Nurturing Student Creativity

By Betelehem Gulilat, Lead Editor & Writer

Betelehem outside smiling at the camera

What does it mean to be creative? At first thought, you may think of artists, designers, musicians as creatives, and indeed they are. However, being creative is more abstract than we imagined it to be. An entire field of creative studies exists that has dated back to the 1930s, simply dedicated to understanding the concept of creativity 1.  

It means different things for different people. Anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists – to name a few – have their own definition of creativity. And so does the general population. For one person, it may be the ability to solve a complex problem, while for another it’s the opportunity to express oneself. Even though there is no exact definition of creativity that has been agreed upon, common words used to describe this concept are originality, effectiveness, expression, and innovation.  

Creativity is as important as literacy in education

Sir Ken Robinson

Being creative is enriching for ourselves and the world around us. One can argue the same for education as well. Yet as we learn and grow older, we tend to stray away from out-of-box thinking. The late Sir Ken Robinson, International Leader of Education and Creativity once stated that “…kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong…and by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.” 

The Importance of Student Creativity  

As you can imagine, the world is constantly changing around us. If there is anything we learned this past year, it’s that we can never be entirely prepared for our future ahead. This is why embedding creativity within higher education is important. No matter what field of study you may be in, there is always room for new ways of thinking.  

Students can deeply connect with knowledge by seeking out questions, finding answers and thinking independently. This can make learning more enjoyable and fulfilling which in turn enables students to gain a better understanding of what they’ve learned. But more importantly, by creating a safe space for students to think outside the box, students can develop the creative confidence they need to become vulnerable and fearless in their work.  

How Do We Nurture Student Creativity? 

A open book with a clock and a pencil hovering above

At the Innovation Hub, our work revolves around design thinking. Much of what we described as creativity in this blog post – originality, effectiveness, expression and innovation – is the basis of design thinking as well. The main difference between creativity and design thinking, is that one is focused on achieving human innovation.  

Therefore, nurturing student creativity consistently within our space is imperative for our work. With a team of students coming from a diverse array of programs and backgrounds, there is a great deal of creativity and innovation that can have a meaningful impact within our student community. Here are a few examples of how we’ve nurtured student creativity at the Innovation Hub:  

  • Creating a safe and supportive workspace for exchanging ideas:  
    • Hosting co-working hours for independent work to provide a space for students to ideate, produce work, and ask for feedback amongst their peers 
    • Utilizing digital collaborative tools, like Mural, to ensure multiple options are provided for students to exchange ideas  
    • Curious about ways to foster save and supportive spaces in these times? Here’s some previous posts we’ve done!
  • Embracing failure within our work:  
    • Sharing weekly team updates – including our learning from failure moments – to normalize failure and use it as teaching moments for ourselves and other team members  
    • This can be easier said than done, however! Here’s some more insights we’ve shared on how to embrace and grow from failure:
  • Holding space for unexpected conversation, learning and growth:
    • While this can happen in a few ways, we can foster creativity by holding space for new activities and learn new skills
    • There are also many areas where creativity can be fostered unexpectedly! From joining virtual events to learning how to craft something new, learning new things can unlock opportunities we might not expect

Unlike the subjects we learn in classrooms, creativity is something that cannot be taught because it’s within all of us! However, as we continue to grow and evolve in our unique spaces creativity does need to be nurtured in order to foster new possibilities, ideas, and more. Many institutions are beginning to realize the value instilling creativity within curricula has on the campus community. It brings positive social change within our communities, and ultimately our society as a whole. It is important, now more than ever, to nurture student creativity so that future generations can be able to innovate and adapt to the constantly evolving world we live in.  


1Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The standard definition of creativity. Creativity research journal24(1), 92-96. 

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