The Promotion of Creativity Through Play
What do we mean when we speak of creativity? Can creativity be promoted, developed and expanded through play? Are some ways of playing more creative than others? Throughout this assignment I will be focusing on these three questions. I will begin by exploring theory and educators’ perceptions and understanding of creative play. As an assessor and tutor of students in the field of early years and through countless visits to many settings, I have found that this area of learning is often misunderstood, confused and under valued.
Edgington (1998); and Duffy (1998) would agree, suggesting that this area of development is often misconstrued, and takes up much of the adult’s time in order to produce a chain of replica cardboard effigies that have little educational value, least of all a creative one. This has prompted me to become an advocate for this area of play and has inspired me to share my own knowledge and experience with others. Many authors and researchers agree that creativity is problematic to define.
Underpinning theory and research must be looked at in depth, as must the context of the society we live in. Throughout this assignment a western orientation of today’s times is emphasised. However, in Hinduism creativity is seen as a “spiritual expression” (Starko 2001 p. 5) and other eastern cultures look on creativity as “a process of individual growth”. Lubart 1999; Sternberg 1990 in: Starko 2001 endorse this when saying, “Just as intelligence is viewed differently in different cultures, so the vehicles and focus of creativity vary from culture to culture and across time. ” (p6)
As I unfold the theory behind creativity, it is apparent that some would suggest it implies greatness, a gift innate within a chosen few. This view is imbedded in research focused on psychological determinants from the 1950s and even today some educationalists still take this view. Craft (2003) is recognised for her many publishing’s in the field of creativity and describes this as “big C creativity”. Freud suggested creativity was driven by the personal identity and viewed fantasy and creative writings as a result of unfulfilled wishes, a continuation of childhood play (Starko 2001 p. 5).
Rhyammar and Brolin (1999) in Craft, Jeffrey & Leibling, (2001) suggests that throughout the 1980s and 1990s research into creativity, “became rooted in a social psychological framework in which it is recognised that social structures affect individual creativity. ” (p1) Vygotsky (1930) actively, categorises in three major stages. Here play plays a significant part in the development of creativity. In symbolic play children use an object to represent something else, expanding the imagination, using existing knowledge and ideas in new a novel ways.
Although Vygotsky believed play in childhood to be an important part in the development of creativity, he emphasises that the creativity is at an immature state and creatively mature adults need to support and expand the play in order to accelerate it. Thus, it is widely accepted today that anyone can be creative. Creativity is about having original thoughts and ideas, being flexible with these and about solving and finding problems. Craft (2003) describes this as ” little c creativity”, and advises, “Little c creativity is not necessarily tied to a product – outcome, for it involves exercising imaginativeness.
It involves having some grasp of the domain of application, and thus of the appropriateness of the ideas. It involves the use of the imagination, intelligence and self-expression. ” (p. 148) Craft et al (2001) believes that creativity is a state of mind, not intelligence, however she does agree in many ways with Gardner (1983) and advocates, that understanding multiple intelligence theory is a fundamental principle of creativity. This is reflected in her definition, Creativity is a state of mind of which all of our intelligences are working together. It involves seeing, thinking and innovating.
Although it is often found in the creative arts, creativity can be demonstrated in any subject at school or in any aspect of life. (Craft et al 2001 p. 38) Cropley (2001) takes an intellectual view of creativity, and quiet rightly suggests that this has to be a factor when considering creative attainment and achievement. His approach seems to be mechanistic in answering the question, how does creativity work? However, the underpinning theme of differing academic ability in relation to creativity, does have implications for children with special educational needs, an area that will be considered later in the text.
Starko (2001) is successful at describing a range of theory and aspects of creativity. In defining creativity she considers novelty, originality and appropriateness as key factors when she states, “to be considered creative, a product or idea must be original or novel to the individual creator. ” (p. 5) An article published in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) on the subject of creativity suggests the Department of Education and Skills (DFES) take a similar view in that, the creative process has to be original but also indicates it must be useful.
The creative process must be purposeful, directed towards achieving an objective, with an outcome that is of value in relation to that objective. (DFES cited in: TES 2004) Throughout the literature reviewed creativity and the ability to solve problems are closely linked. Starko investigates authentic problems i. e. a problem without a predetermined answer and how they were took up by educators such as Dewey (1920). Here she describes how models of creativity can be found in his five logical steps to problem solving i. e. a difficulty is felt, located and defined, a number of possible solutions are considered, weighted and finally accepted.
