A Review of "Teaching Creatively and Teaching Creativity"

This edited volume, compiled from presentations made during three symposia at the 2010 and 2011 APA Annual Conventions, tackles the subject of creativity in the classroom from such angles as: What is creativity? How do you foster creativity in students? What are the benefits of teaching creativity? What does it mean to teach creatively? Why is creative teaching important? The authors distinguish between teaching creatively (using new approaches to make learning interesting) and teaching creativity (fostering creative attitude and aptitude in students) and give each one equal treatment. Five chapters are devoted specifically to teaching creatively and teaching creativity, respectively. They assert throughout that creative teaching and the teaching of creativity are not at odds with teaching course content; quite the opposite, chapter after chapter provides examples and rationale for how creativity in teaching enhances learning outcomes for students in subjects ranging from math to music.

The included chapters provide a theoretical introduction to the topic as well as numerous concrete examples of creative teaching and teaching creativity to various grade levels and subjects. Authors define and explicate such key concepts as: The key personality traits of creativity (Chapter 1); The role of new media in student learning (Chapter 6); Provide numerous examples of strategies including teaching creativity lessons (Chapter 2); Developing serious educational games (Chapter 4); And leveraging micromoment opportunities (Chapter 10). The chapters devoted to practice often provide significant detail to enable replication, or at least to give the reader a starting point to develop a similar lesson or program, but they offer more than just a how-to guide, citing research findings and theories on pedagogical and content knowledge (Chapter 3), time-related factors to creativity (Chapter 9) and intrinsic motivation (Chapter 13). Thus the book provides not only tips and ideas for the how of teaching creativity, but also significant investigation of the why as well.

This book is written to appeal to educators at all levels—from preschool to postgraduate—and there seems to be something in it for all of them. Some chapters seem specific at first glance to the point that they may not be applicable to a broader audience (e.g., Chapter 7 on Teaching Music Theory, Chapter 8 on Teaching Forensic Psychology), but even these chapters manage to link the specific to the universal, discussing broader issues such as how to engage the creative learner (Chapter 7) and techniques for real-world applications of concepts (Chapter 8).

The book’s primary weakness is a lack of empirical findings on the effectiveness of the various approaches introduced throughout the chapters, but this is stated clearly at the outset: “This book is not the place where a reader will find descriptions of complex research designs... It is, however, the place to find descriptions of practical techniques that are known to be effective because the authors have used and refined them” (pg. vii-viii). Despite this caveat, I would have liked the authors to provide at least minimal evidence of effectiveness—perhaps in the next volume.

"Teaching Creatively and Teaching Creativity" serves multiple functions for the interested reader. It can be read cover to cover as an introduction to the concepts and theories of creative teaching, or individual chapters can be chosen at random to peruse for inspiration or ideas on enhancing one’s own teaching style or ability. It was both an enjoyable and educational read; I highly recommend it to any educator interested in creative teaching.