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Teaching secondary geography
Teaching secondary geography

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3 What can creativity look like in geography?

This section explores the potential breadth of creativity within geography. Many geography lessons involve aspects of creative teaching and learning activities. You may be familiar with starter and plenary generators, mysteries and games, and a multitude of suggestions for ‘creative approaches’ to geography teaching can be found on the web and in teacher resources.

Creativity is included in the criteria for outstanding achievement of geography students (Ofsted, 2011). However, at the same time commentators like Renshaw (2011, p. 106) decry the possibility of an examination culture in schools eroding the innate creative abilities of students and ‘systematically teaching students out of their creative capacities’.

A distinction is often made between ‘ C reativity’ (a by-product or characteristic of ‘genius’, for example Einstein) and ‘ c reativity (something of which all are capable as a normal cognitive function). This section will concentrate on the latter definition. The following activity allows you to consider what creativity is and the modes and importance of creativity.

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Figure 3 Creativity image

Reflection point

What do you understand by ‘creativity in geography’?

Creativity in geography can involve acts that demonstrate ingenuity, originality (in describing and presenting ideas) and thinking in a wider context to make links and connections (Bridge, 2003). It is a broad definition and, as Burnard (2011) observes, creativity has meant different things at different times as it is affected by the social, political and cultural context in which it is used and in which it is manifested. She notes that creativity is demonstrated not only by individuals but also through collaboration.

According to Scoffman (2013, p. 379), a pedagogy that puts creativity ‘at the heart’ of geographical learning will have benefits that include:

  • respecting the autonomy and agency of the child
  • facilitating personalised learning
  • recognising ‘the complexity and messiness’ involved in generating new ideas and concepts
  • valuing ‘emotional and existential knowing alongside more visible cognitive achievements’
  • helping students to become more resilient, resourceful, flexible and independent.

Activity 6 Creativity in geography

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Think back to your own educational experiences and lessons you have observed or taught.

Part 1 Creative learning

Spend a few minutes thinking about each of Scoffman’s suggestions (listed above) and how ‘creative learning’ can result in these benefits.

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Part 2 Creative teaching

Make a list of any teaching that you considered to be ‘creative teaching’.

Look at your list and consider why this was creative.

  • What was it about the teaching that made it creative?
  • How might you introduce creative teaching approaches to more of your teaching?
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Creativity is integral to ‘intelligence’ and allows higher-order thinking. Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Figure 4) is a system for classifying levels of learning behaviour. ‘Creating’ is at the top of the classification. The intentional use of verbs in the classification highlights our understanding of learning as being an active process (Tarlinton, 2003). Creativity is a process and you can’t be creative if you don’t do something. Creativity involves the use of higher-order thinking skills, resulting in original and innovative understandings of geographical phenomena, often including ‘thinking outside the box’.

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Figure 4 Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy