Draft or daft? 12 design principles for creative capacity-building schools

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  • Education
  • Schools

This project ‘identifies the trends and challenges that will shape our economy in the next 25 years to better inform the policy decisions we must make today.’

We were asked to explore how school systems can best be designed to develop all students’ creative capacities during their school years, so that young people are better equipped to succeed in the 21st century economy. Although The RSA’s ‘Power to Create’ philosophy is predicated on a belief that creativity has intrinsic and non-economic value for individuals and communities, this memo was driven by the project’s particular rationale – the economic imperative for a more creative workforce.

Whilst based purely on desk research, the work, helped by the Roosevelt Institute’s recommended structure of ‘situation-complication-questions-answers’ and short word limit, has helped marshall our own thinking. Although our emerging aim – to close the creativity gap in learning - widens the RSA’s lens beyond schools and young people, it’s been useful to concentrate again on the eternally important and contested role of schools.

In synthesising existing research, I came across these quote from McWilliam and Haukka’s paper on ‘educating the creative workforce’. They neatly summarises the need for new approaches, and the mistakes that many advocates have made, rendering creativity easy prey for anti-progressives: “Creative capacity building should not be misrecognised as the reiteration of an oft-repeated call to a more student-centred approach. Rather, it signals a fundamental shift towards a more complex and experimental pedagogical setting.

“Creative capacity building still languishes in the too-hard-basket for many in mainstream education. It will not happen simply by being hoped for despite our systems of formal education, nor can it be left to ‘arty’ types or IT gurus to develop at the margins. There is no doubting the exciting teaching and learning that is now emerging in some quarters of education. It is not a matter of finding examples of such capacity building and parading them on awards nights, but of understanding the new principles through which relevant pedagogies can be made scalable and sustainable at an institutional, and indeed, systemic level.”

Right now, we’re still working on the ‘answers’ section. Following the approach taken in our recent reports on SMSC and teacher education, we’ve avoided prescriptive policy recommendations and instead carved out twelve ‘design principles’ that can hopefully be used by any school or system to inform its own policy ideas.

We’re putting a bit of conceptual and practical meat on the bones of these draft design principles this week, but we’d welcome responses to them in their current, uncluttered state. We’ll aim to publish the whole memo before Easter, and will of course acknowledge any contributions made.

1) Model creativity across and beyond your institution

2) Lead for creativity by both enabling and demonstrating creative behaviours

3) Provide creative professional development opportunities for all educators throughout their career, and especially those in the early stages, post-qualification

4) Build coherent and progressive provision across the curriculum, informed by the best research about how creative development differs from childhood to adolescence

Mind the gap, concentrating efforts and interventions at students from low income families, connected to broader achievement-raising and community-building strategies

6) Develop subject-specific pedagogies to support the knowledge-rich development of creative capacities

7) Prioritise the arts and cultural learning as a unique and crucial canvas for creative development

8) Create structured, sustained and rigorous opportunities for project-based, enquiry-oriented learning

9) Implement clear and consistent processes to assess the creative capacities of your students, including opportunities for self and peer assessment

10) Engage with resources and opportunities beyond the school gates

11) Design tough-minded evaluation processes that aim to understand, rather than demonstrate, the impact of specific interventions

12) Foster upward, active demand for creativity, especially from parents and employers

To contribute your ideas, comment below, email [email protected], or talk to me on twitter @joehallg.

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  • Hi Joe

    Thank you for sharing this and inviting feedback at this early stage. I wondered whether a precursor to these design principles being applied is people having an understanding of creative diversity and how people work with ideas? I learned about this through an excellent Coursera MOOC on Creativity, Innovation and Change from Penn State University and have written about it here: http://colabdudley.com/2014/11/02/creative-diversity-uncovering-your-creative-identity/ and here: http://colabdudley.com/2014/11/03/how-do-you-work-with-ideas/

    Considering this leads me to reflect on what ‘modelling creativity’ might mean in practice, given we each have different approaches and different creative identities. How might we ensure that those looking to learn from us don’t begin think that one way is the right way? 

    I don’t have any answers, simply making connections. Good luck with the work, and look forward to hearing about it at Fellowship Council.