Report Title
Creativity in arts education: A case study in an arts magnet school.

Larry O`Farrell
Faculty of Education, Queen`s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Full Reference
O’Farrell, Larry (2009) Creativity in arts education: A case study in an arts magnet school. Technical Report.

Summary of key findings

This study asks how arts magnet teachers, students, and administrators perceive the role of creativity in their school and what strategies are used in the school to foster learning for creative achievement, creative teaching, support for creative teaching and learning, and assessment of creative achievement. The study is grounded in an analysis of the literature that was completed earlier and a previous study conducted by this researcher in which teachers of drama/theatre responded to a survey of teacher views of teaching creativity and creative teaching (Saebo et al, 2008). The literature provided a wide range of definitions of creativity and revealed a consensus that creativity can be fostered in students either by direct instruction or by removing barriers to creativity (Ripple, 1999). Teachers of drama/theatre expressed the view that they were responsible for fostering creativity in their students. Saebo et al (2008) suggested that the voice of students should be included in future research and found that teachers could use some help to learn how to assess creative achievement. This study indicates that there is a need to take an in-depth look at one, specific arts education program to see how theories of creativity and views of arts teachers are applied in a practical school setting. An appropriate methodology to achieve this goal is a qualitative case study.

The interviews conducted with teachers, students, and administrators at this arts magnet school addressed three main areas: participants’ views on the nature of creativity, teaching and assessing creativity in a school setting, and the culture of an arts magnet school with respect to fostering creativity. There were some key differences between the perspectives of students and teachers, most notable their views on the nature of creativity. Students tended to view creativity as an innate quality, while teachers viewed it as a skill which could be nurtured and developed. These opinions about the nature of creativity impacted the perspectives of the participants on nearly every other topic, particularly teaching and assessing creativity and the role of the teacher in fostering creativity. Students saw the teacher as a motivator for learning, but did not believe they should be formally assessed on their creativity. Teachers saw themselves as guides in helping students explore their creativity, and believed that feedback was an important component of the assessment process that could help develop creativity. Both groups of participants agreed that a main advantage of an arts magnet school was the development of a community of learners who shared interests and were working towards common goals.

Research Questions & Methodology

Qualitative methodology has particular relevance to educational research (McMillan and Schumacher, 2006, Patton, 2002). Educational researchers are often concerned about the specific conditions of a particular educational program. They choose to connect with the diverse reality of the classroom or project site through qualitative case studies.

Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The interview transcripts were then analyzed and coded for common words and ideas. This was done using an inductive approach, letting the codes emerge from the data as opposed to beginning with pre-determined codes. This analysis was performed using ATLAS-ti scientific software. Initial analysis of the data resulted in the development of 33 unique codes. These codes were then collapsed into themes and organized according to the research goals of the study, primarily definitions of creativity, perspectives on teaching and assessing creativity, and perceived advantages of an arts magnet school in fostering creativity.

Interviews were conducted with the principal, vice principal, four arts teachers, five grade nine students and four grade ten students. The purpose of these interviews was to gather data about understanding and definition of creativity, teaching and assessing creativity, and the unique nature of an arts magnet school with respect to fostering creativity. Questions focused on the themes of defining creativity, teaching creativity, the assessment of creative achievement and the role of the school in fostering creativity.

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