The best time for students to think creatively

Students are more creative between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., finds a study from the University of Sheffield.

Researchers at Sheffield divided 270 undergraduate students into groups and asked each group to brainstorm possible uses for common objects, such as a coat hanger and a paper cup. Students who completed the activity between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. generated at least twice as many ideas as those who participated in the morning or late afternoon, according to the study.

Previous research suggests that our creativity peaks about four hours after waking, writes Chris Havergal for Times Higher Education. Other studies have found that we experience a post-lunch slump that dampens our creative thought, says Dermot Breslin, the study's lead author.

During this three-hour window, students may experience higher levels of alertness and socialization that boost their creativity, says Breslin, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior at Sheffield.

To exercise students' creative problem-solving, colleges and universities should schedule courses that require creative group work around lunchtime, he suggests.

Other universities are redesigning the physical spaces that students learn and live in to boost their creativity.

The University of Utah, for example, built a community-centric residence hall designed specifically for students interested in entrepreneurship. Utah's high-tech hall is built to be an innovative space for anyone on campus to pursue their entrepreneurial interests. Each of the four residential floors has a different theme, with matching design and equipment to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration, according to EAB's profile of the residence hall.

But classrooms don't have to be high-tech to encourage creativity.

Institutions with established active learning classrooms found that lower-resource changes typically lead to an outsized impact, writes Ann Forman Lippens for EAB's Facilities Forum. Relatively simple physical modifications—such as whiteboards or swivel chairs—can have a greater effect on student participation and collaboration than expensive technology, she writes (Cain, Business Insider, 11/9/17; Havergal, Times Higher Education, 1/30/18). 

Learn more about how to think creatively

11 exercises to boost your creativity in 15 minutes or less

5 questions that suppress innovation

Why brainstorming never seems to work—and MIT's 4-minute solution

5 strategies Oprah, Paul McCartney, and other leaders use to be more creative

Can creativity be taught? 7 creative professionals weigh in.

The most in-demand skill of 2019 and 4 ways to cultivate it

How to engage your community for creative problem-solving

2 million people have taken this online course. Here's what they're learning.


Next in Today's Briefing

The top 10 resume buzzwords—and what they mean for students

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague