Creativity and Choice

Today’s blog is based around a recommendation, from my last post, to consider creativity.  Creativity is increasingly important with Pink (2005) indicating that it will be essential for success in the Conceptual Age.

A wonderful post on ‘Playful Learning’ mentions four practices that tend to have a negative impact on the development of creativity.  They are rewards, shadowing, limited choices and over scheduling.  The article is well worth a read (see below). Three of these I agree are very accurate, the other, limited choices, I would modify for increased accuracy or perhaps simply to avoid misunderstanding.

Limited choices are important.  They are important to assist with decision-making.  Research has shown adults, let alone children, have trouble with too many choices.  This is because we easily move into ‘overwhelm’ when given unlimited choice. We need limited choices to enable us to maintain our ability to make effective decisions.   As a consequence it is arguable that children gain from limited choice to support development of appropriate decision-making.   For example a young child who wants to play outside in the sunshine can be give a choice of which sun hat to wear, not whether they get to wear one or not.  The trick is providing choice within an appropriate (age related) range and knowing what your key intention is.  In this case to develop the healthy habit of wear a sun hat.

I suspect however it was not so much decision making that was in the authors thoughts but rather ‘rigorously preplanned activities’, including coloring in books, which prevent exploration and lateral thinking.  As exploration and lateral thinking are important for creativity I totally agree with the sentiment that with set ‘right’ outcomes and processes creativity tends to be damaged.   Thus it is important we balance the freedom that allows creativity to blossom with guidance that assists decision-making.

In the classroom being very clear about what is the session focus or intention is can allow this to be easily achieved.  What is it that needs to be covered?  Is it content, then allow freedom in the method students cover the set content, as well as the exploration of more depth or personalisation with the content.  If you are covering a process allow choice in what they cover when using the process.   For example if I want my students to learning how to research I allow them to look up a topic they are interested in.   Or if I want a presentation on the difference between mitosis and meiosis I allow them to decide how they want to present it.   This way we can provide both coverage of curriculum and development of creativity (which is naturally there).

Pink outlines other ideas for developing creativity.   He states, firstly teach ‘its ok to have fun’.  Promoting fun in class (in way that is productive) allow creativity to be develop by having general key outcome requirements and allow them to develop the product using their own strengths.*   Without a sense of safety it is a major challenge to have fun so it is important to establish a positive safe environments.  Creating the positive and safe learning environment underpins creativity as well as learning outcomes.

Wishing everyone a wonderful festive season

Thanks for this wonderful topic suggestion

I look forward to hear from more of you


*still covering all skills naturally

Paredes, N P P ( 2014) How to kill your child’s creativity Retrieved from

Pink, Daniel (2005) A Whole New Mind Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin

Too many choices: for starting point check out:

Iyengar, S. S. & Kamenica, E. (2007) Choice Overload and Simplicity Seeking. Retrieved from


Positivity Ratio


Would it surprise you that research has shown we commonly use negative words, our minds spend more time focused on negative incidences, importantly negative incidences and environments have a stronger impact (than positive ones) and many individuals have a ‘problem’ focused mindset enhancing negativity they experience (Heath & Heath, 2010). It appears our minds are wired for negative, or potential dangerous situations.   At the same time positive psychology asserts, for better health and wellbeing, a ratio of 3 positive to 1 negative is required (Fredickson, 2013).

Perhaps, this emphasis on negativity is another example of our biological tendency to watch out for potential threats and ‘ideally’ take appropriate action.   Yet many of us suffer stress and poor health as a result of not managing what we perceive as threats.  Consequently learning to handle negative events is important for our health.  Is this just a matter of learning ‘stress management’?   I don’t think so, learning to understand other perspectives, reframe our perceptions, enhancing communication and conflict management will also help.   Further by training our brains, effectively rewiring them, to observe and select positive aspects of life, negativity will need to be dealt with less often. In turn enhancing our health, wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Today’s suggestions are on how we can increase our leaning toward the 3 to 1 ratio.

First I ask you to create two lists of 20-30 words each.   One list is of positive words, for example peace, kind, appreciation, the other of negative words, such as war, trouble and punishment.   Next spend a few minutes reading and considering each list in turn.   Did you feel a difference?   Words always have an impact in this way; you are able to be more aware of the impact when you focus on them grouped this way.   Consider which impact you prefer, would prefer to promote.   Then create a matching word list; perhaps add to it each day.   Post it somewhere you see it regularly, this will allow you to build your positive word vocabulary and impact.   Intentionally countering the tendency for more negative than positive words.

Other powerful activities include practicing expressing gratitude for what you appreciate, giving compliments and looking for strengths (what is done well).  This assists developing a focus on positive incidences, activities and environments.  Keep a journal or record of things you appreciate and compliments you receive.  Doing these activities will train your brain to look for and use positive qualities and activities.  Further by keeping a record you will also enable you to remind your self of these positive things, if a low moment is encountered.

You may have noticed I have emphasised what ‘we’ can do, rather than what to do ‘with our students’.  This is simply because by practicing these skills not only do we role model them, they will also become automatic, thus easy for us to practice and, importantly, will enhance genuine authenticity in our practice if we choice to integrate them into to our classroom activities.  Doing so will enhance the value of the practices and go a long way to promoting a 3 to 1 ratio with its rippling effects.

Baumeister, Roy F.; Bratslavsky, Ellen; Finkenauer, Catrin; Vohs, Kathleen D. ‘ (2001) Bad is stronger than good.’ In Review of General Psychology, Vol 5(4), , 323-370.

Fredickson B. L. (2013) Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios Retrieved from

Heath C & Heath D (2010) Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York: Random House

Urban H (2004) Positive Words, Powerful Results: Simple ways to honor, affirm and celebrate life. Fireside Books: New York.