When I ask my Creativity Seminar students at the start of the semester, "Do you consider yourself creative?" the majority respond, "No."  Often the few who answer in the affirmative are involved in the arts in some capacity.

I find this very disconcerting! Therefore, in all my courses I spend a a few class sessions focusing on the barriers to creativity and breaking down the resistance to creative thought and action. I strongly believe that the ability to think and behave in a creative manner facilitates deep learning in the classroom environment and the traditional student and faculty approaches to teaching and learning inhibit it.

I have noticed that resistance stems from several sources. First, students have been conditioned to focus on being correct and staying between the lines.  When they have veered from this path, they have often been shamed and received punitive action in the form of lower grades or social ridicule.  For this reason, students build a wall to protect themselves from failure and shame by stridently sticking with the tried and true.

It is these characteristics that inhibit the full expression of creativity and, dare I say, self-fulfillment, in a myriad of others ways.
I begin my classes showing a cluster of TED talks.  I love TED talks and find that, paired with activities and discussion, they can have a great impact on the culture of a classroom.

My first goal is insight.  In order to help students appreciate the ways their minds have been molded over time I ask them to watch three videos:

In the first, the most popular TED talk of all time, Sir Robinson discusses the impact the educational system found in most modern societies has on student creativity.  The second TED talk suggests to students that it's okay to be wrong - in fact they are all the time and likely just don't know it.  It's only the shame we feel upon realizing we're wrong that keeps us from taking risks when we feel an inkling of doubt about being right.  Music and Life is a wonderful short video poignantly highlighting how our school systems engender a propensity to seek the next goal rather enjoying the process of learning and life.

We discuss the videos and how they impact students' perceptions of themselves as creative and how barriers to true meaningful learning are developed. 

For our second session, I ask them to watch Brené Brown's TED talk, "Listening to Shame."  Dr. Brown's TED talks and her book, Daring Greatly, all had a tremendous impact on my teaching and ability to let down my defenses in the classroom.  Her work promoted my comfort in taking risks and empowering my students. Often, I'll follow up the video with a vulnerability exercise such as Blind Barrel of Monkeys or Scarlet Letters.

Once we've discussed the ways in which the education system conditions students and instructors to adopt rigid practices, and the need to embrace vulnerability in an effort to overcome them, we move into failure and rejection. I share a video created by a former student on failure and we watch Jia Jiang's TED talk, "What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection." After this, I request that each of them engage in a similar rejection exercise and we discuss their experiences.

Once we've explored these areas, I note a shift in the tone of the classroom.  Students seem more relaxed and interactive.  They joke around more and they ask more questions.  It's truly often an amazing transformation.
Writing on The Creative Professor's office walls

(Yes, I like purple)

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

"Never let success go to your head.  Never let failure go to your heart."

Winston Churchill