Approaches to Teaching and Learning: Creative Teaching

Approaches to Teaching and Learning

Creative Teaching

From my initial blog entitled ‘First Thoughts’, I have remained interested in ways of teaching creatively cross-curricular. When the opportunity came to gain a deeper understanding into teaching and learning; I felt a natural step would be to consider the pedagogy of creativity mainly in relation to teaching but I will also consider the learners role. I will discuss the pedagogy, the suggested key features of a creative teacher and the ethos of an environment which can affect, effective creative teaching. Worked examples will be used of what I consider creative teaching to consist of, in accordance to research. As well as discussing the tensions, dilemmas and limitations that teachers can and may face when finding ways to teach creatively. I really value the notion of ‘words are dead on a page but alive on the tongue’ (Pamela Lewis, 20.11.15); which I recently heard within an English lecture at the University. For me this is what some of creative teaching means, in finding ways to encourage a child’s curiosity by providing hands on and a collaborative approach to learning. Within the blog I am focusing on creative teaching rather than teaching for creativity as there is a difference, the distinction will become clearer in the remainder of the blog. Through the examples and research presented, I am continually considering – Does creativity come from within? Or can it be a learnt/taught skill developed through teacher led example?

Exploring Creative Teaching

Throughout the first decade of the twenty first century creative development within the curriculum had a high profile. Unfortunately in relation to the National Curriculum 2014 the references to creativity are few and far between. With the foundation subject of Art only mentioning being creative twice. I do however note that creativity in teaching is not bound to a particular subject (Herbet, 2010). It is a style of teaching that is cross-curricular.

In some ways, by the improvement of standards in the basics within the National Curriculum and here I especially refer to the core subjects, creativity has begun to be drowned out of the curriculum. This is not too dis-similar to Sir Ken Robinson’s thinking as he also suggests that currently creativity is being taken out of children, with academic ability becoming far more dominant.

Creative teaching isn’t about going against the teaching of essential knowledge or a lowering of expectations in the children’s learning. It is more about engaging and enhancing a child’s imagination, stretching a child’s ability to evaluate and discover their collaborative capacity (Herbet, 2010), this is achieved by the teacher bringing the subject area alive. I believe that as a teacher it is my duty to develop creativity in the children in my class. As Cooper 2013 states ‘developing the creativity of the young, cannot be left to chance’. After watching Sir Ken Robinson speaking on education and creativity, I felt it mirrored many of my own beliefs in teaching and learning and what it was that finally (after 22 years of working with children) drove me to undertake the P.G.C.E., in short his speech ignites my passion and drive. My readings and own experiences have suggested to me, that intelligence is not just an academic concept but can be considered to be a diverse dynamic abstract and encompasses many elements.

Features of the Pedagogical View of Creative Teaching.

Therefore creative teaching is about stimulating children’s curiosity and imagination by ‘using imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting and effective’ (Herbert, 2010). An example of this can be taken from a recent Mathematics task I was given. The task involved researching measuring for a maths lesson in a year four class, the only requirement for this was that a storybook be used as a starter for the lesson. I chose ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ by Roald Dahl, as it had been the class book. Concentrating on capacity i.e. measuring in millilitres and litres. The main idea was to make a liquid that would be ‘George’s medicine’; this would be done by the children measuring different coloured squashes into bottles (to make their own marvellous medicine), recording the amounts of liquid for each part. This type of activity highlights the practical ways in which a subject area can be brought to life. By providing an engaging environment facilitating the children to make connections to their every day lives, providing opportunities for questions and a chance to use their imaginations to extend the activity further.

Below is a diagram of what Cremin, believes a framework for creative teaching could look like.

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Diagram to represent a framework for creative teaching

By taking on Cremin’s framework it is helpful to see the creative teaching practice approach layered into three sub sections. In turn I will discuss the usefulness and necessity of each, the first being, the pedagogy of creative teaching. This in large is considered to be the notion, that by helping children to find relevance in their work, either through practical application or by making personal and emotional connections. When these elements are achieved creative teaching is viewed to be at its most effective (Abbs, 2002, Woods and Jeffrey, 1996). As highlighted already in the example used above in the measuring activity. The use of open questioning in this style of teaching is also of great importance. The facilitation of both asking and responding to such questions encourages the children to be imaginative, playfully explore options (Cremin and Arthur) and enhance their own skills of questioning. This links into two further pages within our group blog, entitled ‘exploratory talk.

