils

For more information visit: Creativity and imagination


1The five essential capacities are taken from: ‘Creativity and Imagination: Participant Resources’, with acknowledgement of the work of: Cochrane, P & Cockett, M. (2007) ‘Building a creative school – a dynamic approach to school development