Essay: Teaching creatively can inspire students

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  • Teaching creatively can inspire students
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In this assignment I am going to discuss how a creative approach can be used to teach the key aspects within Science and History. I will begin by analysing the various theories surrounding creativity; what it means, what the basis of teaching creatively and teaching for creativity is and how these approaches impact the cognitive development of today’s children. In addition to this, I will use personal experiences to underpin my own thoughts and ideas regarding how both teaching creatively and teaching for creativity can inspire, engage and support pupils learning within my chosen subjects, Science and History. Furthermore, I will discuss the impact this module and my reading has had on my pedagogical choices and practice.

Williams (1976) proposes that creativity is a ‘can’t’ word on account of its relation to the artistic work of famous litterateurs and thus, is unattainable for the general population. This, I believe, is a statement of which teacher’s need to revolutionise within their practice as the term ‘creative’ can be associated with all forms of work and is thought to be a natural human characteristic defined as an extension of our enthusiasm (Nightingale, 1999). Tanggaard (2013) concurs with the ideology that creativity can be associated with innumerous powerful and potentially life altering art forms, however, argues that creativity can also transpire into everyday life. With this in mind, Jones (2013) hypothesises that there is no correlation between one’s intellect and their degree of creativity. Furthermore, stating that generally individuals who are more creative believe the formulation of a problem is more important than its solution; this implies that individuals of any cognitive development is able to demonstrate creative processes and ability as opposed to the idea that creativity requires fame and recognition. To me, this highlights the importance of a teacher’s role in supporting and scaffolding this mannerism in today’s young scholars.

These altering viewpoints can be expressed via ‘big C’ and ‘little c’ which have become apparent numerous times throughout my reading. These references provide a range in terms of creative strength; ‘big C’ referring to extensive creative abilities that are inventive and considered as breakthrough ideas and ‘little c’ referring to everyday creativity of which may be more evident in our classrooms (Mauzy, 2003). Runko (2014) argues that these definitions are impervious, suggesting that there is an assumption that ‘big C’ creativity requires fame, reputation and high level achievement. Runko implies that these terms are a dichotomy, of which poses an issue as separating high-standard achievements from everyday creativity suggests ‘big C’ creativity is to be glorified more so than the work of ‘little c’ standards. Both forms of creativity require similar thought processes and the scale of success, comprising of three nodes – the individual, their talents and interests and the domain in which they operate, is extraneous to the level of creativity possessed by the individual (Craft, 2001).

From my reading, I can now appreciate that creativity is a hard concept to define and there is not merely one definition available; this could potentially be due to the fact that creativity can be viewed as a controversial topic and the views held on the subject change substantially over time due to ever-changing societal factors. For the purpose of this assignment, the ‘democratic definition’ provided by the NACCCE (1999) is the most suited to my own opinion on the matter. Within this, creativity is defined as a skill of which is achievable for everybody in some shape or form when provided with the relevant knowledge and conditions. Therefore, I believe that teachers should provide these opportunities for all pupils to succeed in line with their own strengths and abilities in regards to their creative achievements. This leads me onto a discussion exploring how teaching creatively and teaching for creativity can support pupils in reaching their full potential.

Gregerson (2012) offers an explanation of the difference between teaching creatively and teaching for creativity. She states that teaching creatively can be defined as applying an imaginative approach in order to make learning more engaging and thus, have a greater impact on the children. In addition to this, Gregerson defines teaching for creativity as a method of teaching pupils outlooks towards creativity and scaffolding how to develop creative processes and conduct. Jeffery and Woods (2003) supports this definition and suggests that teaching creatively can have a major effect on learning. Teaching creatively can cause an immediate experience of a dynamic, captivating and caring ethos in the classroom which in turn makes the learning experience relevant to the pupils and therefore, has the ability to cause children to strive in this atmosphere. However, Brinkman (2010) argues that simply modelling creativity is unlikely to be enough to instil creative thinking in our pupils. She claims a combination of both teaching creatively and teaching for creativity should be present in our classrooms in order to lead to a high standard of both teaching and learning. Jeffery et al (2004) supports Brinkman in this view and adduces that although the distinction between teaching creatively and teaching for creativity has been useful in highlighting the importance of both strands, there is a risk of creating a new dichotomy of which may become institutionalised in educational discourse, leading to restrictive pedagogic ideologies. Jeffery’s research explored how children felt more engaged and interested when the teacher was being creative and therefore, inspired them to model the teacher’s approach. This meant children then proceeded to find themselves in situations where they could take control and ownership; this caused them to be innovative and thence, creative in their learning. This emphasises that the relationship between teaching creatively and teaching for creativity is integral and in many situations, the former leads directly to the latter, reiterating the importance of teachers building circumstances that foster both of these approaches in order to aid pupils learning and development.