She also considers Wallas (1926) who describes the creative process, going beyond Dewey to include unconscious processing (incubation) and the “Aha! Factor” used to indicate a unique idea by creators, and described in Wallas’s model as “illumination”. Starko implies that some thing is missing from the Dewey and Wallas models, which can be found in the Torrance and Parnes – Osborn model. What is missing is presented in the form of actually doing something with the idea as a final stage. Throughout Starko maintains, creative thinking can be used to solve problems and communicated to others.
In addition, the art of realising that a problem exists should be considered. Finding the idea, a need or societal problem, Starko would describe as “problem finding” and considers this as the purpose of creativity when stating, “problem finding in its broadest sense underlines all types of creativity. ” (p. 14) Starko agrees with constructivist theory and states that the process of building cognitive structures underlines all learning. In order to learn we must link new information to prior knowledge in order to make it meaningful.
Meaningful learning… is essentially creative. All students must be given the permission to transcend the insights of their teachers. (Caine, R & Caine, G (1991) in: Starko 2001 p. 17) Duffy (1998) takes a similar view in defining creativity and suggests that, “creativity is about connecting the previously unconnected in ways that are new and meaningful to the individual. “(p. 23) Duffy’s constructivist approach to creativity closely links creativity to real life experiences and application of the imagination similar to that of Craft.
She argues that, accepting the knowledge of others, being able to retain and retrieve information and repeat facts is overemphasised in our education system. Duffy identifies Bruner (1986) as implying that society places too much importance on “logical and systematic thought” (p6). Duffy also concurs with the link between creativity and play and advises that, “play promotes the flexibility and problem solving skills that are needed to be creative. ” (p. 23) Duffy maintains that a deeper understanding can be acknowledged through opportunities to represent experiences and ideas using action, images and writing.
Bruner (1982) describes these three ways of processing information as: The enactive mode – based on action or learning by doing, the iconic mode – replacing the action with a drawing or using an image to stand for an object or concept and finally the symbolic mode – using traditional symbols. Through these modes children are able to produce their own representations, store and retrieve information, thus produce their own. Duffy emphasises the importance of all the different modes remaining available to children in order to develop creatively through all areas of learning.
Geva, Blenkin & Kelly (1989); and Moyles (2002) all strongly defend the argument for play to be extended into formal education as a means of learning, and as Hutt (1966) cited in Geva et al points out play has strong links with the development of later creativity and original thinking. Both behaviourist and humanistic theory are also considered: According to Skinner’s theory the subject would have no internal drives, inspiration or desires, actions and creativity are a direct result of outside stimuli and re-enforcement of responses.
Humanist theories such as Maslow (1954) and Rogers (1962) do not consider the processes of the inner-brain nor do they consider re-enforcement as a dominant feature. These theorists view creativity as a product of normal healthy growth and development. Maslow (1954) linked creativity to self-actualisation i. e. someone who is self accepting, spontaneous, expressive and less concerned with other’s opinions. Building on this Rogers identified specific factors that would enhance creativity. He suggested that a person needs a wealth of experiences, confidence, an ability to consider new ideas and rely on their own judgements.
Finally they must be able to experiment with ideas, mull over concepts and apply imagination. He believed creative individuals must be able to play with ideas, to imagine impossible combinations, and to generate wild hypotheses. (Starko 2001 p. 44) Craft et al implies that although creativity is embedded throughout the National Curriculum and even identified as a developmental area in the Foundation stage, there is a lack of creativity in schools. Furthermore, Craft et al suggests that this is a result of Binet and Simon’s IQ test.
This test for measuring one form of intelligence fails conclusively to measure forms of inspiration such as creative ability. Craft et al speaks of the changing needs of society in terms of not just acquiring, dictating and using knowledge for what it is; instead society requires the ability to use knowledge in new, flexible and interesting ways particularly in terms of economy and workforce. She discusses the influences of the government in this reform and speaks of how both the Prime Minister (Tony Blair) and MP (David Blunkett) articulate the way forward as creating a nation of creative talents.
Since 1998 as part of the governments commitments to develop the creativity of young people a number of major initiatives have been launched, these include: The set up of the ‘National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education’ (NACCCE): A project entitled ‘Creative Partnerships’: a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) three year curriculum project designed to advise schools on the promotion of creativity and in 2003, a survey by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) entitled ‘Expecting the Unexpected: Developing Creativity in Primary and Secondary Schools’.
