Creative Ways to Engage Students

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Fostering creativity can take on a variety of forms from simple to complex. One project might engage students in a quick team-building game, while another could be a complex assignment that lasts the entire semester. Creative techniques are conducted within a supportive environment where students have time to discover creative ways to complete the task. Here are a few techniques that have been particularly successful.

Pre-packaged Lessons

With the diversity of material on the internet, teachers have more options than ever when it comes to course development. Pre-packaged lessons are often incorporate multiple forms of media to engage students in more than simply reading textbooks. They give teachers the opportunity to customize the material and take the time to build meaningful exercises for a fuller educational experience.

Assumption Busting

When a student is stuck in an unhelpful thinking pattern or doesn’t have any ideas, assumption busting is a helpful exercise to spark innovative thinking. Everyone makes assumptions about their environment, which is natural. But this limited thinking can block the flow of creative ideas. Asking and answering assumptions inspires new approaches to an unsolved problem.

To use this in a classroom or seminar, list assumptions about the problem. For instance, maybe one assumption is that a task is impossible to complete given a limited timeline or other constraints. Ask participants to think of conditions where this assumption is no longer true. The final outcome should be debunking assumptions and creating conditions under which the task can be completed.

Brain-Sketching

In brain-sketching, a problem is given and students make sketches that get passed to their neighbors. The sketches evolve as they are passed along, generating more and more sophisticated solutions. In this exercise, students are divided into groups of 6-8. It’s important to explain the problem or question well so that each student understands the dilemma. In the groups, each student makes a sketch and passes it to the right. Participants annotate and revise the sketches or use them to make new ones that also get passed along.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a widely used tool utilizing lateral thinking to develop ideas or thoughts that are outside of the box. Some ideas may be outlandish or seem crazy, but these ideas are often the ones that lead to a creative solution. Participants change and improve on ideas until several viable options are on the table. Brainstorming helps students diagnose a problem and overcome resistance to proposed solutions.

Concept Mapping

Concept maps are a graphic way to document knowledge. Nodes are used to build networks connected by links. Each node represents a single concept. Combining links and nodes establishing relationships between concepts. Concept maps help with understanding complex structures and generating ideas for complicated issues.

Instructors create a focus question that includes a problem the concept map is meant to solve. There should be about 20-25 key concepts listed that pertain to the subject being studied. The most general concepts go to the top of the list, and specific ones migrate to the bottom. Use post-its or draw shapes on a whiteboard to build hierarchical relationships between all the ideas. Concept maps should be easy to revise and reconstruct as ideas become more defined. Have students look for links the connect multiple concepts and discuss how to proceed to final solution(s).

Giving students additional tools that go beyond classroom lectures teaches collaboration and facilitates retention of concepts and ideas in any subject.