Creative Thinking and Authentic Instruction

One definition of creativity, from the video series ‘Everything is a Remix’ – the path to creativity is to first copy, then transform, then combine.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

I find this useful as it leaves behind the idea that creativity is some kind of magical inspiration, only available to a few of us. By developing copying, transforming and combining skills, students can develop their creativity. Ford (2010) refers to Csikszentmihalyi who states ‘we can no longer think of creativity as ‘a luxury for the few…(as) by now it is a necessity for all.’ ‘

Funcke (2009) supports the notion of creative thinking as something that can be developed over time. He identifies five phases in the creative process: Preparation, Incubation, Insight, Evaluation, Elaboration (p 14 – 15).

Authentic Instruction

Challenge Based Learning (CBL) is one tool used by some educators to combine creative thinking with authentic instruction. In ‘Challenge Based Learning: An Approach for our time’, Johnson, et al state ‘challenge-based learning brings relevance to class work . By giving students the opportunity to focus on a challenge of global significance, yet apply themselves to developing local solutions, challenge-based learning creates a space where students can direct their own research into real-world matters and think critically about how to apply what they learn.’ (p 7)
There are educational communities which explore the connection between creativity and technology. The ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition is one example:

There are many educators who take up the challenge to help students make their learning relevant to their lives now. Chris Lehmann is one. This is his blog post about his closing keynote address at this year’s ISTE Conference. Technology can facilitate authentic learning by ‘flattening’ the learning environment – allowing students to be able to learn, share and collaborate beyond the confines of the physical classroom and the 9am – 3pm time constraints of traditional school learning.

In my own current experience, I’ve just seen Year 5 students conclude a unit of human rights by having a ‘Night of the Notables’. They each bring together their learning by assuming the character of a notable human rights activist, preparing a booth with artefacts associated with the person, and remaining ‘in character’ while members of the school’s parent community move amongst them, asking questions and engaging in conversation with them. As a follow-up, students may look at how they can convert their learning into action in their own lives.


Everything is a remix Part 3 by Koby Ferguson

Ford, R. (2010, November). Teaching the Three Rs? Try using the three Xs. Teacher , 20-23.

Meusberger, P., Funke, J., & Wunder, E. (2009). Milieus of Creativity: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Spatiality of Creativity. Springer.

Johnson, Laurence F .; Smith, Rachel S .; Smythe, J . Troy; Varon, Rachel K . (2009) . Challenge-Based Learning: An Approach for Our Time.    Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium



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2 responses to “Creative Thinking and Authentic Instruction

  1. karynwest

    Hi Mike,
    With regards to the most recent task that your year 5 students did, were they able to select how they presented and what material they presented? I’m not sure whether Challenge based learning considers these as important aspects but I know that by offering the students as many choices as physically possible, the engagement levels of students increase as they feel they have ownership over their learning (article evidence here –

    • Hi Karen,
      Sorry it’s taken an age to get back to you.
      Yes, the students were able to choose what they wanted wanted to present, and to choose the materials for their presentation. One interesting restriction was that for their final presentation they couldn’t use computers, etc as part of their presentation as there was limited access to power.