The concept of creativity in the classroom is most definitely not a new concept. However, research suggests that creativity (and imagination) can help students become more engaged (Egan & Judson, 2016) and can even maximise student learning experiences (Tsai, 2012).
But, what is imagination and how does it link to creativity? In fact, there is no universally agreed definition for the term “imagination”. This can lead to some misunderstandings and misconceptions relating to the appropriateness of creativity and imagination in education. However, research suggests that its value and appropriate inclusion in education is undeniable (von Wright, 2021).
Sometimes, imagination can categorised into specific subjects, but research suggests that imagination is a higher mental ability that can be also linked to science education. In many respects, the Junior Cycle curriculum reform for science education does allow for the flexibility to include imagination via Classroom Based Assessments, and key skills of “Being Creative” respectively.
But what does creativity look like in my classroom? Is it an art piece or a model? Or a scientific investigation? Or solutions to global issues such as climate change? Research suggests that creativity can be incorporated under all of these categories – it is just bringing awareness to the concept of imagination and creativity. Teachers are already including aspects of creativity and imagination, even if they don’t realise it. With increased awareness, teachers can create and implement simple strategies to enhance creativity even further.
In recent weeks, I have been actively engaged in research pertaining to imagination and creativity and trying to incorporate it into my lessons. My rationale was the Individual Investigative Study (IIS) for Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science, whereby students must develop their own experimental study under a given theme. Students often find it difficult to create experimental topics or be “creative” in terms of what they would like to investigate. Students would often comment how they have limited creativity and often associate being creative with arts based subjects, which is a common misconception. From this, I decided to try and implement imagination and creativity using a very simple strategy – picture walks!
A picture walk is essentially using informational and narrative techniques to help students engage with the curriculum. This is created in Google Slides and is basically images with minimal text. Research from Ness (2017) suggests that the use of pictures and limited text can enhance literacy skills and help students create creative narratives. These narratives can be verbal and/or written – but it encourages students to use creativity in creating such narratives. In addition, if students are unfamiliar with the topic, it can encourage students to generate questions, which also promotes learner agency and increases student engagement in lessons.
The possibilities of a picture walk are limitless – they can be used for revision techniques, or image prompts for retrieval practice. Ask students to create their own images and allow students to create narratives based on key terms or definitions. It is important to note that the narrative must “make sense” or be factually correct in relation to the curriculum so as to allow students to maximise their learning. If students are not comfortable with narrative approaches, an alternative approach could be to generate questions based on the images and ask other students to create their own answers.
The visualisation of the curriculum is important. The above example does not contain the entire curriculum but it provides avenues in which students can discuss their understanding of the curriculum and make links to the curriculum strands – Nature of Science, Soils, Plants and Animals – and how these strands are all interconnected. It also provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding with debates on topical issues such as fertiliser use, sustainability, biodiversity and how these can be connected with many aspects of the picture wall.
These images can be easily made via Google Slides and/or Canva. In this case, I used images from the textbook that students would be familiar with and keywords from the relevant topics. An extension could be to ask students to create their own picture walks with limited text and explain to the class the narrative behind their picture.
Some may say this just looks like images and text on the wall….and they are correct! That’s all it is. But, the learning opportunities that come along with the creation of these picture walks can be beneficial to student learning and incorporates the concepts of imagination and creativity in lessons. Some lessons are solely based on the picture walks and are a great revision technique, particulary increasing students science literacy skills.
The above picture walk will be available on Soilnet for anyone who would like to incorporate for Ag Science. Also, I have included some academic reading relating to imagination and creativity in education below.
Egan, K., Judson, G., (2016). Imagination and the Engaged Learner – Cognitive Tools for the Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Tsai, K.C., (2012). Play, Imagination and Creativity: A Brief Literature Review. Journal of Education and Learning 1, 15-20.
von Wright, M., (2021). Imagination and Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.
Ness, M., (2017). Using informational and narrative picture walks to promote student-generated questions. Early Childhood Education Journal 45, 575-581.