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Creativity and Education (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

How does acting on these common misconceptions about creativity influence teachers’ behavior? Suppose a teacher is presenting a unit on basic shapes—circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. When introducing a review lesson, she asks children to suggest the names of shapes that they know. Robert suggests, “There’s an egg shape, only it’s called an ellipse.” How would you as a teacher handle this response? A teacher who is overly concerned about confusing the other children might say, “Robert, that isn’t one of the shapes we learned.” If you do, what will happen to Robert? He will feel rejected. Over time, Robert will probably begin to “play the game” and tell teachers what they want to hear. He may even quit contributing in class.

Situations such as these, repeated day after day, not only undermine children’s creativity but also distort teachers’ perspectives on what constitutes creative behavior. In a study of more than 1,000 teachers’ attitudes toward creativity, conducted by Fryer and Collings (1991), only about half of the teachers realized that divergent thinking—thinking “outside the box”—is a key element of creative thought. Many teachers associate creativity with economic privilege and fail to notice it in students who are not engaged in the fine arts. Clasen, Middleton, and Connell (1994) found that African American students tended to outperform their peers in fluency and flexibility of thought, yet these abilities often are overlooked or actively discouraged by teachers. Similarly, a review of 62 studies concluded that arts education has particular advantages for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, yet this population is least likely to have extensive opportunities and a wide variety of materials (Manzo, 2002). The goal of studying children’s creativity and play is to change teachers’ perspectives—to prepare a new generation of teachers who will do a better job of meeting children on their own terms rather than trying to mold them prematurely into performing adult behaviors.

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