This document conflicts with Craft’s claims as findings suggest creative teaching is improving rapidly in schools and inspectors reported that approximately twenty percent of creative work was “exceptionally good” and a high percentage was good. It was also reported that, in the majority of schools visited, creativity was placed high on the list of head teacher’s priorities. An article in Child Education (2003) implies that although we are developing creativity in our teaching, teaching children to think creatively is another story.
The article suggests that there are constraints within the National Curriculum that make teaching children to be creative thinkers difficult at times. However, it reminds us that, “In Excellence and Employment” the DFES reiterates that, “the National Curriculum’s programme of study state what is to be taught, but not how it is to be taught. ” In contrast the Foundation Stage programme explicitly categorises creativity as an area of development, identifying individual outcomes in the Early Learning Goals.
In Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage (2001) an array of examples are given for the promotion of each aspect of the learning goals and proves to be an invaluable document for all early years practitioners. Craft (2003) would argue however that, defining aspects of creativity in this way and by listing outcomes to be reached could limit this area of achievement. In the aim to build a nation of creative thinkers it may be wise to consider other curriculum approaches. In Steiner schools for instance, the focus is on the whole child and social ability.
There is a less formal curriculum and play in a creative and artistic environment is the order of the day. According to the Steiner Waldorf Organisation (2004), ” the Waldorf approach makes a fresh and positive engagement with current educational dilemmas….. The Waldorf Curriculum focuses on the cultivation and nourishment of both right and left brain skills, fostering creativity and initiative. ” The dilemma of individual educational needs and creativity must be considered if inclusion is to be taken seriously.
According to Boxhall and Bennathan (2000); and Tassoni (2003) these children will benefit from a more structured environment and limitations in choice, which may otherwise overwhelm and cause confusion. The High Scope approach brings structure to the environment allowing children to make choices that are well supported and matched to the child’s individual needs. Norris (2005) proposes that, “for those on the autistic spectrum, High/Scope is fantastic because it is more interactive. ” (p. ) She also suggests that High Scope is “fully compatible with the foundation stage. ” Having considered the curriculum, types of play should also be explored when examining the role of play in creativity. Are some ways of playing more creative then others? A number of studies and research projects have been carried out into the process and promotion of creativity.
Hughes (1999) discusses some of these and begins by explaining how Guildford (1967) cited in Hughes (1999) p. 187 explores the link between creativity and the ability to solve problems and suggests that, Divergent problem solving has often been linked to the process involved in creativity, whereas convergent problem solving has been related to performance on conventional intelligence and classroom tests, on which there are usually single correct answers. ” Sylva (1977) cited in Hughes (1999) found that if preschool children were allowed to play and explore problem solving material, prior to being presented with a problem, they were able to solve a given problem more efficiently, quickly and with more enthusiasm than others who had not been given this opportunity, or even those to whom the solution had been demonstrated.
Prior exploration and play is also said to have an important impact on divergent problem solving skills and thinking, however, according to Pepler & Ross (1981); Smith & Dutton (1979); Sylva, Bruner & Genova (1976) cited in Hughes (1999) the choice of play objects and materials should be appropriate. In other words play with objects that have a single solution or only one correct way of using such as a jigsaw, would promote the ability of convergent problem solving, whereas play objects which can be used in a variety of ways or which are open ended such as blocks will develop more flexibility and originality in problem solving.
In conclusion creativity is not just about being able to produce unique works of art other wise known as big “C” creativity. Creativity is about playing with ideas, using knowledge in new and exciting ways, to solve and find problems. Theory would suggest that play is indeed a key factor in the development and expansion of creativity. Research into characteristics of creativity and studies of young children suggests how creativity can be promoted, developed and expanded through play.
Filling children with information and facts would be pointless if there are no opportunities or desires to use and develop and expand these. On the other hand, it would be frustrating to have a burning desire to create a sound but lack the knowledge and skills to achieve it. Therefore, there is a strong argument that suggests that these should be given equal standing when teaching young children.
Exploratory and imaginative play opportunities will indeed aid the development of both knowledge and creativity. Building on Vygotsky’s theory i. e. symbolic play is the start of creativity; adults should encourage and enhance this type of play. Children should be encouraged to make choices, solve open ended problems and develop ideas in a supportive and nurturing play environment, only then will little “c” creativity be allowed to flourish and develop a nation of unique creative individuals.
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