As in a creative company, the person in charge – the teacher – plays the key role in fostering creative output. Ultimately, the key to individual learning success is the learning culture established by the teacher, which must have the right balance of structure, orientation, and the freedom to develop individual talents. Teachers can only successfully adopt this responsibility and these somewhat unaccustomed roles through appropriate training and through the right leadership by school administrators. This is confirmed by the results of my quantitative study: 60.4% of all respondents answered that teachers in today’s schools are not inspiring and score this factor as one of the main barriers to creativity in schools. Underlining this, 79.3% named the training of teachers “to recognize and promote alternative solutions” as the number-one enabling factor for fostering creativity in schools.”
In the classroom to the 21st century the teacher needs to play a central role in fostering creativity in education, by…
A) acting as a conveyor of knowledge, communicating the subject matter in an exciting and enjoyable way and keeping pupils curious and engaged.
B) directing projects in cooperation with external speakers and supporting students by acting as a facilitator.
C) acting as a talent coach, helping individual pupils discover their talents and passions and, in cooperation with external speakers, motivating pupils to keep working on their talents in order to achieve excellence.
A) The teacher’s role as a creative conveyor of knowledge
The key change in the teacher’s role as a conveyor of knowledge is that teachers must learn to impart knowledge in such a way that it is not perceived as mere content with no further value after the exam (as is in fact largely the reality today). Knowledge must be conveyed as a value – the value of being able to solve unpredictable situations. In addition, to optimize their creative teaching, teachers will also have to take pupils’ individual learning habits into consideration in future. Only when teachers are able to take the time to do this and the necessary structural measures to support this are in place in the school can teachers “truly act as individual talent development coaches”, claims German neuroscientist Gerald Hüther. This is another reason why schools need a new organizational structure granting teachers the freedoms they need. In my view, only then can pupils learn successfully in the way that is best for them and their own future. Teachers need to know how to use a range of assessment and reporting strategies to evaluate students’ individual development and performance, thereby making a distinction between tuition and mentoring.
In the future, teachers will use a variety of technologies to prepare learning materials, opening up previously unimagined opportunities to inspire pupils individually and keep them engaged. To perfectly implement the model of the individual teaching of knowledge in the 21st century, technologies will be needed that make it much easier for teachers to collect data, map pupils’ individual development and assess them qualitatively. There is already a successful example of this futuristic scenario in the U.S. – the software system Kickboard developed by young entrepreneur Jennifer Medbery allows teachers to systematically track and analyze their teaching performance. The program lets teachers make notes on individual pupils’ behavior, observations, learning successes, reaction to specific teaching methods, etc. It then analyzes the data and looks for patterns to help teachers teach individual pupils more effectively and thereby support them better in the learning process.
B) The teacher’s role as a facilitator
When acting as a facilitator, the teacher’s role is to guide pupils toward independent learning in a joint effort in order to help them reach their personal goals. The overall goal of this type of instructional design is to create independent learners. To help pupils acquire these skills, when mentoring them, rather than providing them with the actual solutions to problems, the teacher should instead provide students with strategies for arriving at solutions on their own, which they can use again when faced with similar problems in their later lives.
The role of teachers will be to teach pupils solution strategies instead of merely helping them find a solution. This is best done by asking questions that lead pupils to the solution. If a pupil is stuck and asks what to do next, providing the solution doesn’t help – instead, teachers should ask inspiring questions that help students reach the solution themselves (“What have you already tried?”, “And what happened?”, “Where could a possible solution lie?” etc.).
Teachers should only intervene when they see that a pupil has tried everything and is unable to solve the problem alone.
When it comes to solving problems, if teachers only ever push pupils in one direction – towards the correct answer – their pupils will be unable to independently solve unexpected problems using appropriate strategies in their later professional lives.
Teachers could look to successful creative leaders, who put interaction between people at the center of the creative process. Ben Coulson, Chief Creative Director at George Patterson/Young & Rubicam Melbourne, says: “I don’t believe in all this claiming written on the walls of board rooms. The best way to lead creatives is to have a general interest in what people are doing and what they really love to do. I sit next to them, just listen to what they are saying, and together we find the best and most interesting way they can bring it to life. I put myself back and try to help them.“
Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide, had a wonderful personal experience of being an educational leader for one day in a school in Manhattan. “Instead of cramming facts and theories into the minds of pupils, teachers need to challenge them to break down real problems and come up with creative solutions. For instance, a few years ago, I agreed to be ‘Principal for a Day’ at Chelsea High School in Lower Manhattan. Students there are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds – many from broken homes, some with no homes at all, they’re living in shelters. But the class I monitored was blessed to have a teacher that understood how to unleash creativity by asking her pupils to solve problems. On the day I observed the class, these tenth graders were given a problem that had been featured in that morning’s New York Times: A foie gras producer in upstate New York had a dilemma. He cared for his employees and wanted them to have good family lives but to produce the finest foie gras, the geese had to become attached to their caretaker – an employee of the farmer’s – and so the caretaker had to stay close to the goose, away from his own family, for a period of two weeks or more. The foie gras farmer’s dilemma was how to give employees family time without diminishing the quality of his foie gras. The problem was given to the class to solve. The pupils worked in pairs. After the teams huddled for ten minutes or so, a young Hispanic boy raised his hand and said that he and his partner Maria had come up with an idea. ‘This wouldn’t work right now, but in the future, if the farmer hired identical twins who would dress exactly alike and use the same cologne, they could switch with each other so they could each spend time with their family and the goose wouldn’t know the difference.’ Brilliant. A great example of how problem-solving exercises can unleash creative thinking.”
Keith Reinhard shares another example from DDB which celebrates creative thinking: “In the DDB network, each office finds ways to celebrate and reward creative thinking. At the network level, we award the Bill Bernbach Award to the best example of applying our founder’s creative philosophies in solving modern-day problems. Likewise, teachers should find ways to recognize and celebrate creativity in the classroom.”
C) The teacher’s role as a motivator to drive pupils toward excellence
Once children have discovered their passion in a certain area, the teacher’s role changes again. In this capacity, they are neither a conveyor of knowledge nor a facilitator but a motivator. Through praise, and without creating pressure to perform, the teacher should encourage every pupil to keep practicing in the individual area they have sought out for themselves and thereby improve. Here, external speakers who are leaders in their field within the school’s local area can serve as mentors and role models for pupils to encourage them to perform.
Keith Reinhard from DDB Worldwide has another wonderful parallel that could inspire teachers. He says: “In their role as inspiring leaders, teachers need to provide creative stimulus with excellent creatives. In the agency, that means exposing staff to out-of-the-box thinking and out-of-the-box thinkers – their stories and their work. In the classroom, it should be the same. At DDB New York, for example, Matt Eastwood, the agency’s Executive Creative Director, stages regular “Curiosity Sessions”where prominent figures in creative pursuits like architecture, music and fashion are brought into the agency to address the entire agency staff. In addition to providing real insights and inspiration, these sessions remind staffers in all the agency disciplines – account executives, planners and administrators – that creativity at DDB is not limited to the creative department. In the education system, showcasing the lives and work of great creative thinkers, both historical and contemporary, through videos, museum visits, live appearances or other media should be a key part of the curriculum.”
 Sommer, Leonard – Study conducted using Kwiksurveys online survey, n=407 (March-July 2013)
 Hüther, Gerald (20.4.2012) – http://bit.ly/12FP8Fn
 Coulson, Ben (17.5.2013) – personal interview at the George Pattersson/Y&R offices in Melbourne
 Reinhard, Keith (6.6.2013) – personal interview by telephone