Creativity in primary schools: exploring perspectives on creativity within a Scottish primary school classroom
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date06/07/2019
This thesis explores children’s and teachers’ perspectives on creativity, and its implementation, within one primary school classroom in Scotland. The data collection phase of the research employed an ethnographic approach, involving four and a half months of fieldwork in the primary school classroom. Data were generated from participant observation/informal conversations with children and teachers and one round of semi-structured interviews with twenty-five children (aged eleven to twelve) and two teachers. Creativity within primary education has been mainly studied through psychological research, which is mainly based on theories of developmental psychology. Such theories view creativity solely as an individual trait. Despite recognition of the importance of sociocultural issues to the flourishing of children’s creativity, the study of their collaborative creativity has been neglected – particularly in relation to socio-cultural power dynamics. This thesis specifically analyses the balance between individual and collective creativity in the primary classroom, examines how collaborative creativity can acknowledge childhood diversity, and poses questions about how we include children with differing and complex identities in creative processes. Furthermore, this research has been carried out in Scotland, within the context of a fairly new curriculum, the Curriculum for Excellence. This curriculum has been viewed by some as a progressive, modern and motivating curriculum that enables children’s autonomy, and by others as one that has been highly influenced by accountability and performativity regimes, which leave limited space for children’s and teachers’ autonomy. This thesis examines how the Curriculum for Excellence is interpreted in everyday practice and the extent to which it enables the cultivation of children’s creativity. The thesis does so by shedding light on the practical interconnections between children’s and teachers’ agency, structural enablers/barriers, and cultural processes. The findings of this study show that children perceive, perform and embody creativity not only as an individual trait, but also as a collaborative process. However, the findings also show that collaborative creativity entails many complexities and that cultural barriers to creativity may emerge when power among people (children and teachers) operates in ways that create cultures of exclusion. The thesis concludes that the multiple identities of the Curriculum for Excellence, its multiple interpretations, and lack of coherence regarding what is expected of teachers, leads to a blurred landscape of implementation. The thesis argues that lack of a clear plan, strategy and framework for enabling creativity inhibits the founding principles of the Curriculum for Excellence from being achieved. The thesis also argues that environmental and structural barriers within the research setting inhibit the flourishing of children’s creativity, but that the structural barriers can sometimes be overcome through the construction of enabling cultures. The thesis is able to define enabling cultures as cultures that value diversity, promote inclusion, and view space not as static, but as a dynamic process. In so doing, the findings of this study emphasise the interconnected importance of: viewing creativity as an individual trait; perceiving creativity as a collaborative process; and thinking in spatial terms, for example, in ways that create the space for children to perceive, perform and embody creativity in their diverse, but equally valuable ways. This finding enables this study to argue that there is a need for future policies and curricula which promote and encourage greater flexibility in teaching and learning practices, in order to enhance children’s and teachers’ agency and thus allow them to collaboratively create the types of enabling environments, originally envisaged by the Curriculum for Excellence, that will allow children’s creativity to flourish.