How Can Education Foster Imagination and Creativity?

December 29, 2016 in Blog



What is the role of imagination in education, and how can education foster imagination and creativity? What is the purpose of education? What is the purpose of a teacher? What are the active ingredients of effective learning? Given educators’ penchant for measurement, how might imagination and creativity be assessed in students and in teachers?

These were the sort of questions discussed by a group of leading educators, psychologists, designers, and entrepreneurs that convened earlier this year in Philadelphia. Goals of the weekend included discussing and advancing our knowledge of what role imagination plays in learning, how schools can plant and nurture imagination in children, and what the perfect vision of an imaginative education might look like, both in theory and reality.

Participants in the retreat included:

  • Kanya Balakrishna Cofounder & President, The Future Project, NYC
  • Angela Duckworth Cofounder, Character Lab; Professor of Psychology, Penn
  • Mark Gutkowski Director of Mastery, Avenues: The World School, NYC
  • Stephen Hamilton Dean of the Graduate School of Education, High Tech High
  • Scott Barry Kaufman Scientific Director, Imagination Institute
  • Donald Kamentz Executive Director, Character Lab
  • Jessica Lahey Journalist/Author/Teacher
  • Andrew Mangino Cofounder & CEO, The Future Project, NYC
  • Rebecca Nyquist Research Coordinator, Duckworth Lab, Positive Psychology Center, Penn
  • Dominic Randolph Head of School, Riverdale Country School, NYC
  • Martin Seligman Director, Positive Psychology Center, Penn
  • Neil Stevenson Executive Portfolio Director, IDEO
  • Diane Tavenner Founder & CEO, Summit Public Schools
  • Boyd White Assistant Director, Summer Academic Programs, Center for Talented Youth

So what happens when you get the equivalent of the starting line of the LA Lakers in the education world together for two days to discuss some of the most important questions surrounding the nurturance of possibilities in children? After an entire weekend of circling around the topic of imagination and creativity,the one thing that everyone could agree on is that there is no simple formula or magic ingredient, no one thing that fosters creativity in education. Nevertheless, schools can make a number of changes to their culture to increase the chances that a creativity weather system might form, a system that might just coalesce into a perfect storm, causing creativity to rain down.

Among the various factors discussed were:

  • Talent
  • Intelligence
  • Grit
  • Commitment
  • Passion
  • Personal investment
  • Efficiency
  • Inspiration
  • Engagement
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Comfort with frustration
  • Curiosity
  • Acceptance of discomfort
  • Opportunity

If we were to define imagination in terms of education, based on our discussion over the weekend, imagination– this critical piece of learning, passion, and agency– is best defined as what allows students to know what could be, to have hope, and to find ways to turn that hope into reality.

We hope the fruits of this retreat inspires educators, administrators, and parents to put imagination and creativity front and center on the agenda! As you can clearly see through these discussions, creativity is not an add-on, or an enhancement once the student acquires knowledge. It’s what enables deep learning, and the proliferation of a more peaceful world.

You can download the full report here.* Also, here are some highlights:

* Thanks for Jessica Lahey for preparing the report!

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