Podcast: Building and Supporting Students’ Creativity - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Building and Supporting Students’ Creativity

Building and Supporting Students’ Creativity

Author, Dr. Joanne Foster shares insights on creativity from her extensive experience as a teacher, parent, and teacher educator at the University of Toronto, teaching Educational Psychology and Gifted Education. She offers strategies from her most recent book, Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids” and explores developing teachers’ creativity to impact student creativity.

Listen to the parent podcast with Joanne here. 

Find information onIgnite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kidsand Dr. Foster’s other books here.

Find “ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids” here.

Find “Being Smart about Gifted Learning” (3rd Edition) here.

At this website, including the bookshop, you can take advantage of  a discount code specially set for the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud community! Use POL20! at check out for 20% off these books: “Ignite Your Ideas,” “Being Smart about Gifted Learning,” “ABCS of Raising Smarter Kids, Bust Your BUTS,” and “Not Now, Maybe Later– valid till Dec. 31st, 2023. Great now and for holiday gift-giving.

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!

Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:01.290] – Steve [Barkley]

Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud. The complexity of teaching is both challenging and rewarding, and my curiosity is piqued whenever I explore with teachers, the multiple pathways for facilitating student engagement in the exciting world of learning. This podcast looks to serve teachers as they motivate and support their learners. Thanks for listening. I’m delighted that you’re here.


[00:00:38.350] – Steve

Building and supporting students’ creativity. Dr. Joanne Foster is rejoining our podcast today with a look at teachers building and supporting student creativity. She earlier recorded a three part podcast series with us, and I’d encourage you to review that to deepen your understanding of the importance of creativity and ways to tap the possibilities. I’ve posted the link to those podcasts in the lead-in to this podcast. In addition, we just recently recorded another podcast for parents, and you’ll find that in the lead-in as well. Dr. Foster has worked in the field of gifted education for over 35 years. She has a master’s degree in special education and adaptive instruction, as well as a doctorate in human development and applied psychology. She taught educational psychology as well as gifted education for twelve years in the Teacher Education Program at the University of Toronto. She is an award winning author of eight books. She writes about intelligence, creativity, child development, motivation, procrastination, and more. Today, Joanne shares her experiences as a parent educator, consultant, and community advocate. Her newest book, “Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids,” has just been released. Welcome back, Joanne.


[00:02:11.690] – Joanne

Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be back and to be able to talk with teachers. I taught for many years at the University of Toronto in the Teacher Education program, so it’s wonderful to be able to have this opportunity. Thank you.


[00:02:27.200] – Steve

I’m wondering if you’d start us off talking a little bit about your passion around the idea of kids and adults working together to make creativity a part of their daily lives.


[00:02:40.230] – Joanne

Absolutely. I’m really passionate about creativity. I find it’s very empowering. It permeates every aspect of our lives. And it’s important to find ways to infuse creativity into everyday activities, whether it’s at home or school or anywhere, actually. It motivates, it enhances connections, it brings a lot of joy. And actually, creativity is at the heart of humankind’s advancements, whether it’s in technology, business ventures, education, the arts, sciences, whatever it happens to be. So I think that’s really why it’s important to work together in terms of helping children become more creative.


[00:03:27.270] – Steve

So I work with many schools that have somewhere in their mission or vision statements or their goals that they want students to be college and career ready. And some of them add life ready to that list, and that frequently leads to them having a focus on what they label as “the four C’s” – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. I’m wondering if you would share your thoughts on the importance that you see in those four C’s.


[00:04:01.390] – Joanne

So communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are all very important and in fact, lead to creativity, which was your fourth C. So as much as I appreciate these three C words, and I think they’re really imperative, I’m going to give you some other ones to think about as well. So let’s just think about what else really matters in a classroom situation and in terms of making the most of children’s educational opportunities. So the first is choice, also an important C word. And creativity is in fact, a choice. Kids who get to choose various aspects of their learning, including the creative endeavors that they want to tackle, will be more invested in the process. There was ancient Greek philosopher who said that choices are the hinges of destiny. And I really think that that’s a beautiful quote. I like that. So choice is another C word. How about challenge? Life is full of challenges, and teachers, of course, are well positioned to help kids learn to problem solve and overcome them and again, use their creativity to do so. Caring is an important C word because a well functioning classroom has students who encourage and cooperate with one another, who are kind and courteous and compassionate, which are C words.