As previously discussed, creativity can be viewed as an ever-changing, controversial topic; due to this, instilling this approach in the classroom does not always come without problems. Gregerson et al (2012) and Tan (2007) suggest that creativity can get left behind in a world of tests and progress. With heightened pressure being put on teachers, it has been seen that creativity is not a priority held by all teachers; it is a matter of what gets the children to progress without increasing their already large workload. In spite of this, if creativity were to be fostered to aid children’s learning and thence, progression, teachers would see an impact that cannot be achieved by simply using worksheets and the extra workload may be seen as worthwhile (Starko,2018). Desailly (2012) suggests that the view of teaching creatively is a pitfall for many teachers as they believe they are not creative individuals themselves. Desailly further explores the matter and claims that once you are able to model your own creativity and ‘have a go’ you can adapt your teaching approach to harness your new found abilities and begin the process of teaching for creativity.

There is a common issue surrounding the term ‘creativity’ of which is that it is generally related to the teaching of the arts (Wreen, 2015). In despite of this ideology held by many, I do not agree that it should be limited to a particular set of subjects; creativity should be fostered in all areas of the curriculum. This is supported by Shamsi (2017) who suggests that not only should we encourage creativity in all pupils, but as a society we must learn to be rece
ptive to it by being open to new, innovative approaches in areas we may not expect it. I am going to discuss the use of teaching creatively and teaching for creativity within both Science and History, using practical experiences and a variety of reading to support me.

Love (2010) suggests that Science should harness the creativity instilled in our pupils, claiming that teaching without this in mind would be detrimental to the children in our classrooms; this is because teaching creatively can be said to stimulate the minds of pupils and engages them in the lesson. From saying this, I have practical experiences to support Love’s theory. At the start on a Science lesson, I got my pupils to ‘become’ the scientist; this involved them ‘putting on’ their gloves, lab coats and goggles and switching on their science brains. Teaching in this way aided pupils in becoming focused on the learning goal and kept them engaged throughout the lesson. Although teaching creatively engaged the children, as Brinkman (2010) outlined, the importance of teaching for creativity was evident in this lesson which focused on the key element ‘scientific observations’. I ensured that I had a lesson planned that encompassed inspiring and thought-provoking tasks for which children could take the lead and create their own investigations (enquiry-based learning). In order to secure this teaching approach, I allowed children to make their own decisions about what they wanted to investigate, thus, employing their creative abilities by allowing them to form their own questions and find their own ways to answer these (Jeffery, 2004). We were doing an experiment to see how well a salt and vinegar solution cleaned a penny in comparison to other solutions. Children picked up to 3 other substances to test out of a selection of 8 possibilities; this meant that their investigation was completely unique to them, thus causing them to use their creative thinking and problem solving abilities in order to test their personal hypothesis.

In relation to this, Davies (2010) discusses how children’s sense of wonder has been eroded and so the ordinary has become mundane, leading to a lack of close exploration; this suggests that the role of the teacher is to create a sense of enthrallment and provide opportunities for practical, hands on experiences. Linking back to the experience previously discussed, children were able to use their sight, touch and smell to closely explore the substances in order to choose the ones to use in their investigation and to create their predictions. Feasey (2012) advocates this type of physical exploration and states that children should have a degree of independence and opportunities to take ownership in their learning, supporting the teaching approach I instilled in the classroom. This is further supported by Ovens (2004) who claims that when individuals make their own connections between ideas, there’s a greater sense of authenticity. This implies that teaching for creativity through scientific enquiry enables children to develop higher order thinking skills and gain a greater depth of understanding. This leads me to believe facilitators of learning should permit children to engage in exploration and investigations independently.

Enquiry skills in Science are highly significant although key subject knowledge and observation skills are also very important as without challenging and moulding children’s skills, we cannot substantially prepare them for the life skills required in any field. Moreover, enquiry is also deemed important in History whereby these skills are important in supporting children in understanding the relevance and meaning of the sources explored. Barret (2011) discusses the importance of making History relevant and thus, attainable to children. A clear representation of this philosophy can been seen in a ‘wow’ day held for my Year 1 class. The children had been learning about the various explorers that had found and explored Antarctica. In order to make this relevant for the children, they partook in numerous activities throughout the day including a dress-up workshop where they looked at how clothing and equipment has changed, an orienteering course whereby they were comparing now and then pictures to find the next clue and a mini ‘feast’ where children had the opportunity to try food similar to what ancient explorers would have had to survive on. This creative approach has support from Morris (2016) who proposes that these high impact, out of class experiences can be transformative; they provide the opportunity to turn their academic knowledge into real-life situations in a fitting context which may in turn enhance the development of engaged citizens. This implies that a creative teaching style can enable children to develop a deeper level of thinking in relation to historical events. Boud (2013) argues that in order to gain this deeper level of understanding and engage pupils with the historical events, academic reflection must take place. Boud claims that an experiential day’s purpose is to stimulate pupils in order for reflection to continue occurring even after the focused day, providing additional chances for learning. Moon (2013) supports Boud’s view on reflection and discusses that the use of experiential days provides the support for children to gain a better understanding of the need for reflective practice and how it can aid their learning. This was apparent in a Year 2 Florence Nightingale experiential day where, not only did the children learn a vast amount during the day due to the creative approaches used, but the reflection was able to continue after the children left the school. A child who had been enthralled by the day continued their research at home in an area of particular interest. This is explored by Cooper (2012) who claims that experiential learning can support children in independently taking ownership of their learning as they have been provided with the initial stimulus to build upon. This is a clear example of creative teaching leading to a creative learner (Jeffery and Craft, 2004); this further reiterates how teaching creatively and teaching for creativity are intertwined and co-dependent.

