Elements of Creativity Implications for fostering creativity in the classroom

What is creativity?

"Creativity is a basic human need to make new" (Piirto, 2004, p. 37).

I believe everyone has the capacity for creativity if certain conditions are met. Below, I draw from readings and my own experiences to discuss five fundamental elements for developing students' creativity in a classroom setting.

Self-discipline. Creativity requires a "thorn" or impetus that drives a person to create and the motivation to keep at the creative work (Piirto, 2011). Deep practice (Coyle, 2009) or deliberate practice (Piirto, 2011) allow the creator to become expert and automatic in the knowledge and skills of the domain.
Struggle. “Struggle is not optional - it’s neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit - i.e., practicing - in order to keep myelin functioning properly. After all, myelin is living tissue” (Coyle, 2009, pp. 43-44).
Incubation. Creativity requires time after a problem has been presented for the creator to mull over ideas and reflect on suctioned, consciously and unconsciously (Piirto, 2004). "Experiments have shown that if people are given a problem and told to solve it right away, they solve it less successfully than if they are given the problem and told to go away and think about it" (Piirto, 2004, p. 65).
Risk-taking. Creative people allow themselves to try new things even when it is scary or failure is likely. They embrace productive discomfort and try again (Piirto, 2011).
Trust. Creativity requires that individuals in collaborative groups trust one another enough to take risks, share ideas, and accept feedback without fear of judgement (Piirto, 2004).
  • Self-discipline - Help students find their passion or “thorn.” Give them time, space, and resources to become an expert in their chosen discipline.
  • Struggle - Teach like a music ensemble director: drill fundamentals, find and correct mistakes, hold individuals accountable for their own contributions, “perfect practice makes perfect.”
  • Incubation - Give students time to process and think. Avoid requiring quick answers to big problems.
  • Risk-taking - Help students see the their failed attempts as opportunities for growth. Share with them times you have failed and tried again.
  • Trust - Foster a classroom culture of trust and constructive feedback. Share your own ideas and accept feedback from students.


Coyle, D. (2009). The talent code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown. Here's how. New York: Bantam Books.

Piirto, J. (2004). Understanding creativity. Scottsdale, Ariz: Great Potential Press.

Piirto, J. (2011). Creativity for 21st century skills: How to embed creativity into the curriculum. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Created By
Kelly Riley


Created with images by Unsplash - "snowflake ice frost" • GLady - "flower daisy nature" • NICHD NIH - "Neurons & glia" • Destroysall - "time" • cogdogblog - "2011/366/206 Risky Play" • jurvetson - "Creative Commandments 1&2"

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