[00:05:19.450] – Joanne

Conviction – you have to have determination, enthusiasm, and passion for what it is you’re going to do or what it is you’re going to create. So teachers can certainly help students develop conviction, which can lead to confidence, in fact, another C word. Clarification – I think it’s important that teachers clarify expectations. Ideally, they co set them or co create them with their students so that they can ensure that whatever tasks are on hand are fair and fitting and adaptable, flexible for kids. Change is a C word. Change is a huge C word because it’s inevitable. And teachers can help kids adjust to new programs, new friends, new challenges, new expectations. Congratulations – this is one maybe you didn’t expect, but I think it’s an important one because we have to congratulate children on their efforts, build in that genuine praise, that encouragement, that reinforcement, even those small steps as they work towards and actually achieve their goals. So I should tell you that this is not off the top of my head. I actually have written a book called, “ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids” and the whole thing is done in alliteration, and every chapter is different letter of the alphabet.


[00:06:38.520] – Joanne

So if you want to find out more C’s, I’ve got them. You want to find out M’s for motivation, O for opportunities, you name it, it’s there. So “ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids,” I’ll give you the link to that. And for the record, just so you do know, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, which was our starting point for this question, all of them are there.


[00:07:00.110] – Steve

Alright. So how about you, did congratulations. I frequently have celebration as one of my key ones, so they go together?


[00:07:12.990] – Joanne

Yeah. Dance like no one’s watching.


[00:07:15.310] – Steve

Yeah. You’ve written about the need to support teachers with professional development around enabling them to be better prepared to support all students and to meet the students needs both social-emotionally, academic, as well as other. What might PD to support and creativity like?


[00:07:40.950] – Joanne

Well, I’m going to start by answering this question in terms of thinking about how teachers can challenge themselves to become more effective. And they can do this by acquiring a wide range of tools, skills, resources, support. Sometimes we think of PD as strictly being sort of a group effort on a specific designated day that’s been assigned by the school board or what have you. But really it’s more than that. It is that, but it’s also the fact that teachers have to find various ways on their own too, as well as collaboratively in terms of learning opportunities, finding the conferences they want to attend, networking effectively, and finding other ways to build their skill sets and their confidence. Because ideally, what you want is for creativity to be happening in the classroom as often as it possibly can be. So you asked specifically, what does that PD actually look like in terms of supporting creativity in the classroom? So teachers can be thinking about what it is they currently do, how, when, and where they can connect productively with others, to see what kinds of things they do in their classrooms. Think about what your school or school board needs, what it lacks right now, and that might benefit the creative expression of both students and teachers.


[00:09:10.610] – Joanne

And I appreciate that teachers’ lives are really busy, so you don’t want to have to lay on more things for them to consider and do. But other things they might want to think about in terms of enhancing that creativity is to think about time management in their classrooms, the organizational things, the goal setting, the prioritizing, all of that and learn more about things like mindfulness and neuroplasticity, how the brain works and motivation and AI, which is like, wow, that’s a whole other topic, entrepreneurship, so many different things. How to make that optimal match between the student and the program. And in one of my other books, “Being Smart about gifted Learning,” Don and Matthew and I talk about that optimal match and how to make it happen, and different types of program development that can be put into place. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about differentiation as being important also in terms of enhancing creativity. I mentioned in my previous podcast that I write for the Creativity Post and I’ll provide you with a link to an article on differentiation and creativity that I wrote for the Creativity Post, where I talk about how having a flexible range of options well suited to the individual child can really help them feel comfortable about infusing creativity into what it is they do when they tackle various tasks.


[00:10:41.870] – Steve

I don’t know why, but – maybe I do know why – your use of the word caring earlier, I’m hearing it carried over.


[00:10:55.890] – Joanne

Yeah, it is, for sure, but let me add one more thing. There’s also self care on the part of teachers, and that’s really important. Teachers who invest in their own creativity, who look after themselves and feel motivated when they walk in the room and happy about what it is they’re going to do, that carries out to the kids. They see that message, it’s conveyed by the teacher that creativity matters, that they’re looking after themselves, and they’re trying to really move forward in positive directions. So teachers might want to think of what kinds of professional development might help them be more creative, so they, in turn, can convey that to their students. So maybe it’s engaging in those collaborative ventures that school board or other places put on, or maybe it’s trying fresh approaches and strategies or applying something really new or potentially challenging. I listened recently to one of your previous podcasts where you talked about the “wow factor.” You described a teacher who brought in this box and told the students that they couldn’t open it until they figured out the volume. And then they got inside the box and there was this whole long thing of candy.


[00:12:09.890] – Joanne

Again, they couldn’t help themselves until they were able to divide it properly and share it equally. Anything like that is fun for the kids. It’s creative, it’s wonderful. But by the same token, it requires a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher. So as as an educator, and I myself taught in classrooms for many years, and, as I said, taught in the teacher training program at the University of Toronto. I think you have to be prepared for that effort and agency that I discussed in an earlier podcast, but also know that there are venues, there are ways and avenues to pursue in order to increase your own creativity, feel good about yourself, self care and personal growth, fulfillment.


[00:12:55.450] – Steve

You mentioned a little bit about AI, and I just recently read a short piece where a person did a rather creative thing as part of learning, and she was quick to add that the AI resource made it doable. So it gave her the opportunity, it was her idea, it was the teacher’s creativity, but the work of implementing it, she didn’t see that she would have had the time to do that. But the ability to go to AI and tap that AI resource allowed her to give something that she was excited about being able to give to the kids.


[00:13:36.380] – Joanne

Right, exactly. And I think this is a whole new frontier. And as we learn more about AI and how it will impact our children’s learning and ways of teaching, whether it’s instruction or whether it’s programming or whether it’s something else altogether, we’re on a learning curve, all of us. So we have to be smart about what we do.


[00:14:01.070] – Steve

So there may be a future book on AI and creativity? [laugh]



Maybe in the future. [laugh]


[00:14:04.650] – Steve

Your new book, “Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids,” contains specific strategies that students can employ to build their creativity, as well as strategies that teachers and others who support students can use. Can you share some of the examples of students using those activities for their creativity?


[00:14:33.850] – Joanne

Okay, so in terms of what students themselves can do, I think that the first thing is to appreciate that creativity matters in their lives, that they can use that creativity to bolster their thought processes, their outcomes, their journeys of learning. They have to think in terms of how I can self motivate. What is it that really gets me interested and alive and gets my creative juices flowing? What makes me feel good when I achieve something, even if, as I mentioned before, small steps that, as you say, we need to celebrate as well as congratulate. We have to help children understand that they have to build from what knowledge they already have to use that as a foundation or as a stepping stone to build new skills, new ideas, and to involve themselves in connecting with other people, staying engaged in what it is they’re trying to do, asking for help and support if they need it, and to take a look at some of the ideas, in fact, and ignite your ideas. I’ve got hundreds of strategies that will help students become more excited around infusing creativity. So those would be some of the pointers.


[00:15:51.530] – Steve

Great. I’m wondering what role a teacher’s creativity plays in the teacher’s instructional and interpersonal success with students.


[00:16:04.790] – Joanne

Okay, so I think creative educators have to be willing to push past or sharpen the boundaries of what they already know in the same way that we want students to do that, to take what they know and extend it, and to use that as jumping off points to increase the amount of creativity that will enliven their classrooms. So it might have to do with math, it might have to do with languages or history or science or athletics, whatever it is that they happen to teach, but to use their existing knowledge as a springboard and to encourage discovery, to encourage adventures, to encourage children to use their imaginations to ask lots and lots of questions. I think there needs to be a lot of flexibility in a classroom so that children can negotiate ideas, compromise, use rhyme when they want, use crazy ideas when it hits them as something that’s going to revitalize the project, share what it is that they are working on. And another really important thing here is that teachers have to provide an environment that’s caring. We mentioned caring before, but it’s not just caring. It’s also a warm and welcoming, calming kind of presence that you want teachers to be able to provide for students so that they have that sense that there aren’t closed doors there they can open all kinds of portals to their imagination or anywhere else and engage in creative expression.


[00:17:46.550] – Steve

I’m hearing a link learning and creativity. Learning is likely to spark creativity. So a teacher who’s busy learning, engaged in learning, is likely to tap his or her own creativity more?


[00:18:07.790] – Joanne

I think so, because as you get into the deep trenches of teaching, you understand that there are so many things you need to juggle. No two kids are alike. No two kids learn alike. And the job is very taxing. I’ve been there. I know. And if you don’t sort of use your spontaneity, use your imagination, think on the fly, find different ways to approach things that maybe are outside the norm, then you miss opportunities to connect with kids. So, yes, creativity is a huge part of learning and teaching, but your question was interesting because you said, does creativity lead to learning or does learning creativity? That was your original point. And that’s a really interesting question, one that would be very debatable for many hours if we had it. But basically, I think it’s a two way street. I think in a lot of ways, our creativity sparks our learning. It points us into new directions, down new pathways, gives us ideas. So creativity does lead to learning, but when we learn new things, that provides us with a basis for trying something more creative and different, provided those who surround us are out there cheerleading for us and saying, “yeah, try something different. Do something. Don’t block your own creativity. Give it a go.”


[00:19:34.170] – Steve

I’ve explored at times that same kind of chicken egg example of, do questions cause learning or does learning cause questions? And it’s that same flip flop back and forth between those things as as I learn more, it generates questions, and then those questions drive my next learning and I can see the same link with questions to creativity.


[00:20:02.290] – Joanne

Right, so you like to say, “what I’m hearing is…” and then recount, which I think is a wonderful way to crystallize what someone is saying during your podcast. So what I hear you saying, I’m doing the same thing, two way street – I’m hearing you say that it’s important to have knowledge and inquiry and reflection, all as underlying both creativity and learning. Right?


[00:20:37.700] – Steve

Right. We’re on the same page.


[00:20:44.610] – Steve

So before we close out, I’m wondering if you’d share a couple of takeaways from the book for strategies for teachers to implement supporting student creativity.


[00:20:57.390] – Joanne

So the first one, I think, is that teachers, adults of any sort, whether they’re mentors, coaches, parents, teachers, whomever, need to respect and honor children’s aspirations, their curiosities, their strengths, their interests, and their individuality. So respect and honor the uniqueness of the individual. The second one is to be available to offer guidance and constructive reinforcement as children take steps to be creative. That doesn’t mean hover and scrutinize, but it does mean to be available when they require help or need that extra little bit of incentive. I used the word choice before. So my third point here would be to encourage children to make the choice to be creative. They don’t have to be creative. They have to want to be creative for more fulfillment and to increase the breadth and depth of their learning. And the fourth is to help children value creativity, to model it, to show how it can enhance the flow of ideas and pleasure, whether you’re the teacher, whether you’re the student, creativity has the potential to enrich, to inform, to inspire, and that’s really important. So my four takeaways are respect and honor children’s uniqueness, be available., ncourage them to make the choice to be creative and to help children value creativity by making sure it’s infused into what happens.


[00:22:34.370] – Steve

Thank you. Joanne, I’m wondering if you’d let people know what’s the best way they can follow up to find you’ve done a ton of writing and work that provides countless resources for folks. What’s the best way people can connect with those things?


[00:22:52.590] – Joanne

So you’re welcome to visit my website, which is joannefoster.ca I have a resources page that’s probably way too robust because you’re going to have to scroll to find all kinds of good stuff down there. I’ve got several books that you’re welcome to investigate as well. There’s a discount for this Ponders Out Loud community, which is POL20!, which is in effect from now through until December 31 for 2023 for anybody who’s interested in purchasing a book from the bookshop at the publishers, which is giftedunlimitedllc.com, and the books are available on amazon, Barnes and Noble, wherever you happen to hook into. But I think what’s really important is to get out there and check out some of the resources that are available on my website and elsewhere, and anybody who has any questions or they can certainly connect with me.


[00:23:55.470] – Steve

We’ll be sure to add that information on the podcast lead-in to ake it as easy as possible for folks to find you. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.


[00:24:05.780] – Joanne

Thank you. Bye.


[00:24:09.710] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.


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