Beat the machines and develop creative thinking in the classroom

It seems that the rate at which automated machines are taking over jobs that have previously been completed by humans is increasing dramatically and we could be on track to become defunct, but is that really the case?

Data from the Creative Industries Council has shown that approximately 1 in 8 UK businesses are in creative industries and creative jobs outgrow the UK economy average which tells us that machines aren’t taking over everything. One advantage that humans will always have over machines is our imagination!


Creativity is a valuable, sought after thinking skill and can be the most difficult to acquire; creativity is not simply a character trait that’s only possessed by the minority. It’s also not directly linked to intelligence. A high IQ isn’t a prerequisite of creativity and creative thinking. There have been many studies and documented discussions about the teaching of creativity and whether or not it's a skill that can be taught. Some say that it’s not possible to change someone’s ‘basic level of creativity’, whether this is true or not is yet to be proven, but there are definitely strategies that can be employed to promote creative thinking amongst young people.

Five strategies for developing creative thinking in the classroom;

  • A safe learning environment is essential when attempting to foster creativity
    Learners need to feel that their ideas won’t be mocked. It can take courage to share ideas with others and learners may not want to share a creative idea that could be seen as unusual as it may make them stand out from their friends. Make sure that creativity is celebrated (even when the practicality of an idea is missing!).

  • Incorporate learners’ likes, interests and hobbies into your teaching where possible
    Is there a new trend, gadget or current topic of conversation amongst learners that can be incorporated into your lesson? To encourage creativity in young people, the task needs to be presented in a context that they can relate to, or even have an input to. We all know that it's easier to generate enthusiasm for a topic where there’s an interest.

  • Promote creative thinking through your vocabulary
    Consider the language you’re using when issuing instructions or tasks. Use create rather than produce, imagine rather than think. Try and inspire learners with words from the outset of a lesson; highlight the fact that creative thinking is to be encouraged within the task.

  • Model creativity
    Sharing stimuli with learners, particularly, richly visual stimulus can really help learners with a ‘starting point’. It’s also essential that learners have a good understanding of the medium they are working with; if they’re creating a design using Photoshop, do they understand the capabilities of the software? If they’re designing a product to be made from sheet aluminium, do they know the constraints that will be in place and how they will prevent certain actions? Showing visual examples of the functions of the relevant media is vital so that learners can see the potential in what they are doing.


  • Encourage alternative means of communication to traditional writing and drawing
    Start with doing, rather than planning. Sometimes, letting learners start with developing ideas from the outset can lead to interesting outcomes. It’s tempting to introduce a project or brief with reasoning before imagining, swap them around! Let learners begin with their imagination before imposing reasoning. It can be easier to scale down an idea that might be a bit ‘out there’ than to scale up an idea that conforms to reason.

Infographic sourced from

Explore creativity with V Certs from NCFE. Our creative subjects include Art and Design, Interactive Media and Graphic Design, however, all of our V Certs allow learners to explore practical ways to demonstrate their learning through project accounting for up to 60% of their overall grade.

Recommended viewing - Do schools kill creativity? TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

Danielle McCullough
Danielle McCullough
NCFE is supporting the Foundation for Education Development (FED) to explore how a long-term plan for education is needed for our country at a virtual National Education Summit on 1 - 4 March.
Anna Morrison
Anna Morrison
Anna Morrison, founder and director of Amazing Apprenticeships, looks at the ways in which employers can promote inclusivity and a diversity through their apprenticeship programmes with top tips for inclusive recruitment practices.
David Redden
David Redden
We now know that vocational exams that were due to take place in February and March will be cancelled for learners. With the current Ofqual consultation looking at alternative ways to assess and award grades this year.
Kievah Wallace
Kievah Wallace
The government published the long-awaited Skills for Jobs White Paper. Described as FE’s ‘day in the sun’, the paper shines a light on the national training landscape and provides some much-needed reassurance amid the Covid-19 crisis.