The second of Cremin’s layers within her framework refer to the personal characteristics a creative teacher may have or be in the continual process of developing. However this is a very contentious area as many of the characteristics listed in many of the books read are of those that one would expect in the majority of effective teachers to have; for example, enthusiasm, passion, commitment, pro active rather than reactive etc. (Cremin, 2014). From the brief overview, of various texts for the purpose of this blog. There is one characteristic that does feature on the creative teachers list and not on the effective teachers list. This characteristic is an awareness of self, as being creative, as well as curious which in turn emphasises the adult to have a childlike exploration (Cremin, 2014). A connection can also be made here with the pedagogy part of the framework, in that the ‘creative teacher’ would possibly be in tune with his/her emotions and feelings, as the creative being. Cremin and Robinson both suggest, that creative teaching and learning is best taught by example. From my own experience within the learning of science as a core subject at university, I consider this suggestion to be true. By the lecturers (Sharon Harris) creative approach to teaching our lessons, I have not only experienced hands on examples of learning in science but also enhanced my own subject knowledge and increased my enthusiasm for a subject area, by the way in which it has been taught to me i.e. led by example. As I am making connections with what I am learning (academically) and doing (practically) as well as linking the experience to the theorists research already discussed.

The third layer of Cremin’s framework is ethos of both the environment and the individual. Cremin suggests, for effective creative teaching and learning to take place, a school’s ethos is one that celebrates children’s achievement and individuality, promoting creativity across the curriculum. At Wonersh and Shamley Green Primary School, in which I have undertaken my school based training one at. The school sets out such an ethos in its visions and values – the learning adventure document. Although it is noted, that this is only one way of creating an ethos that promotes creative teaching, it is not necessarily imperative. As a creative teacher can create such a classroom that highlights the above features as well as the teacher creating positive, trusting relationships that in turn develop a high degree of emotional safety within the children (Cremin and Arthur, 2014). These last factors are of high importance, as the children will ideally feel safe and secure in their immediate environment. If they are going to be able to take chances, explore the world around them, as well as being prepared to be wrong.

Dilemmas and Tensions of Teaching Creativity

The problems that teachers face are complex and varied in teaching creatively. For example teachers may feel safe in terms of their own teaching and learning thus creating safe and stagnant boundaries (Craft, 2005). They may feel constrained by the pressures of sticking to task in completing the teaching of a packed national curriculum, as well as the pressures of the continual measuring of standards (Cremin and Arthur). These areas are just a few to impact teaching creatively, but can heavily impact the learning of children if the vigour, passion and creativity are taken out of any taught subject. Teresa Cremin and James Arthur state, ‘ when formulae for learning are relied upon and curriculum packages are delivered, children’s ability to make connections and to imagine alternatives is markedly reduced,’ i.e. creative learning is jeopardised.

However another complexity of creativity is that some can view creative teaching and learning as a political stance equating to liberal individualism (Craft, 2005). It is in the western world that creativity is part of our human right, as we in the west are fortunate enough to live in a democratic society that acknowledges open and equal exchanges about a given subject or in this instance teaching style. However throughout time, creativity has become a necessity in it is resourcefulness for economic survival. Until researching creative teaching in more detail I had not considered this element. Of course by, creative teaching children learn to become more creative. As they have learnt to become more resourceful, imaginative and think outside the box. This may not always end in positive ways of creative teaching; here I refer to forms of individual behaviour. For example, creativity can be used in destructive ways, as we have seen recently in horrific acts of terrorism (Craft, 2005).

Final Thoughts

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A model of creative practice and a creative state of mind

From the research considered within this blog I believe creativity is within us all. So in response to the initial question in the introduction – Does creativity come from within? The answer is yes. Therefore can creativity be taught or learnt? I consider it to be an innate skill that needs to be exercised in order for it to remain fresh and productive. This relies on the children of the next generation being to be taught creatively enabling them to consider new ways of thinking, encouraging them to explore the world around them using their individuality, imaginations and genuine intrigue to all aspects of learning and life.

By Niki Robson

References

Craft, A. (2005) Creativity in Schools Tensions and Dilemmas, Oxon: Routledge

Craft, A. (2000) Creativity across the primary curriculum, Oxon: Routledge

Cremin, T. and Arthur, J. (2014) Learning to teach in the primary school, Oxon: Routledge

Davies, D. (2011), Teaching Science Creatively, Abingdon: Routledge

Herbert, A. (2010) The pedagogy of creativity, Oxon: Routledge

Robinson, K. (2007) video entitled: Ken Robinson speaking on Education and Creativity, last accessed 26.11.15 – https://youtu.be/17Ye368aQVk

The National Curriculum 2014, Oxfordshire: Scholastic ltd

Wilson, A. (2014) edited, Creativity in Primary Education, Los AngelesA