Pedagogy Welcome

Using Boredom to Become Creative

Keeping students engaged has long been a challenge for educators.  The wisdom that was given during many teacher preparation programs centered on frequently changing activities, presentation methods, and content elements during lesson presentation to keep students interested in what was going on.  In short, don’t bore the students.  

There has been a tremendous amount of research in recent years regarding the importance of unstructured free time and the need to disconnect from all the distractions in order to increase creativity.  In short, it might be beneficial to bore the students!  In the article The Gift of Boredom (Spencer, J. (2019). The Gift of Boredom. Educational Leadership, 76(4), 12-17.) author John Spencer shares the following ways teachers can use boredom in the classroom to foster creativity:

  1. Create spaces of silence.  Quiet time to think is important in the development of creativity.  The mind needs to wander sometimes to get where it needs to go.   
  2. Change the pace of instruction.  Slow down.  Give longer periods of distraction-free time for deeper cognition.  
  3. Go for walks as a class.  Nature is a place of great wonder.  Physical activity activates the brain.  Wonder and physical activity can help enhance creative thinking.
  4. Design digital sabbaticals.  Our digital tools are incredibly useful.  And they are incredibly distracting.  Create thinking space by intentionally limiting use of digital tools on occasion.  For some really good thinking and research on this topic, check out Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.  
  5. Allow for naturally occurring boredom within projects.  Sometimes students hit a roadblock in a project.  When they are stumped by a single aspect, let them chew on it a bit.  Redirect them to another aspect of the project, and let them return to the roadblock after a bit.  They are very likely to see things differently and find a creative solution to their problem. 

As you plan for next week, think of ways you might incorporate a little boredom for the sake of increasing creativity.  Your students will be glad you did (after they get over the boredom part)!  

If you would like to learn more about the boredom-creativity connection, check out John Spencer’s website at http://www.spencerauthor.com/ or go check out the book Bored to Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Creative and Productive Self by Manoush Zomorodi.  You could also view Zomorodi’s Ted Talk about the same topic at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73Q8oQmwzo

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