Encouraging Creativity and Innovation in Students

“The world leaders in innovation and creativity will also be the world leaders in everything else.”
-Harold R. McAlindon.

I read this quote in the book, Nurturing Young Innovators: Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom, Home and Community by Laure McLaughlin and Stephani Buchai. It hit something deep in my teaching heart. Children are curious and naturally, have an innovative mindset which could lead them to become future innovators and leaders in our world. And what would our world be without innovators?

Do you know some of these important innovators?

  • Thomas Edison: Developed and innovated over 1,000 different ideas, better known for the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera
  • Steve Jobs: Revolutionized personal computer devices
  • Tim Bernes- Lee: Invented the World Wide Web
  • Marie Curie: Discovered Radium and helped make use of radiation and X-rays
  • Ruth Graves Wakefield: Invented the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: Revolutionized the field of ophthalmology and is recognized as the first female African American doctor to receive a medical patent

If we can encourage children to think creatively and to innovate then we help cultivate the future leaders of the world. As a teacher or administrator are there ways to do this? Absolutely. Is there need to do this? Absolutely. ISTE standards outline such needs:

ISTE educator standard 6d emphasizes, “modeling and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.” 

ISTE student standard 4 emphasizes, “students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions

Promoting Creativity and Innovation:

In my own experience when promoting creativity and innovation in the classroom I have encountered success and challenges. I’ve (vaguely) summed them up below.


  • Problem-based learning structures
  • Design processes
  • Student choice and engagement
  • Flexible seating and learning environments
  • Celebrations and learning showcases


  • Fixed mindsets and students giving up when they get stuck
  • Collaboration challenges such as students problem solving, active listening and compromising in a respectful and effective manner
  • Students depending on the teacher for problems and solutions
  • Worry that I am not hitting all the standards students will need to be successful on their state testing
  • Incorporating creativity into the curriculum
  • Time for feedback, reflection, and refining

There are many resources and ideas out there that can help combat the challenges of innovative teaching. One tool that schools k-12 could use to overcome such challenges and promote creative and/or innovative thinking is through design thinking. 

Design Thinking In Schools:

“Design thinking is generally defined as an analytic and creative process that engages a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype models, gather feedback, and redesign.” (Razzouk, Shute 2012). Design thinking provides a way to think about creative work, thus could be a system that schools or classrooms take to provide opportunities to promote creativity and innovation.

Director of Technology & Innovation for Centennial School District AJ Juliani, writes about his experience with design thinking in the classroom:

“Giving my students choice and allowing them to be curious learners was hard work. In fact, sometimes I was still really ineffective at guiding the learning that was taking place in my classroom. I tried many different project-based learning frameworks, embraced the inquiry cycle, and tweaked my own idea of how to structure this type of innovative and creative work. My research (and trial and error as a teacher) led me to design thinking (most noticeably the work of Stanford d.school and IDEO). It was through design thinking that I found a process and methodology that worked for all kinds of complex problem solving and creative work.”

Samuel Tschepe a Design Thinking Program Manager & Leadcoach at HPI Academy & HPI School of Design Thinking writes in his blog:

“Albert Einstein once said: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity and motivation play an essential role in design thinking. Design thinking encourages you to acknowledge that you may know some things, but still, there is so much to explore! In design thinking, you constantly try to adopt a beginner’s mindset and explore things from different perspectives.”

AJ and Samiel are not alone, a case study conducted at a secondary school involving 125 students and a team of 12 teachers found that “design thinking gets teachers empowered to facilitate constructivist learning in order to foster 21st-century skills.” (Scheer, Noweski, and Meinell, 2012).

Another study done with 5 suburban middle school classes found, “Design thinking serves as a creative and reflective tool for approaching teaching as both artist and designer of thinking in the classroom, for collaboration, and as a model for designing learning experiences”. And concluded that, “pedagogies that include inquiry, connection-making, and self-direction are encouraged to enhance students’ thinking skills within the context of critical, creative, and practical modalities. Design thinking is one such pedagogy.” (Vanada, 2015).

Although I believe teachers and administrators should do their own research on which design thinking methodology works best for their students there is little doubt that design thinking can spark creativity and innovation!



ISTE Standards for STUDENTS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from



ISTE Standards FOR EDUCATORS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from



Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What Is Design\Thinking and Why Is It Important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 330–348. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654312457429


Scheer, A., Noweski, C., & Meinel, C. (2012). Transforming Constructivist Learning into Action: Design Thinking in education. Design And Technology Education: An International Journal, 17(3). Retrieved from https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/DATE/article/view/1758


The Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking in the Classroom. (2018, October 15). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from http://ajjuliani.com/the-beginners-guide-to-design-thinking-in-the-classroom/


Tschepe, S., & Tschepe, S. (2018, May 22). How Design Thinking can benefit Education – The Startup – Medium. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://medium.com/swlh/how-design-thinking-can-benefit-education-2bba35450771


Vanada, D. I. (2014). Practically creative: the role of design thinking as an improved paradigm for 21st century art education. Techne Series-Research in Sloyd Education and Craft Science A, 21(2).


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