Cremin (2015) discusses the significance of using talk as a tool for teaching for creativity, suggesting that using talk enables children’s experiences to have a greater learning potential as it can lead to the discussion and elaboration of ideas with peers. Furthermore, Cremin suggests in order for talk to be impactful, teachers must teach creatively whereby they model their expectations. Leading on from talk, drama has been accredited as a creative approach in the teaching of History as it allows children to divulge into the information and areas of which they deem important via role play. The effect of drama can be supported by an approach I witnessed on placement where the children were asked to put themselves in the role of the Tudors and use drama techniques to identify and explore these identities and their linked emotions. Turner-Bisset (2012) identifies drama as an irreplaceable art form in the teaching of History as it provides pupils with the opportunity to reflect on the nature of historical events. In contrast to this however, Prendiville (2007) states the use of drama can in fact cause the focus to be drawn away from the facts and details of historical events and figures, thus, leaving a gap in children’s subject knowledge. While I do believe there is a time and place where factual information overrides the creative use of drama, I further believe that the true importance of History is to build a better future for our young scholars. With this in mind, drama allows children to draw on emotions and various ideologies whilst reflecting on and exploring the past, thus, being a creative tool in the learning of History.

Alongside the support outlined and analysed for the creative use of talk and drama in the teaching of History, both of these
approaches can be successfully implemented into the teaching of Science. Littledyke (2004) claims that drama allows children to make meaningful sense of the world around them and thus, will enable them to develop into scientifically literate adults. Littledyke states drama in Science provides real-life simulations that provide a medium for presenting scientific ideas whilst harbouring their social interactions. An experience that demonstrates the implementation of drama in Science is for the teaching of states of matter. The children had done an experiment looking at different conditions they could use to make ice melt quicker, focusing on how and why it either melted or remained frozen. This then built up to a discussion into why things are solid or liquid. To impart a thorough degree of understanding of this concept, drama was the perfect tool to make use of in the classroom; the children physically became the particles, moving like a liquid and then changing to how they move, or do not move, when they become a solid. This not only provided a further opportunity for assessment for learning but encouraged children to think creatively and draw their own conclusions.

Forest school is an inspirational process that allows all ages to achieve and develop through a creative and hands-on approach in a woodland environment (Murray et al, 2005). The forest school approach can be employed in all areas of the curriculum as an effective tool for both teaching creatively and teaching for creativity. Thomas and Thompson (2004) state that learning outdoors brings another dimension to learning and can cause children to explore for themselves and take ownership of their own learning; this suggests that it provides the opportunity for creative learning to take place. This is further supported by Fjortoft (2004) who claims that children who play in natural environments undertake more creative, diverse and imaginative play, which is seen as an important element of children’s development. This implies that by teaching creatively and harbouring the outdoors within children’s learning, it can have a greater impact and develop numerous skills as well as learning in that specific area of the curriculum.

Throughout my time on placement, I had the oppurtunity to partake in a forest school session of which was aimed at the teaching and learning of History, the topic being ‘Early Man’. Within the session children were required to use their teamwork, leadership and communication skills whilst also moulding their own learning about the given topic. Children were challenged to create shelters that would withstand wolves and other such creatures that people in that time frame would have experienced; this gave them freedom in how they created their shelters – the materials, structure and size; this is a clear example of teaching for creativity. There was a cross-curricular link involved in this forest school session, adding to the creative teaching approach already in use, being that children worked with the teacher to create the ‘first fire’. This made the children use their scientific knowledge as to what is needed to create a fire in the wilderness and also brought in History, creating a fire in a similar style as to how they would’ve in prehistoric times. This acted as an opportunity for children to construct increasingly more adequate ways of understanding their world, the past and acting upon it (Kahn, 1999).

Finally, I would like to discuss the impact that this module, alongside my reading and school experiences, has had on my own philosophies and future classroom practice. My understanding of creativity has been developed through exploring the meanings behind teaching creatively and teaching for creativity and how these can be implemented in the classroom. Before this module, I did not fully appreciate the differences between teaching creatively and teaching for creativity, nor the dichotomy that is unfortunately becoming more evident in today’s society. Brinkman (2010) distinguishes the differences between these two approaches and whilst I have come to understand these terms and how they alter, I have come to believe that both styles must be employed in the classroom in order to foster the full range of creative abilities of all pupils. I have also come to realise the importance of creating my own definition of creativity that suits my personal teaching style, what it means to me and how I will instil this approach in my classroom; this has led me to begin to take a professional stance on the controversy that surrounds similar topics in education. This is essential in becoming a successful and engaging practitioner; it is important to engage with and develop in my classroom whilst also analysing and reflecting on other perspectives in order to become a knowledgeable and insightful teacher. From my experiences and research into Forest School teaching, I have also come to the conclusion that I intend on completing the training in order to become a qualified teacher in this area and so, further developing my teaching skills and thence, improving the learning journey of my pupils.

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