Developing creativity within primary science teaching. What does it look like and how can classroom interactions augment the process?

Oxford Brookes University, England

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Abstract

My research involved over 100 primary school teachers and examined how they and their pupils’ generated creativity in the science classroom. This involved multiple methods of data collection. A questionnaire considered how the practitioners might augment innovation and originality through their practices and via formative assessment. Additionally, to reveal distinctive features of the teachers’ practice, which support and nurture creative thinking, I observed (and interviewed) five experienced primary school teachers. All five had been recognised nationally to be creative in their science lessons. However, having reflexively considered these teachers I chose to focus on contrasting three related cases, for they aptly reflected three teaching approaches, i.e. expositional, ‘teaching creatively’ (TC) and ‘teaching for creativity’ (T4C).

The examples of the teacher’s creative practice was captured on video and I used both the visual material and the transcriptions to carry out a multi-variate analysis of different dimensions of creativity. I generated a range of theoretical frameworks to inductively and deductively analyse teaching and learning processes (both apparent and tacit) in the science classroom. This helped to reflexively devise new and novel ways to graphically illuminate and illustrate how teachers engaged in, and mediated, scientific creativity with young pupils.

Further deductive explorations focused on the nature of teacher talk, pupil’s utterances and the verbal exchanges between both teacher and child. Scrutiny of dialogue was carried out by adapting and applying Mercer’s three types of talk (disputational, cumulative and exploratory) which was combined with Alexander’s lesser-known five patterns of teacher talk (rote, recitation, instruction, discussion and dialogue). The analysis elicited ‘speech-acts’ which were reflected on and the reification of nature of creativity (between teacher and child) was considered. This was informed by also considering the positioning of the pupils (as agentive learners). Alongside this, the focus and direction of the assessment approaches adopted by these creative teachers’ was also appraised.

The data, gathered through 100 plus questionnaires and three post-observational interviews (i.e. the three related case studies), was examined bilaterally through both inductive and deductive frameworks. The inductive approach provided insights into underlying patterns of key pedagogical characteristics. Whilst deductive frameworks, that drew on Oliver’s ten characteristics of creative teaching and Wiliam’s five key assessment strategies, illustrated how pivotal child agency was, when discerning (or making connections to) the scientific, even when the child’s ideas can be construed as being from alternative (unexpected) perspectives.

The timely nature of this thesis is recognised. For example, international organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic and Co-Operative Development (OCED), have recently acknowledged the importance of innovation and originality within the scientific domain. Both Lucas and Buckley, the co-chairs of the OECD advisory group, have examined how creative thinking could be tested for in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) global rankings. To this end Lucas, Claxton and Spencer have developed a prototype assessment, for the OECD, to pave a way to assess pupil’s creativity in both the STEM and art subjects in PISA 2021. My thesis extends this topical debate further, and offers exploratory illustrations and descriptions of teacher and child initiated creativity. It also recognises that whilst literature can illuminate and describe differing features of creativity, when nurturing creative thinking, we also need to consider how the teacher refines their practices, through shared activities, in order to appropriately propagate scientific (child initiated) creativity.

Thesis full reference:

Frodsham, S. (2018) ‘Developing creativity within primary science teaching. What does it look like and how can classroom interactions augment the process?’. Unpublished PhD thesis. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

Related Main Publications:

Paper presentations

Frodsham, S. (2019) ‘Graphical representations of creativity in the primary science classroom: Illustrating innovation and originality through three visual displays’. Presentation at Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) conference. Edinburgh, Scotland, June 7th 2019.  

Frodsham, S. (2018) ‘Demonstrating Creativity-in-Learning Through Classroom Talk: Towards A Fresh Theoretical Framework’. Presentation at British Educational Research Association (BERA), Newcastle, UK, September 11th-13th 2018.

Frodsham, S. (2016) ‘Generating representations of creativity in the primary science classroom’. Presentation at British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference. Leeds, UK, September 14th 2016.

Frodsham, S. (2016) ‘Teachers’ Perspectives on Creativity and ways it can be Supported and Developed in Primary School Science Lessons’. Presentation at Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) conference. Belfast, Ireland, June 11th 2016.

Frodsham, S. (2015) ‘Interpreting pedagogical practices (concerning creativity) through visual representations of primary science lessons’. Presentation at European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) conference. Helsinki, Finland, 31st August 2015.

Frodsham, S. (2015) ‘Interpreting science teacher’s practice (related to creativity) through visual representations of their actions’. Presentation at British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference. Belfast, Ireland, September 16th 2015.

Poster presentations

Frodsham, S. (2017), ‘Evidencing Creativity in Talk: Toward a Fresh Theoretical Framework’. Poster presentation at Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Reading, UK, January 11th 2016.

Frodsham, S. (2016), ‘Developing creativity through formative assessment for learning (AfL)’. Poster presentation at Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Birmingham, UK, January 9th 2016.

Frodsham, S. (2016) ‘Interpreting pedagogical practices (concerning creativity) through visual representations of primary science lessons’. Poster presentation at Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Birmingham, UK, January 9th 2016.

Frodsham, S. (2015) ‘Interpreting teacher observations (concerning creativity) through visual representations’. Poster presentation at Association of Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference. Reading, UK, January 10th 2015.

Journal articles

McGregor, D,, & Frodsham, S. (2019) (forthcoming) ‘Epistemic insights : Contemplating tensions between policy influences and creativity in school science’. BERJ.

Frodsham, S., McGregor, D., & Wilson, H. (2014) ‘Young children’s views of creativity in science: exploring perspectives in an English primary classroom’, Journal of Emergent Science, (8), pp.31-41.

Correspondence

Sarah Frodsham

Oxford Brookes University,

Department of Education,

Harcourt Hill Campus,

Harcourt Hill,

Oxford,

OX2 9AT

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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